Long-Distance Walks in Southern Scotland

by Sara Barton, 11th November 2021
Long-Distance Walks in Southern Scotland

Southern Scotland has an excellent collection of walking routes including some of Scotland’s Great Trails. Whether you are a hiking beginner or a well-seasoned pro looking for the next challenge you will find glimpses of wildlife, dramatic scenery, historical connections and breathtaking coastlines. Come and be amazed while you walk through the south of Scotland – the Start of Scotland.

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Mull of Galloway Trail

Where: Mull to Stranraer, onwards to Glenapp, joining Ayrshire Coastal Path

Distance: 37 miles

The Mull of Galloway trail offers a stunning long distance walk across Scotland’s most southerly peninsula. You can start from the port town of Stranraer and head down along the coast to the very tip of the Mull of Galloway, where on a clear day it is said you can see the five kingdoms – Ireland, England, Scotland, Isle of Man and Heaven. The tip is also a coastal nature reserve, the RSPB Mull of Galloway.

The trail was created and is maintained by the Rotary Club of Stranraer on an entirely voluntary basis. There are information boards at strategic points along the trail to guide walkers and also inform them of the history of the area they are passing through.

Photo © Ian Taylor (cc-by-sa/2.0)
Stunning coastal scenery accompanies your walk along the Mull of Galloway Trail.

The Whithorn Way

Where: Isle of Whithorn to Glasgow

Distance: 143 miles

The Whithorn Way is a newly mapped 143 mile walking and cycling route, developed and supported by the Whithorn Trust. For more than 1,000 years, pilgrims have travelled this westerly pilgrimage route to Whithorn, coming to the home of St Ninian, with some evidence supporting the claim it was the earlierst place of Christian worship in what is now Scotland. At its peak around 1500, the shrine to St Ninian attracted pilgrims from Scotland, England and beyond – he was the favoured saint of the Royal House of Stuart and Scotland’s Kings and Queens were annual visitors.

Three sections of the Whithorn Way, from the Isle of Whithorn through to New Luce, pass through Dumfries and Galloway and are in the south of Scotland UNESCO Biosphere. There is an excellent coastal section from St Ninian’s Cave to St Ninian’s Chapel as well, and a land route between Whithorn and St Ninian’s Cave is being created.

Whithorn Priory Ruins – nearly the end of the road for the Whithorn Way.

Southern Upland Way

Where: Portpatrick to Cocksburnpath, Scotland’s Great Trails

Distance: 200 miles

The most famous of Scotland’s Great Trails, the Southern Upland Way is also one of the toughest. The 200 mile long route stretches from Portpatrick on the southwestern coast to Cockburnspath, a coastal village in the Borders. This is no small feat, and if you are planning to travel across the full length of the trail, you will tackle around 80 summits that rise above 2000ft, and need around two weeks to finish. Comprising 12 sections it is possible to do smaller chunks of the SUW if you need something more bitesize, such as Portpatrick to Castle Kennedy in the west, or Traquair to Melrose in the east.

The Southern Upland Way, Photo © Mary and Angus Hogg (cc-by-sa/2.0)
This two week walk across southern Scotland will leave you with a superb feeling of accomplishment.

Sir Walter Scott Way

Where: Moffat to Cocksburnspath, coincident with Southern Upland Way

Distance: 92-94 miles

If you don’t think you’re quite ready for the full Southern Upland Way this cross-country walk between Moffat in South Central Scotland to Cockburnspath on the South East Scottish Coastline is almost coincident with its longer cousin and has been designed to add some additional interest.

It runs through lowland valleys, by lochs and reservoirs, alongside the River Tweed and its tributaries, over several significant Borderland hills and through communities steeped in history and interest.

Along its length there are numerous connections with Sir Walter Scott, one of Scotland’s greatest writers. It was indeed this countryside that inspired many of his great poems and novels, and where he spent a very large part of his life. You will see his home at Abbotsford and walk along St Mary’s Loch where he often met up with friends.

St Mary’s Loch where Sir Walter Scott would meet with friends.

Annandale Way

Where: From Moffat to Newbie Barns

Distance: 53 miles; Scotland’s Great Trail

The Annandale Way is a walk which gets under the skin of the landscape, offering the walker glimpses into the history and hidden secrets of this quiet and tranquil part of Scotland, parts of which have remained undisturbed for centuries. This signposted walk starts high above the source of the river Annan, with a circumnavigation of the Devils Beef Tub, where the Border Reivers used to hide their stolen cattle. It then drops down following the river Annan along the valley bottom into the picturesque market town of Moffat.

