The Southern Upland Way traverses most of the major habitat types represented in southern Scotland. In the west, near Portpatrick, the route heads along the coastal cliffs before turning inland and thereafter it passes through farmland, parkland, broadleaved and coniferous woodland, as well as open moorland and sheepwalk or whitehill (areas of open grassland, usually at higher altitudes).

The Way skirts ponds and lochs, weaves along small upland burns, follows forest tracks and ancient drove roads, passes ruined castles and crosses over exposed hill summits. Eventually the North Sea is reached near Cockburnspath and once again coastal wildlife is evident.

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