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Richard and Pauline West - 2008

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NameRichard and Pauline West
MonthJuly 2008

Ever since we heard about the Southern Upland Way, around 20 years ago, it has been a route we thought we might walk some time. Until July this year it never got beyond that because we were using up available holiday time doing other things, such as completing climbing the 214 Wainwrights in the Lake District, or undertaking the TGO Challenge – an annual walk across the highlands choosing your own route, but with the companionship of 300 or so others on the same venture, also choosing their own route, so you never feel the place is crowded.

We didn’t intend to break any records on the Southern Upland Way because we wanted time to take in some of the attractions along the route, such as the gardens at Castle Kennedy and the lead mine museum at Wanlockhead, so we took over a fortnight coast to coast. Although we planned the walk ourselves, we were grateful to Andrew Case for transport in the Dalry area and to John Henderson of Walking Support who helped us with ad hoc baggage transfers during the second half of the walk, which lightened the load over a couple of long stages.

We do sometimes attract a little interest from folk we meet along the way, because I am blind, though otherwise reasonably fit. In such circumstances what you most need is a good guide who can navigate in a range of terrains and weathers. Fortunately I married such a person over 40 years ago, so Pauline and I have worked out ways of coping with the different situations we encounter.

The SUW is a most varied route; from the cliffs near Portpatrick, with short scrambly sections, to quiet lanes and forest tracks, loch side paths, higher level ridges and open moorland. None of the walk is particularly difficult, but any route of over 200 miles needs to be treated with a degree of respect and care.

This was all new country for us, which we enjoyed very much, despite a couple of days with above knee high wet vegetation to walk through and some wet paths to squelch along. All of which was more than balanced by the new high level section after Moffat over Gateshaw Rigg and Croft Head, followed a couple of days later by a super sunny day over the hills to the Three Brethren.

Whether you walk this route as a whole, or divide it into shorter stretches depending on how much time you have, you can have help in planning the stages, booking accommodation and having the heavy bags transported for you, through the experienced support of SUW Walking Holidays.

Now that we have discovered this part of Scotland it is certainly somewhere we will return to.