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Bikepacking the breadth of the Borderlands — Southern Upland Way


Bikepacking the breadth of the Borderlands — Southern Upland Way

Mountain Biking Collection by Katherine Moore



3-6 h

/ day

218 mi

22,575 ft

22,400 ft

The Southern Upland Way is a spectacular long distance cycling and hiking route linking the west and east coasts of Scotland, crossing the remote hills of the Scottish Borderlands.

Starting from Portpatrick, on the Irish Sea, the Way travels 214 miles (344 km) through the border regions of Scotland to finish in Cockburnspath, on the North Sea. The rugged coastlines are linked via a hilly landscape sculpted by thousands of years of glacial activity.

In total it covers 214 miles (344 km) linking rugged coastlines, from remote Portpatrick to Cockburnspath, with a hilly landscape formed by glacial activity over thousands of years.

The resulting rolling hills and rocky outcrops make a great challenge for riders, more accessible than the remote Highlands with smaller summits (none above 3,000ft (914 m), but still plenty of climbing to test the legs and deliver some incredible views. You’ll also pass through many villages and towns so there’s plenty of options for resupply or even overnighting under a roof if that’s your preference.

In Scotland you can wild camp legally thanks to the Right To Roam act (see more at scotways.com/faq/law-on-statutory-access-rights). If you’re choosing from the hotels, guesthouses and campsites along the route, make sure you do book ahead, especially in peak season during the summer months.

There’s some serious climbing on this route so you’ll need some low gearing and wide tyres to cope with the sometimes rocky and rough terrain. A gravel bike with tyres of 40mm or more or a mountain bike will be best, depending on your preference.

Although not as remote as other parts of Scotland, this route still passes over some inaccessible areas so you’ll need to make sure that you’re familiar with emergency procedure (such as telephone numbers for emergency services and route escape points) and have emergency equipment, including a basic first aid kit and a survival bag.

The best times of the year to tackle the Southern Upland Way include the spring and autumn, at either side of the midge season, but when it should be a bit drier under tyre and hopefully offer some better weather.

Always be prepared with waterproofs and extra layers should the worst of the weather hit you, even in the summer months. Attempting the Southern Upland Divide in the winter months is not recommended as some of the way is on grassy ground which can become very boggy and hard to pass after bad weather.

Travel options at either end are limited as it starts and ends in small coastal villages without great links for cyclists. Your best bet is to catch a train to and from either end. At the start you’ll need to catch a train to Stranraer, a 7 mile (11.5 km) ride to the start in Portpatrick, and then at the finish you’ll need to ride 8.7 miles (14 km) to Dunbar for the nearest station to make your way home.

Find out more about cycling the route at southernuplandway.gov.uk/coast-to-coast-long-distance-walking/biking.
If you think you like the look of this route but might prefer the challenge on foot, check out our hiking Collection for the Southern Upland Way here komoot.com/collection/904418/a-wild-and-undiscovered-coast-to-coast-challenge-southern-upland-way.

On The Map


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Southern Uplands Way

217 mi

22,675 ft

22,450 ft

Last updated: November 10, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Portpatrick to Loch Ochiltree — Southern Upland Way

    38.6 mi
    6.1 mph
    2,600 ft
    2,150 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Starting from the west, the Southern Upland Way begins at the village of Portpatrick, a collection of colourful pastel-coloured houses on the edge of the Irish Sea.


    This first stage of seven covers 38.6 miles (62.1 km), heading inland from the Rhins of Galloway to the edge of Galloway Forest Park, near

    by Katherine Moore

  • Expert
    28.0 mi
    5.5 mph
    2,100 ft
    2,300 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The second stage covers no less than 28 miles (45.1 km) from the shores of beautiful Loch Ochiltree to the small town of St John’s Town of Dalry, also as Dalry for short. Today you’ll pass through the picturesque Glen Trool valley, ride to the remote Loch Dee and visit White Laggan Bothy.


    Leave Loch Ochiltree

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Expert
    26.4 mi
    4.5 mph
    2,975 ft
    2,800 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The general bearing for the third stage is north-east, spanning 26.4 miles (42.5 km) from town to town to Sanquhar Castle. There are no major climbs or descents on this stage, but rather long, gentle climbs or gradual descents.


    The Southern Upland Way leaves St John’s Town of Dalry on doubletrack and

    by Katherine Moore

  • Expert
    28.2 mi
    4.4 mph
    4,650 ft
    4,750 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Leave the town of Sanquhar to start the 28.6 mile (46.1 km) stage to Beattock, a small village just south of Moffat, still in Dumfries and Galloway.


    In this fourth stage you’ll face some more climbing than before, with the radar station on Lowther Hill being the most notable summit of the day, followed

    by Katherine Moore

  • Expert
    34.2 mi
    5.1 mph
    3,850 ft
    3,675 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    There’s another hilly one on the menu for stage 5, connecting the settlements of Beattock and Traquair via three main climbs, with 34.8 miles (56 km) between.


    The first climb of the day is certainly the biggest challenge, so at least your legs will be fresh after a night’s sleep if you stopped in Beattock

    by Katherine Moore

  • Intermediate
    16.5 mi
    4.0 mph
    2,450 ft
    2,650 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The smallest of the seven stages by distance, stage 6 is a mere 16.5 miles (26.5 km), so you can choose to use it as a gentle ‘rest’ day, or roll it into another stage for a longer day. Be warned though, the following and final stage is the longest of them all!


    Start by leaving Traquair straight onto

    by Katherine Moore

  • Expert
    46.0 mi
    6.2 mph
    3,975 ft
    4,075 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    We’ve saved the biggest stage for last in this Collection, with a brilliant 45.1 miles (72.6 km) leg to the end of the Southern Upland Way in Cockburnspath. You’ll cross the expansive Lammermuir Hills before reaching the rugged cliffs of the North Sea to complete your awesome coast to coast adventure

    by Katherine Moore


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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    218 mi
  • Duration
    42:06 h
  • Elevation
    22,575 ft22,400 ft

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