Alex Langfield

From wild hills to the sparkling sea – hiking the Annandale Way

Kit Carruthers (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From wild hills to the sparkling sea – hiking the Annandale Way

Hiking Collection by Alex Langfield

7

Tours

33:01 h

78.9 mi

3,950 ft

From its source high in the Moffat Hills to the dynamic Solway Firth, the River Annan journeys through some magnificent and varied countryside. Wildlife is abundant and the traces of a historically tumultuous region await discovery beyond every meander. Peregrines soar above silent summits, red squirrels prosper in protected reserves and cormorants dive for fish in the shadow of crumbling castle ruins.

Away from the bustle of the Central Belt and the legions of hikers taking in the undeniable majesty of the Highlands, this is a gloriously tranquil yet beautiful region of Scotland. It’s a place where you’re likely to roam for miles without meeting another soul. Towns and villages rich in heritage dot the river and its tributaries. Distil all of this into a long-distance trail and you’ve got yourself a wonderful blend, an extremely fine vintage: the Annandale Way.

One of Scotland’s premier multi-day treks, it broadly follows the River Annan for 56 miles (90 km). It is a truly satisfying five-day journey from rugged hillside to the sea. Starting in the vibrant town of Moffat, the route explores the high ground to the north, before looping back and encompassing wild moorland, vibrant woodland, fertile farmland, rivers, lochs and finally the mighty estuary that divides this part of Scotland from England.

Historically, the region is defined by its border country status. It has been long-disputed, often lawless, a land where reivers would terrorise their enemies and rival clans fought viciously for territory. Today, the landscape is one of serenity, sparsely populated and an ideal playground for wildlife loving adventurers.

The variety of terrain is one of the great attractions of the Annandale Way. With many horus of hillwalking and pathless moorland sections, it is only suitable if you have some experience of hiking on high ground. The route is waymarked by a simple blue disk depicting the meandering river. A mixture of finger posts, metal signs and white-topped posts point the way ahead, though some experience of navigating through isolated landscapes will stand you in good stead.

This is especially true if the weather – and therefore visibility – takes a turn for the worse: a common occurrence in this part of Scotland. The best chance of fine dry weather is from May to September, when you’ll also enjoy the longer daylight hours. March and April are also brighter, but the ground underfoot is liable to be sodden.

If you get lucky in the winter months, the days can be glorious; though conditions can be very challenging at this time of year. Regardless of season, sturdy waterproof boots are a must, as are a wealth of layers and a decent waterproof jacket.

The normal direction of travel is from north to south, with the glittering prize of views over the Solway as a fitting climax. Some choose to undertake the trek from sea to summit, starting at the Solway and heading north. This saves the most strenuous day for the end. In this Collection, I have opted for the usual approach, starting in Moffat and tackling the high ground first.

You have a choice of two branches in the trail’s middle section. The more strenuous western branch makes for the small town of Lochmaben and its three lochs, before ascending to the stupendous viewpoint of Almagill Hill. The eastern branch makes for Lockerbie and the Eskrigg Nature Reserve and is slightly shorter. I have included both here, with the Lockerbie branch titled as the ‘Alternative Stages 3 and 4.’

Regardless of which branch you take, the full journey is in five stages. Much of it is through sparsely populated pastures, so a degree of self-sufficiency is required. Food and water should be carried in your pack, though there are various opportunities for a pub or café stop along the way.

Moffat, Lockerbie and Annan are well served by B&Bs, hotels and guesthouses, whereas there are fewer options in Lochmaben and Hoddom Bridge. It is worth booking all lodgings well in advance and also carefully planning where you will stay after reaching Raehills, as there is no accommodation here (see Stage 2 for more details).

Fortunately, the Annandale Way can be accessed by public transport and buses can be used to travel up and down the route. The traditional start point of Moffat links to Carlisle via the 382 and 380 bus, whilst the X74 gets you there from Glasgow (check stagecoachbus.com for more information). Mainline trains mostly bypass Annandale on their way to more densely populated regions, however some do stop at Lockerbie.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    06:03
    13.9 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,425 ft
    1,450 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Something of a baptism of fire awaits you on the first stage of the Annandale Way. This is by far the most strenuous day, with over 1,300 feet (400m) of …

  • Intermediate
    03:29
    8.22 mi
    2.4 mph
    550 ft
    325 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    A shorter and more relaxing amble awaits you on day two of the Annandale Way across some beautiful, rolling green pastures. The going is much easier on a blend of …

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  • Intermediate
    04:17
    10.6 mi
    2.5 mph
    175 ft
    600 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    After Raehills you have two options: make for historic Lochmaben and its three picturesque lochs or head for Lockerbie, a town that will forever be associated with the Lockerbie Air …

  • Difficult
    05:51
    13.9 mi
    2.4 mph
    925 ft
    975 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    A truly marvellous hike that reaches its mid-point climax on Almagill Hill and is bookended by two ancient castles – one ruined and one very much still in its pomp. …

  • Intermediate
    04:17
    10.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    275 ft
    375 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The final stage of the Annandale Way is perhaps the easiest, with little in the way of elevation change and a pleasant, ten miles (16 km) to complete alongside the …

  • Difficult
    05:21
    13.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    325 ft
    675 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    After Raehills you have two options: make for historic Lochmaben and its three picturesque lochs or head for Lockerbie, a town that will forever be associated with the Lockerbie Air …

  • Intermediate
    03:41
    8.97 mi
    2.4 mph
    300 ft
    450 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The highlight on this stage of the Annandale Way is undoubtedly the fantastic Eskrigg Nature Reserve, one of the best places in Britain to spot the native red squirrel. A …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    78.9 mi
  • Duration
    33:01 h
  • Elevation
    3,950 ft
Alex Langfield

From wild hills to the sparkling sea – hiking the Annandale Way