Stretching from coast to coast, the Southern Upland Way is 212 miles long and was the first official footpath of its kind in the British Isles.

This upland walk takes around 12-16 days, and is considered the toughest of Scotland’s Great Paths. With more than 80 summits that rise over 2000ft, it is a challenge for even the most experienced walkers. A new edition of the Southern Upland Way guide, updated by Ronald Turnball, is packed full of information for those who want to take up the challenge and we have selected the top ten sights for the walkers to see along this trail.

Castle Kennedy Gardens

Sitting between the White and Black Loch, and covering 75 acres of land, these gardens are the oldest to be found in south-west Scotland. They were originally laid out in the 18th century and was constructed by an army of men and horses who maintained the grounds. Today, there are only three full-time gardeners employed at Castle Kennedy.

It is now famous for its displays of rhododendrons and azaleas, along with its long avenue of enormous monkey puzzle trees. The castle is open daily between April 1 and the end of September. There is a small entrance fee to the grounds which gives visitors access to the walled garden, the sunken garden near Lochinch Castle, and the monkey puzzle tree avenue.


Sanquhar is a town on the River Nith and there are many sights to see in this small town. It is home to Britain’s oldest post office which was established in 1763, a time when mail was delivered by post boys on horseback. The Georgian building is located on the high street and is shared with the tourist information centre.

Also on the high street is the Tollbooth Museum which was built in the 18th century. Visitors can learn about Sanquhar’s local history and view a collection of historic items from the town, such as the traditional ‘Sanquhar’ style of knitted gloves. There is also the Richard Cameron Monument in the town centre. Cameron was a Covenanter who, in 1680, laid out his declaration of war with the Scottish government over religious freedom, and ultimately died for his cause.

If walkers are willing to take a small detour from the way, there is a castle ruin from the 14th century. At Drumlanrig Castle there is Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder. This was stolen in 2003, but has now thankfully been returned and is on displays for visitors.


Found in the heart of the Lowther Hills is Scotland’s highest village Wanlockhead. It sits at a height of 1394ft, and is a close second to the highest village in Britain. This remote town has a fascinating history. It is where the Romans discovered lead and, up until the 1950s, Wanlockhead was the focus of Scotland’s lead-mining industry. Today, there is still evidence of it in the form of old mine workings, equipment, mine shafts and spoil heads.

On the Southern Upland Way, walkers will pass a 'Bobbing John' from the 19th century, which is a huge beam engine that was used to pump water from the mines. The town’s lead mining museum displays rare minerals and mining artefacts, and also gives visitors the chance to try gold panning, a simple process used to extract gold. Wanlockhead is home to Europe’s second oldest subscription library, and has a collection of over 3000 rare books. This can be visited as part of the mining museum tour.


Moffat is the halfway point of the trek, providing a great stop-off place for walkers. The town has plenty of places for visitors to stay, and its most famous inn is The Black Bull. Opened in 1568, the inn has had some well-known residents. In the 17th century, the persecutor of the Covenanters stayed here, as did Robert Burns who scratched a poem on a windowpane, a copy of which is kept at the inn’s bar.

There is a small museum about the history of Moffat and its surrounding countryside. Visitors can learn about Moffat’s once biggest industry, sheep farming, alongside stories of clan warfare and Covenanters. The woollen mill is a tourist favourite, as is trying their well-known and delicious Moffat Toffee.

St Mary’s Loch and the Loch of the Lowes

Just off the Southern Upland Way from the northern slopes of East Muchra Hill, walkers will find the best view of St Mary’s Loch and the Loch of the Lowes. The lochs are surrounded by steep-sided hills which frame the view from Muchra Hill perfectly. Poet James Hogg had once described the view of the Lochs as “dapple vales of heaven”.

By St Mary’s loch, there is a statue of James Hogg, The Ettrick Shepherd (1770-1835). After Robert Burns, Hogg is the most distinguished poet in southern Scotland. Despite being heralded in Edinburgh for his writing, Hogg preferred to be in the outdoors, working as a hill farmer and poet. The statue has examples of his verse inscribed, and is a well-worth visit for walkers.

Traquair House

Traquair House is the oldest continuously inhabited house in Scotland. The history of the house goes as far back as AD950, with its final developments being completed in 1680.

Mary Queen of Scots once resided there, as did Charles Edward Stuart. The famous Bear Gates at the house have remained locked since 1745 when the fifth Earl of Traquair bade farewell to Bonnie Prince Charlie, promising that the gates would not be reopened until the Stuarts returned to power. The house has many secret passages and priest holes, as well as an old library.

Traquair House Brewery dates back from the 18th century. It was revived by Peter Maxwell Stuart in 1965, and is the only brewery to ferment in entirely oak.

River Tweed

Between Yair and Melrose is Scotland’s most famous salmon river, the Tweed. It is a wide and gently flowing river that is almost 100 miles long and flows across the Borders. Due to its diversity of habitat, it has been chosen as a site of special scientific interest.

Over the River Tweed there is a chain suspension bridge for pedestrians only. This bridge was opened in 1826 and reconstructed in 1991. Despite being strengthened, there is a sign that says “No more than 8 persons should be on the bridge at one time. Passengers are requested not to cross the bridge in a heavy gale”.

Eildon Hills

The Eildon Hills is a National Scenic area above Melrose. This landmark can be seen for several days from various high vantage points while walking the Southern Upland Way. A myth said that these hills had been formed by an ancient wizard who split one hill into three, but they are actually the result of complex volcanic activity.

Walkers can spend an afternoon exploring the hills, which have beautiful views from every summit. There are two short and signposted walks that will help visitors to make the most of their time. If walkers do not have time for this stop, then there are famous viewpoints, knows as Scott’s view, just a few miles east of Melrose and above the River Tweed.


Melrose is perhaps the most beautiful town in the Borders and is a perfect stop for walkers. There is the Melrose Abbey which was founded by King David I in 1136. It was attacked, destroyed and rebuilt several times. The ruins are thought by many to be the most picturesque of all the Border abbeys, and tradition has it that the heart of King Robert the Bruce are buried in the grounds.

Melrose is also home of the popular Borders game Rugby Sevens which was founded in 1883. There is the Melrose Rugby Heritage Centre for people to learn about the sport.


Walkers will encounter plenty of wildlife, and arguably the most impressive one to see are the “Belties”. The Belted Galloway Cattle, locally known as Belties, are a breed of cattle which have jet-black coats and a distinctive white band around their body. Despite being known as hardy animals, the breed came close to extinction during the foot and mouth disease outbreak of 2001 that had a devastating impact on Dumfries and Galloway. This breed is now thriving across the hills and can be seen along the way.