From Moffat it heads south where it meets the Southern Upland Way. Further on the route splits, offering two options. One takes in the Lockerbie Wildlife Trust’s Eskrigg Nature reserve with its loch and abundance of wildlife. The western, Lochmaben Arm, forms part of the main trail and takes in Castle Loch with its picturesque ruined castle and new sculpture trail. The two arms meet up again just north of Hoddam Bridge where they then follow the beautiful river Annan and on to its end at Newbie Barns on the Solway Coast. Here on the coast, enjoy the wide panoramic views of the estuary as you look across the water to the magnificent Cumbrian Mountains.

The walk can be a shorter 2 or 3 day circuit or split into day walks by using local public transport.

The Devil’s Beef Tub at the start of the Annandale Way.

Romans and Reivers Route

Where: Ae Forest to Hawick

Distance: 52miles

The Romans and Reivers route is a linear walk, usually starting from Ae Forest in the south to Hawick in the north, though it’s also possible to walk it in reverse. It follows old Roman roads, forest tracks, drove roads and short sections of quiet lane through the heart of Reiver country. It provides enjoyable walking, cycling and horse riding through the Southern Uplands, mainly through sheltered woodland and forestry, with some sections across more open farmland. Developed specifically with multi-use in mind, including self-closing gates, it’s a great route for horse-riders with family or friends who want to accompany them on foot or mountain bikes.

Ae Forest is the starting point for the Roman and Reivers route – excellent for horse-riders and mountain bikers.

John Buchan Way

Where: Peebles to Broughton

Distance: 14 miles

The John Buchan Way is a popular linear walking route featuring an array of splendid hills and valleys. The route takes its name from renowned local author (later Governor General of Canada), John Buchan. His novel The 39 Steps, published in 1915, has been credited with helping inspire Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Buchan’s family lived in Peebles while his grandparents lived in Broughton, and this traces the route between the two. The story of Buchan’s life is on displays and in the archives of the small museum dedicated to his life on Peebles High Street.

cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Jim Barton - geograph.org.uk/p/4983455
There’s more than 39 Steps on the John Buchan Way – but the scenery is stunning.

Borders Abbey Way

Where: Jedburgh-Hawick-Selkirk-Melrose-Kelso

Distance: 68 miles; circular route, start at any of the towns

The Borders Abbey Way is exactly what you’d expect, a comprehensive trail that takes you on a circular walk past the four important historical abbeys of the Scottish Borders: Kelso Abbey, Jedburgh Abbey, Melrose Abbey and Dryburgh Abbey. But don’t think that this means you’re shortchanged on the natural scenery. You’ll be treated to vistas over the Teviot River, the high open countryside near Black Law, and expansive views of Ettrick Valley.

Jedburgh Abbey, Photo © jandenouden (cc-by-sa/2.0)
Jedburgh Abbey is one of four historical abbeys on the itinerary of this circular five-day walk.

Berwickshire Coastal Path

Where: Cocksburnpath to Berwick upon Tweed; Scotland’s Great Trails

Distance: 28.5 miles; Scotland’s Great Trails

The Berwickshire Coastal Path is one of Scotland’s Great Trails, starting at Cockburnspath in the north down to Berwick upon Tweed. With the second highest cliffs on the east coast of Britain, the Borders has one of the most spectacular coastlines in the country. This area is nationally and internationally important for seabirds, coastal flora and marine life. The walk takes in St Abbs Head National Nature Reserve, which offers excellent bird watching opportunities, and follows the coast to Berwick upon Tweed. Strong walkers might manage the route in two days, but there is so much to see, so a relaxing three days is recommended to fully enjoy this spectacular path.

St Abbs Nature Reserve, Visit Berwickshire Coast
St Abbs Nature Reserve is part of the Berwickshire Coastal Path.

St Cuthbert’s Way

Where: Melrose- Lindisfarne (England); Scotland’s Great Trails

Distance: 62.5 miles

St Cuthbert’s Way starts at the stunning ruined abbey in Melrose and heads roughly east through a number of historic settlements before crossing the Border with England and ending at Lindisfarne. Many walkers follow this route as a pilgrimage, while others are simply looking to enjoy the built and natural heritage en route.
Most people walk St. Cuthbert’s Way from west to east, which chronologically fits in with St. Cuthbert’s life, but more importantly means the wind is usually behind you! And of course Holy Island lures you to the coast.

Melrose Abbey | Melrose