Southern Upland Way

Anybody else been there?

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05/03/2004 at 20:19
Interesting article by Chris Townsend in April tgo. Is there anybody else out there who has actually done the whole of this walk? I did it in two stages, in May 2002 and June 2003 and apart from the friend who walked it with me, I've never met anybody else who has.
Chris obviously enjoyed it and ends up saying "......I can now recommend it with a passion." Whilst I did enjoy it in bits, like I enjoy all walks, I do have some reservations and if I was recommending it to anybody I would add a number of caveats - such as the huge amount of road walking (some of it seemingly unnecessary as there is no lack of countryside all around?), long, long distances between accommodation at times for non campers, extensive conifer forests, diversions that are very badly waymarked (see the complaints on the forum on, not a lot of choice of accommodation and very few hostels which makes it quite an expensive holiday. I think Chris was fortunate to have done it in 2003, as although he mentions rain several times, that year the weather was so good compared to 2002 when we spent a lot of the time in mist and drizzle up to our ankles in mud and several sections were like a quagmire.
Having said all that, on the plus side there is some lovely scenery, solitude (we did not meet anybody else going the whole way in either year), an amazing variety of landscape and pleasant villages and small towns along the way but I do think that quite a lot could be done to improve the walk and make it more accessible and enjoyable for more people. It would be good if there was something to show for it when you get to the end at Cockburnspath. Once you leave the sea shore to go into the village, there is nothing - no pub, no cafe, no accommodation, the place was deserted and the only shop shut when we got there. Only a bus stop to get a bus to Berwick.
13/03/2004 at 19:44
No takers then?
14/03/2004 at 00:42
It looks like just you and me!

I must say I don't remember huge amounts of road walking, unless you're counting forest tracks. The longest road section was the walk down the Ettrick Valley, which I didn't mind too much as there was no traffic and much to look at.

I camped on eight out of eleven nights so the distances between accommodation didn't bother me. I can see there would be some long days if you needed to reach accommodation each night.

I did the walk just as the dry weather was beginning to break so I had plenty of dull, wet weather. That's why the photos illustrating the piece were taken by somebody else! However the ground was still very dry so I didn't have to deal with any mud. I did the whole walk in sandals. It rained just about continuously from Sanquhar to Over Phawhope Bothy.

There were fewer sections in conifer forests than I expected from reading about the route. In particular, there were fewer sections just in a corridor of dark trees. I did find the new plantings of different species heartening and I think this will improve the route in years to come.

I didn't have problems with diversions though some of the waymarking could be improved. As it's the first UK long distance path I've walked in 25 years I guess I didn't know what level of waymarking and signage to expect. As it was I thought there were too many waymarking posts if anything.

Cockburnspath was a disappointment. I didn't know the pub was shut. I arrived in rain with several hours to wait for the next bus. The shop was open though. It would be good to have a book to sign, perhaps in the shop. Accommodation and a cafe/pub would be dependent on more than SUW walkers I guess.

The walk could certainly be improved. Personally I'd rather a more remote route that went over more summits, though that might make it less rather than more accessible. I did find it far more enjoyable than I expected though. Everything I'd read was negative other than the guidebooks, and even they are apologetic. I wanted to point out the positive aspects of the route rather than dwell on the negative ones.
08/06/2004 at 20:44
I walked the SUW in 1989. I started at Cockburnspath and finished at Portpatrick. I recall meeting one other walker at Wanlockhead and thats it. It was a long hot summer that year and all the burns wre drying up. So it made those long stretches on forest track and road a very hard slog. At one point i did briefly think about jacking in, but carried on ( as usual !)

When the SUW was first launched there was a lot of comment about the choice of route. Some of it by roger smith( i think). The other comment was the short amount of time from conception to launch which was 5 years. An incedible short amount of time when compared to other long distance paths. The insinuation being that a lot of easy options had been taken to appease land owners etc, etc,

Its a pity because maybe a lot more time taken over the choice of route the Suw could have become a classic to rivel wainwights coast to coast, We will never know what might have been. A missed opportunity.
09/06/2004 at 18:40
Wainwright's Coast to Coast was of course put together by Wainwright himself, with scant concern for rights of way or access in places. There's nothing to stop anyone constructing their own variant on the Southern Upland Way that takes in hills and wilder places. And with no problems with access. I certainly think it's a shame that the SUW goes past rather than over the Galloway hills. That seems the biggest omission to me.
10/03/2005 at 23:15
I'm planning to do Southern upland way in May/June 2005 - it looks like a lonely couple of weeks then, according to this!

Anyone else planning to walk this year?

11/03/2005 at 07:44
A cautionary tale... How NOT to do the Southern Upland Way... as told to me in a B&B at Dalry:

Some guy once drove his car to Portpatrick and, having the afternoon to spare, decided he might as well start walking the SUW to Stranraer. When he got there he found a place to stay, then got a bus back to Portpatrick, picked up his car and drove it back to Stranraer.

The next day he walked from Stranraer to New Luce and found a place to stay. He asked about buses to Stranraer so that he could pick up his car, and was told there weren't any. Undaunted, he set off to hitch-hike to Stranraer and it took him ages, so that eventually he drove back to New Luce in the dark.

