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As most are, we are looking to upgrade to Jira Cloud from version 7.12.3 (core and software)
this is a big jump, so i am writing to see what the community suggests as our best upgrade path.
meaning can we go strait to the cloud or do we need to upgrade on prem to a higher version first, then move to the cloud
any assistance would be appreciated
According to https://support.atlassian.com/migration/docs/supported-versions-for-the-jira-cloud-migration-assistant/, you'd be fine with the current version you have. That is if you choose the Jira Cloud Migration Assistant migration method.
However, if you choose the Jira Site Import migration method, yes you'd have to upgrade to 7.13.1 or higher.
I'd actually suggest going through https://www.atlassian.com/migration/cloud/guide/plan/migration-strategy-and-method, it will help you and your team decide on a migration path depending on your specific Jira instance.