8 of the Best Walks In Southern Scotland

Most hikers think of Scotland and walking. You can find world-class adventures further south with stunning scenery and amazing wildlife. As a travel writer I’ve yomped all across the twin regions of Dumfries and Galloway, and the Scottish Borders, on a variety of two-booted ventures. Locally they say ‘Scotland Starts Here’, and you should too. From easy rambles around rugged castle trails through to epic long distance walks that take a fortnight to tackle, there’s a range of spirit-soaring hiking adventures to be found here. Without further ado then, here’s the Best walks in Southern Scotland.

Southern Scotland’s Big One

The Southern Upland Way is one of Scotland’s best walks. Robin McKelvie

Start: Portpatrick

Finish: Cocksburnpath

Distance:214 miles

The Southern Upland Way, which flies all the way from Portpatrick (west), to the North Sea and Cocksburnpath (214 miles) is a spectacular feat. You really need a fortnight to take it on – you can arrange to have your luggage carried to your next accommodation through the walk website, which really helps.

I strongly recommend that you walk it from west to east to follow the current winds. Though, of course, you can easily cut the Southern Upland Way up into bite sized chunks easily if that’s your preferred way of doing things. I’ve covered the whole walk on separate trips, with the longest stretch I’ve managed in one go being Portpatrick across to Sanquhar (just under 100 miles away). For me, the first section was the most impressive. I recommend this if you are looking for a day-trip option. To hug the cliffs, you climb up and away the harbour. After reaching Killantringan Lighthouse (picture postcard), you will continue on to Castle Kennedy with its beautiful castle overlooking a Loch.

Website: dgtrails.org

Scotland’s Big One

Banks of the Tweed, near Peebles. Robin McKelvie

Start: Kirk Yetholm

Finish: Cape Wrath

Distance:539 miles

The Scottish National Trail is a huge undertaking. The savage length – over 500 miles – may be off-putting, but it’s the only trail that runs all the way up the Scottish mainland from south to north. It’s the brainchild of outdoors writer and broadcaster Cameron McNeish, and gets tougher and tougher as you forge north – turning pathless and shelter-less along the way.

The section through the Borders is relatively easy. It kicks off pretty much where England’s Pennine Way finishes, then joins the St Cuthbert’s Way on the approach to Melrose, before doing a similar dovetail with sections of the Southern Upland Way as it pushes north to Traquair, site of Scotland’s oldest continually inhabited country house. The Trail follows the River Tweed to Peebles, a picturesque market town. From there it will continue on to Edinburgh via the Meldon Hills. I recommend the scenic eight miles from Traquair and Peebles if you only want to eat a little bit.

Website: scottishnationaltrail.org.uk

Head For The Forests

There’s some great walking to be done in Galloway Forest Park. Robin McKelvie

Start/Finish: Various

Distances: Various

I’m cheating slightly here, but I think you’ll forgive me when you read about the great walking in the Galloway Forest Park. Cheating, as this is not one single walk, but so many good hikes spread across the UK’s largest forest park that it’s difficult to settle on just one. The UK’s first Dark Skies Park, be sure to linger on if you can afterwards for a grandstand view of the stars.

This oasis covers more than 300 miles of stunning natural beauty. The best part is that there are many walks for everyone. A swathe of the Southern Upland Way cuts through, then there are easy lochside strolls to check out the historic (Robert the) Bruce’s Stones Clatteringshaws located way. Alternatively, ascend to the other Bruce’s Stone for a sweeping view of Loch Trool. If you appreciate waterfalls then enjoy the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall, at 60m it’s one of the UK’s highest. For a challenging hill climb, you can take on Merrick (843m), the highest summit in Southern Uplands.

Website: FORESTRYANDLAND.GOV.UK

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