Day three saw this guy walking to Bargrennan, where he booked into the hotel. Again, he discovered that there were no buses between Bargrennan and New Luce, so he had to hitch-hike back for his car. It rained, and it got dark before he completed the journey, and he was very late getting back to Bargrennan.

Day four, and a 24 mile walk from Bargrennan to Dalry, where he booked into a B&B (staying with the folks who told me this story). Buses from Dalry to Bargrennan? Of course not! Driven half-mad by walking, blisters, more walking and hitch-hiking well into the night to keep getting his car, the guy was almost in tears and begged the B&B folks to take him to Bargrennan so that he could collect his car. With judicious use of maps, they explained how he was walking west to east, but how all the roads in the area ran north to south, and how a 24 mile walk for him was a couple of hundred miles return journey in a car!

By now, dear reader, you may be wondering why this guy was so attached to his car. Simple - he was taking the car across country so that he could drive home from Cockburnspath!

I doubt he ever made it... there were no more stories of him beyond Dalry.
11/03/2005 at 10:12
My dad and his mate did it a few years ago ('for charidy').

They were blessed with good weather (one day of rain), and stayed in hotels and B and B's every night with my mum driving as support.

They really enjoyed it although - not suprisingly - they found it a significant step up from the West Highland Way.

Their only real gripes were dodgy way marking in places and the frequency with which the 'path' was routed through fields filled with cattle.
11/03/2005 at 14:39
So how many hundreds of miles did your mum drive? I hope she got a medal at the end!

I don't remember there being a problem with the waymarking, apart from the diversions which were not well sign posted. Nigel, there is a SUW website where hopefully you can check up on those before you go. Also an annual accommodation guide which I recommend you get if you are not camping.

Good luck!
11/03/2005 at 16:20
Thanks Paddy, I hadn't actually thought of that method of approaching a long distance walk - although studying the train times and prices from Stafford, where I live, to Srtanraer, I doesn't look as bad as first impressions imply!

Thanks for the info on websites etc, Jenny, I have actually had a good trawl around and downloaded the accommodation list etc, and I have no problem with those aspects. I was just wondering really, whether the route gets much traffic and if Im going to see other people in the evenings etc, or if the overnight stays will be something like off The League of Gentlemen, if you know what I mean! "...a local shop for local people ...!"

I did Wainwright's coast to coast on my own and enjoyed it very much. There were lots doing it and there was a good cameraderie(can't spell). This seems a very different kettle of fish.

Any others have any experiences of SUW? In 21 years, there must be lots who have done it (?)
11/03/2005 at 16:40
Jenny - my mum managed to pop up to Edinburgh for a couple of day's shopping so she was happy!
11/03/2005 at 18:36
Dunno about SUW camaraderie. When I walked the route I met two guys around Dryhope and a guided party being looked after by C-n-Do Scotland on the way to Longformacus. Visitor books in bothies along the way only seldom recorded the passing of SUW walkers. I've seen more people on the Wolds Way, and that's widely regarded as a quiet route! None of this bothered me, but if camaraderie is important on your walks, then you might be disappointed.
11/03/2005 at 20:40
You might like to take a good (lightweight of course!) book.
08/05/2005 at 13:27
Well, you never know unless you try !

Got a few weeks off, so the Southern Uplands Way it is, starting 9th or 10th May
from the west.

Was going to be the Coast to Coast, but I've never walked anywhere near the Southern
Uplands (end of Pennine Way being the nearest I got )

So in answer to 'does anybody ever walk the SUW, here's one more ! Wish me luck !

08/05/2005 at 20:05
Yes, good luck. You must let us know how you get on. I have decided to give it a miss for this year, given the general lack of response. I think you will be in for a quiet couple of weeks - so enjoy. I'm off up to the Highlands in the motorhome to do some hill walking - easier to escape the midges!!

I may try SUW next year, if I can summon the motivation. It's the SUW 21st anniversary this year, apparently, so maybe there will be more traffic?

Best wishes, Nigel
09/05/2005 at 12:28
Good luck, David. This is a usually a good time to walk in Scotland, hope you enjoy it.
05/07/2005 at 16:22
An easy solution to the car problem mentioned by Paddy Dillon is to make a loop out of part of the SUW with a diversion for Corbetts, part of St Cuthbert's Way, part of the Pennine Way and part of Wainwright's Coast to Coast. Then you just need a return return ticket for the West Coast line.

I only made it to Greenhead as parts of the PW proved very dull. The wonderful walk along Hadrian's Wall towards the setting sun seemed an appropriate place to finish. In my book, the SUW is more enjoyable than the Pennine Way near Bellingham.
05/07/2005 at 18:14
What was up with the PW near Bellingham, then? (Other than Bellingham itself, of course...)
06/07/2005 at 20:01
I like Bellingham and rate the area for cycle touring but the PW in that area is dire. It avoids the local beauty spot and leaves town diagonally across a field of thistles before entering another drab forest. The entertainment improves immediately and dramatically on reaching the wall.

The Cheviots disappointed, being badly over-grazed, so the moorland vegetation is dull. (Like Exmoor. Valleys excluded.) On the Scottish side of the fence, things are completely different - a heather moor.
06/07/2005 at 20:27
Finished Southern Upland Way in late May, will report soon on my experiences !
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