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Map of Solway Firth.
The Solway Firth is a firth that forms part of the border between England and Scotland, between Cumbriamarker (including the Solway Plain) and Dumfries and Galloway. It stretches from St Beesmarker Head, just south of Whitehavenmarker in Cumbria, to the Mull of Gallowaymarker, on the western end of Dumfries and Galloway. The Isle of Manmarker is also very near to the firth. The firth comprises part of the Irish Seamarker.

The coastline is characterised by lowland hills and small mountains. It is a mainly rural area with fishing and hill farming (as well as some arable farming) still playing a large part in the local economy, although tourism is increasing. However, it has also been used for the location of films such as The Wicker Man (starring Edward Woodward) which was filmed around Kirkcudbrightmarker.

The Solway Coast was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1964. Construction of Robin Rigg Wind Farmmarker began in the Firth in 2007.


The water itself is generally benign with no notable hazards excepting some large areas of salt and mud flats which often contain dangerous patches of quicksand that move on a regular basis. It is recommended that visitors do not attempt to navigate them without expert guidance.

There are over 750 km² of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in the area, as well as the National Nature Reserve at Caerlaverock.

Islands in the Solway

Unlike other parts of the west coast of Scotland, the Solway Firth is generally devoid of islands. However there are a few examples:

The Isle of Whithornmarker is actually a peninsula.

The Isle of Manmarker is also not far from the Solway.

Most of the islands on this section of the English coast are much further south in the Furness groupmarker, which is outside the Firth.


The name 'Solway' is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and originates in the thirteenth century as the name of a ford across the mud flats at Eskmouth. Sol is the word for mud, and wæth refers to a ford. The three fords in the area at that time were the Annan or Bowness Wath, the Dornock Wath (once called the Sandywathe), and the main one was the Solewath, or Solewath, or Sulewad.

Between 1869 and 1921, the estuary was crossed by the Solway Junction Railway on a 1780 m (5850 ft) iron viaduct (Edgar and Sinton, 1990). The line was built to carry iron ore from the Whitehavenmarker area to Lanarkshiremarker and was financed and operated by the Caledonian Railway of Scotland. The railway was not a financial success. After the railway ceased operating, the bridge provided a popular footpath for residents of Scotland (which was dry on a Sunday) to travel to England where alcoholic drink was available. The viaduct was demolished between 1931 and 1933.


The Ministry of Defence had by 1999 fired more than 6,350 depleted uranium rounds into the Solway Firth from its testing range at Dundrennan Rangemarker.. The adjacent Irish Sea is a carrier of radioactive pollution as Sellafieldmarker is nearby.


  • Edgar, S. and Sinton, J.M., (1990), The Solway Junction Railway, Locomotion Papers No. 176, The Oakwood Press, ISBN 0-85361-395-8
  • (available at
  • Ordnance Survey, (2003), Carlisle & Solway Firth, Landranger Map, No. 85, Ed. D, Scale 1:50 000 (1¼ inches to 1 mile), ISBN 0-31922-822-3
  • Ordnance Survey, (2006), Solway Firth, Explorer Map, No. 314 , Ed. A2, Scale 1:25 000 (2½ inches to 1 mile), ISBN 0-31923-839-3

See also

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