FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

1Which direction should I do the route?
The Southern Upland Way is set up to be done from West to East, starting at Portpatrick and finishing at Cockburnspath. This is because the prevailing winds will be behind you making the experience much more pleasant. You can however do the route in either direction as both ways are waymarked.
2Can I do the Southern Upland Way on a mountain bike?
Yes!

Scottish Outdoor Access Code includes access by bike so you can cycle along the route as long as you act responsibly. This means not damaging anything as you pass and not causing any harm to wildlife, farm animals or crops. It also requires you to be courteous and give way to other route users.

For more information please go to the Outdoor Access Code Website.

The Southern Upland Way does have some sections that are very difficult to cycle. For these we would recommend using an alternative route. Each route section description has some information on whether it is suitable for bikes.

We are currently working on improving access for bikes along the way. We are also developing alternative routes where necessary for gravel bikes.
3Is wild camping allowed on the Way?
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code allows wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for one or two nights in any one place.

The two important things to remember are to choose a responsible site to camp in and to leave no trace after you leave.

A good site to camp will be away from cultivated fields, livestock and any buildings. Be careful to avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse shooting.

When you leave you must be careful to clear up all litter, clear all trace of your tent pitch and any fire site.

For more information please go to the Outdoor Access Code Website.
4Am I allowed to light a fire?
According to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code fires are allowed in certain circumstances. You must be responsible when lighting a fire and this can be difficult.

If there is any chance of the fire spreading then it is not responsible to light one. In very hot weather fires are never acceptable as the chance of causing a wildfire is far too high. It is also never acceptable to light a fire in coniferous woodland. The sap of coniferous trees is flammable so even in wet weather you could cause a forest fire. Also any ground that is peat is highly flammable. A fire lit on peat can set fire to the soil. Even when you have put out the fire there could still be enough heat under the ground for the peat to ignite. Fire can spread a considerable distance underground before coming back to the surface elsewhere. Lighting a fire on peat soil is never a responsible thing to do.

The Southern Upland Way goes through a lot of coniferous woodland and much of the rest is on peat soil. Because of this we would always recommend using a camping stove for cooking rather than a camp fire.

For more information please go to the Outdoor Access Code Website.
5Can I use my phone to navigate or do I need to use a map and compass?
You should always have a map and compass with you and know how to navigate using them.

There are waymarks showing the way along the entire length of the route. There are however areas across open moorland where it can be some distance between waymark posts. There can also be areas where posts have fallen over or are obscured by vegetation.

GPS devices and smartphones are a very good way to navigate but they are reliant on batteries and signals. We would always recommend taking a phone but you should not rely on it.

We have listed the OS maps required for each section on the relevant page. There is also a Harvey Map of the entire route.
6What is the best guide book for the route?
The most recent guide book is ‘Walking the Southern Upland Way’, Cicerone 2018 by Ronald Turnbull. This is available online, at larger libraries and good book shops.

Harvey Maps have a complete map of the Southern Upland Way which covers the entire route on one piece of waterproof paper.

There are other good guides to the route but they have not been updated for some time and are mostly out of print.
7How many days will it take to complete the route?
Even a very experienced walker would normally take at least two weeks to walk the entire length of the Southern Upland Way. Many people take three weeks to do it.

It does not have to be done in one go. You can take a week to do half the route and come back at a later date to do the other half. Popular places to split the route are Sanquhar which has a railway station or Beattock which is on the M74.

Cycling the Southern Upland Way can be done in less than a week. It will depend on how many of the more difficult sections are avoided using small roads and forest tracks.
8When is the best time of year to do the Way?
The route can be done at any time of year but will provide a different experience depending on the season. In winter the route can be very hard as there are large sections of the route that are at a high altitude and will be covered in snow for several months. Even in the early spring or late autumn there could be snow or harsh weather conditions. We would recommend you only do the route at this time of year if you are experienced and confident in your abilities.

In late spring and summer Southern Scotland can still be wet so be prepared for all weather conditions.

We think that May or September could be the best time of year to do the route as the weather is likely to be good. You also have the plenty of light in the evening and the midges and ticks not as bad.
9Do I need to book accommodation?
Yes. There are several areas of the route where there are only a small number of accommodation providers. Even in busier areas we would always recommend booking to be sure of having somewhere to stay. At quieter times of year some B&Bs and Hotels will be closed so even then booking is a good idea. The only time we would suggest doing the route without booking is when you are happy to wild camp.

Details of accommodation along the route can be found on our interactive map.
10Is baggage transfer available?
Yes baggage transfer is available along the full length of the route. Booking companies can sort this out for you or you can arrange it yourself. Full info can be found here
12Are ticks and Lymes disease a problem?
Ticks are small invertebrates similar to spiders which are common in woodland and open moorland where they feed off sheep and deer. They are also known to bite humans and can pass on Lymes Disease. They are common on the Southern Upland Way but are not normally a problem if you take a few simple precautions.

They will bite and attach themselves to dogs and people and once attached will remain there for several days feeding on the blood of the host. Once they have finished feeding they will fall off.

Not all ticks will carry the disease. In some, but not all cases when the disease is passed on a rash will develop in a ring around the bite.

After spending time out on the Southern Upland Way you should always check yourself thoroughly for ticks and remove any that are attached. You should carry a special removal tool to ensure that the whole tick is removed.

If you see a rash or feel feverish and tired after a tick bite you should contact your doctor.

For more information go to Lyme Disease Action.
13Are midges midges a problem on the Southern Upland Way?
During warm wet weather in the Spring and Summer there can be a lot of midges in Southern Scotland. They are very seldom bad enough to spoil a day out on the Southern Upland Way and a few simple precautions will normally keep them from being a bother.

Midges do not tend to fly if it is dry or if it is windy so the number of days that you will find them is limited. They tend to keep to low lying areas near water. Although places along the route can be full of them you will not be in these places for very long.

If you do come across midges there are several insect repellents such as Smidge or Skin so Soft that will keep them away. If all else fails a midge net that covers your face will ensure they cannot trouble you. In the evening if you cannot light a fire to keep them away then citronella candles can be used instead.
14Can I bring my dog with me?
Your dog is very welcome to come and do the Southern Upland Way with you. We often take our own dogs out on the way. There are a few things that we would ask you do do when out with your dog.

Some sections of the route go through farmland with livestock. Dogs should be kept under very close control, ideally on a lead when going through areas with livestock. If there are lambs or calves in a field then you must not take your dog into that field and must find another way around. Because of this you should always check before taking your dog onto a part of the route that goes through farmland.