It was a funny old walk. Finishing at Portpatrick in a busy, touristy village is a complete contrast with the other terminus at Cockburnspath, where there’s not much apart from a bus stop. I suppose people arriving at the east coast go straight off to Dunbar or Eyemouth or Berwick to celebrate.

I saw no more than thirty SUW walkers over the twelve walking days. Some were end-to-enders, others doing half this year and half next year. Most were using taxi services to split some of the long days. I prefer not to do that, but maybe I’ll be forced into it one day. I very much doubt I’ll do the walk again, but if I did I’d consider taking a sleeping bag and using a couple of bothies as well as B&Bs.

The south of Scotland is a quiet area. The M74 near Moffat might roar at you for a couple of hours, but “peaceful” would characterise most of your memories. On May Day Bank Holiday weekend there was plenty of space on the camping field at Tibbie Shiels Inn, whereas campsites in the Yorkshire Dales would have been packed tight.

I really enjoyed spending time at Thirlestane Castle and Traquair House. I’ve rarely programmed such diversions into my walks, but maybe I’m changing as my old age pension is coming due. The thing is, I really enjoy the days when I walk more than twenty miles. My challenge was to fit the walk into a fortnight and accept the long days as something I’d have to meet and beat.

I can see ways of improving the experience of walking across the Southern Uplands, by which I mean amending the route. I’m not suggesting the route be officially varied, but I wish I’d taken to the high ridge north of the Ettrick Water and descended to Over Phawhope bothy. Then perhaps I’d have gone to Brattleburn bothy next day, and then…well, where do I stop dreaming?

I was lucky with the dry ground in the first half of my trip. I was also slightly surprised when planning the route to find that the only place where the route goes above 600 metres is in the Lowther Hills. It rises above 300 metres every day except between New Luce and Portpatrick.

I was unlucky to miss out on views of the high mountains in the western half. They look good on the maps, and with such crazy names as The Range of the Awful Hand and Rig of the Jarkness they’ve got to be worth another look. Maybe I’ll stay at Brigton and do some day walks…

Pete Stott
August 2011

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