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Walking the Southern Upland Way

Join Jimmie MacGregor on a whistle-stop tour of the Way from 1990

The Southern Upland Way stretches across Scotland for 212 miles, from Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway to Cockburnspath in the Scottish Borders.

The long-distance route was opened in 1984, the UK's first coast-to-coast footpath.

Since then the way has been improved with landscape works, additional path construction, drainage and improved signage.

In 2010, "The New Hoard", a treasure hunt, was established for walkers.

Ranger Tom Whitty looks after the Dumfries and Galloway half of the way - 130 miles of countryside ranging from forestry to rough vegetation. Tom describes the long distance route as "one of Scotland's greatest challenges".

Laggancairn on the Southern Upland Way
The 8th Century Laggancairn memorial stones are featured on the Way

Most walkers attempt the way from West to East but Tom and his Borders colleague Keith Robeson have witnessed people doing the whole route and back again to gain a different perspective as they walk.

Day to day tasks for rangers on the Way include clearing bracken and brambles, replacing stiles with easier-access gates and maintaining paths and signposts.

The Way is not confined to walkers.

Keith Robeson said: "Originally the route was planned with only walkers in mind. Many new gates next to existing stiles have been installed to allow easier access and to cater for cyclists and horse riders."

The New Hoard has been tempting treasure-seekers onto the Way.

Sculpted containers or kists are located along the length of the route. Each kist contains a coin, known as a 13th, depicting images designed by local schoolchildren.

Walkers can take a 13th from each kist they find along the Way. Additional clues to the kists' locations can be found on signposts.

Metal badges with the the inscription Ultreia! (on with your quest) attached to a post means that a kist can be found on this section of the route.

Land art sculpture by Charles Pulson on Minch Moor on the Southern Upland Way
Land art can be spotted on sections of the walk

Rare gold-coloured 13th's are additional incentive on the treasure hunt as these can be exchanged for outdoor equipment vouchers from the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway Council ranger services.

The longest section of the Way is the route between St John's of Dalry and Sanquhar. At 25 miles this is a serious undertaking for most walkers but hikers will be rewarded with views of the Galloway Hills and Andy Goldsworthy's Striding Arches sculpture.

Other highlights of the way include the Three Brethren Cairns, Lowther Hill Radar Station and its "golf ball", historic Traquair and the Cheese Well, where travellers left food to pacify spirits.

For more information on the route see: The Southern Upland Way.

The archive footage above was taken from the BBC six-part series MacGregor's Scotland: The Southern Upland Way, first transmitted on BBC Scotland in 1990.

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