A South of Scotland Way
Kirk Yetholm to Milngavie, 143 miles
Part 9 of the End-to-End Walk from Land's End to John O'Groats


Long before I conceived the idea of an End-to-End Walk I'd been wondering about the possibility of a route that would link the Pennine Way to the West Highland Way. These two routes were Britain's premier long-distance paths and it seemed only natural that somebody, somewhere, had thought about joining them up with a path through south and central Scotland. Oddly, however, the South of Scotland Way was one of the last pieces of the "jigsaw" to be fitted into place. It was perhaps inevitable that the "somebody, somewhere" who would publish a viable route would be Hamish Brown.

Hamish seems to have written nearly half of all the books currently in print about the Scottish outdoors. (Most of the rest have been penned by Cameron McNeish). His book, "From the Pennines to the Highlands" was published in 1992 and I hadn't even spotted it until I'd walked more than half the English mileage of the End-to-End. It was based on the route he'd followed on his "Groat's End Walk", a book that seems to have been long out of print and which I've never read. Parts of the route, in turn, seem to have been concieved by John Hillaby, for sections of his 1968 vintage "Journey through Britain" followed an identical path.

My own South of Scotland Way, presented here, is based largely on Hamish Brown's route but nevertheless has several significant modifications. Hamish began his route at Byrness rather than Kirk Yetholm, and this didn't actually pick up the true end of the Pennine Way. Since his book was published a new long distance path, St Cuthbert's Way, has come into being. A route that links several mainly religious antiquities between Holy Island (Northumberland) and Melrose in the Scottish Borders, it runs through Kirk Yetholm (thus picking up the end of the Pennine Way) and pretty much parallels the first few days of Hamish's route. I've thus adopted St Cuthbert's Way as far as Melrose. Hamish's route onwards from Melrose adopts the Southern Upland Way as far as Traquair, and I've found no reason to deviate from it. I've continued to follow Hamish's suggested route onwards through Innerleithen and Peebles to West Linton (mainly along forest paths or over trackless hills) and then over the Pentlands via the old drove road of Cauldstane Slap. His route then follows roads for a few miles before running up through Almondell Country Park on the western fringes of Edinburgh, and then adopts the towpaths of first the Union canal to Falkirk and then the Forth-Clyde canal to the outskirts of Glasgow. There are variations here that follow the route of the Antonine Wall, an ancient earthwork defence and a relic of the Roman empire nearly two millennia ago. Finally, an afternoon of local paths and back lanes lead through rural country north of Glasgow to reach Milngavie and the start of the West Highland Way to Fort William. A good three quarters of the route here presented thus follows Hamish's suggestions. It is certainly he, and not me, who should be credited as the author of this route.


This is really a walk of two halves. The route through the Southern Uplands contrasts pretty heavily with that through central Scotland. The first is a mix of hill tracks, moors and forests interspersed with charming provincial towns, while the second is a simple (and some would say monotonous) hike along a level path through Scoland's least inspiring landscapes and some of its less attractive towns. But one could get too negative about the nature of the Edinburgh - Falkirk - Glasgow stretch. There are charming scenes, both rural and urban, to be found if one goes to the trouble to seek them out and appreciate them. There is ample scope for variation too.

As with most parts of the End-to-End Walk, I'd advise that backpacking your way along this South of Scotland Way is counterproductive. There is very little camping to be had, either official or wild; you'd be far better off bed-and-breakfasting, or doing as I always do and tackling the route as a series of day hikes using public transport. Here and there its possible to combine the sections I've suggested into longer day hikes, or (conversely) to break them into shorter hikes. I tackled virtually the whole of the route using Edinburgh as a base - it can be done easily provided you're prepared to stand a few lengthy bus journeys in the Borders. Galashiels also makes a good travel centre for the first half of the route. The only problematical section as far as public transport logistics are concerned is the first, out of Kirk Yetholm; to get here at a reasonable hour you really need to stay at either Kelso or Jedburgh. Any base further afield won't allow you enough time to get further than Morebattle on the first day - but then, the first day of any hike should usually be kept short anyway.

The various one-day walks that make up the South of Scotland Way:

(Click the links for the individual walk indexes and photo galleries)
1 Kirk Yetholm to Morebattle 6.5 miles
2 Morebattle to Jedfoot Bridge 8.7 miles
3 Jedfoot Bridge to St Boswells 10.1 miles
4 St Boswells to Melrose 6.22 miles
5 Melrose to Galashiels 5.1 miles
6 Galashiels to Innerleithen 14.9 miles
7 Innerleithen to Peebles 10.8 miles
8 Peebles to West Linton 14.6 miles
9 West Linton to Kirknewton 11½ miles
10 Kirknewton to Winchburgh 8 miles
11 Winchburgh to Linlithgow 6 miles
12 Linlithgow to Falkirk 9 miles
13 Falkirk to Croy 14 miles
14 Croy to Milngavie 14 miles


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This page last updated 25th February 2006