Solway Firth

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Solway Firth
Sediment Sloshes in Solway Firth.jpg
Satellite photo, includes processing enhancements to highlight sediments, dissolved organic matter, and water depth.[1]
Solway Firth is located in Scotland
Solway Firth
Solway Firth
Location in Scotland
LocationScotland, United Kingdom
Coordinates54°45′N 3°40′W / 54.750°N 3.667°W / 54.750; -3.667Coordinates: 54°45′N 3°40′W / 54.750°N 3.667°W / 54.750; -3.667
Map of the Solway Firth.
The estuary of the River Nith, opening into the Solway Firth south of Dumfries.

The Solway Firth (Scottish Gaelic: Tràchd Romhra) is a firth that forms part of the border between England and Scotland, between Cumbria (including the Solway Plain) and Dumfries and Galloway. It stretches from St Bees Head, just south of Whitehaven in Cumbria, to the Mull of Galloway, on the western end of Dumfries and Galloway.[citation needed] The Isle of Man is also very near to the firth. The firth comprises part of the Irish Sea.

The firth's coastline is characterised by lowland hills and small mountains. It is a mainly rural area, with mostly small villages and settlements (such as Powfoot). Fishing, hill farming, and some arable farming play a large part in the local economy, although tourism is increasing.

The northern part of the English coast of the Solway Firth was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, known as the Solway Coast, in 1964.[2] Construction of the Robin Rigg Wind Farm in the firth began in 2007.

Within the firth, there are some salt flats and mud flats that can be dangerous, due to their frequently shifting patches of quicksand.


There are over 290 square kilometres (110 sq mi) of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in the area of the firth (one of which is Salta Moss), as well as national nature reserves — at Caerlaverock and in Cumbria.[3][4] On the Cumbrian side, much of the coastline has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The Solway Coast’s AONB has two separate sections: the first runs westward from just north of Carlisle to Skinburness; the second runs south from the hamlet of Beckfoot, past Mawbray and Allonby, to Crosscanonby.

In 2013, the honeycomb worm and blue mussel were designated as targets of conservation efforts, and Allonby Bay (an inlet of the Solway Firth) was put forward as a candidate for a Marine Conservation Zone.[5][6]

Long-distance walking route[edit]

A 53-mile (85 km) long-distance walking route, the Annandale Way,[7] runs through Annandale, from the source of the River Annan, in the Moffat Hills, to the Solway Firth; it was opened in September 2009.[8]

Islands in the Solway[edit]

Unlike other parts of the west coast of Scotland, the Solway Firth has only a few islands. They are:


The Solway Firth is the estuary of the River Eden and the River Esk.

Below are links to lists of the other rivers that flow into the firth:


Haaf net fishing in the Solway Firth

The name 'Solway' (recorded as Sulewad in 1218) is of Scandinavian origin,[9] and was originally the name of a ford across the mud flats at Eskmouth.[10] The first element of the name is probably from the Old Norse word súl 'pillar', referring to the Lochmaben Stane, though it may instead be from súla, meaning 'solan goose'.[9] Súl and súla both have long vowels, but the early spellings of Solway indicate a short vowel in the first element.[10] This may be due to the shortening of an originally long vowel in the Middle English period but may also represent an original short vowel.[10] If this is the case, the first element may be *sulr, an unrecorded word cognate with Old English sol 'muddy, pool', or a derivative of sulla, meaning 'to swill'.[10]

The second element of the name is from the Old Norse vað, meaning 'ford'[9] (which is cognate with the modern English word wade).

The area had three fords: the Annan or Bowness Wath, the Dornock Wath (once called the Sandywathe), and the main one —the Solewath (also called the Solewath or the Sulewad).

A wooden lighthouse was built in 1841 at Barnkirk Point (grid reference NY 1903 6425). It was destroyed by fire in 1960.[11]

On 9 March 1876, a 79-ton French Lugger, the St. Pierre, was stranded - and finally declared lost - on Blackshaw Bank, an ill-defined feature which extends for a considerable distance on both sides of the channel of the River Nith.[12]

Between 1869 and 1921, the estuary was crossed by the Solway Junction Railway on a 1780 m (5850 ft) iron viaduct.[13] The line was built to carry iron ore from the Whitehaven area to Lanarkshire and was financed and operated by the Caledonian Railway of Scotland. After the railway, which was not a financial success, ceased operating in 1921, the railway bridge became a popular footpath, enabling residents of Scotland to easily cross into England, where alcoholic drink was legally available seven days a week. (Scotland was dry on Sundays at the time.) 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 Range.[14]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Solway Firth has been used as the location for films. For example, the 1973 film The Wicker Man was filmed around Kirkcudbright and Burrow Head on the Wigtownshire coast.
  • In July 2019, the American metal band Slipknot released a song called “Solway Firth” that is named after the firth.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Carlowicz (6 December 2019). "Sediment Sloshes in Solway Firth". NASA Earth Observatory. Archived from the original on 1 January 2020. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  2. ^ "Solway Coast AONB". Archived from the original on 5 June 2009. Retrieved 10 August 2009.
  3. ^ "South Solway Mosses NNR" Archived 11 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Natural England
  4. ^ "Natural England – Salta Moss SSSI" (PDF). Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  5. ^ " – Allonby Bay rMCZ" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 January 2015. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  6. ^ "The Wildlife Trusts – Allonby Bay" (PDF). Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  7. ^ Ltd, Weesleekit. "Annandale Way – Welcome".
  8. ^, MKH Computer Services Ltd. – / James Kirby -. "Annandale Way – LDWA Long Distance Paths".
  9. ^ a b c Mills, A. D. (2011). A Dictionary of British Place Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 427.
  10. ^ a b c d Williamson, May G. (1942). The Non-Celtic Place-names of the Scottish Border Counties (PDF). University of Edinburgh (Unpublished PhD Thesis). p. 124. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 August 2014.
  11. ^ Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of Southwestern Scotland". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  12. ^ Whittaker, I. G. (1998) Off Scotland: a comprehensive record of maritime and aviation losses in Scottish waters. Edinburgh. RCAHMS Shelf Number: E.5.14.WHI
  13. ^ Edgar, S. and Sinton, J.M. (1990). The Solway Junction Railway, Locomotion Papers No. 176, The Oakwood Press, ISBN 0-85361-395-8
  14. ^ Rob Edwards. "Radiation at Solway range hits new high". Sunday Herald. Retrieved 10 August 2009.

Slipknot 2019 song. "Solway Firth" from the Album "We Are Not Your Kind"

Further reading[edit]

  • Neilsen, George (1899). "Annals of Solway – Until A.D. 1307". In Forbes, Peter (ed.). Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society. New Series. Vol. III. Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons. pp. 245–308. (available at
  • Ordnance Survey, (2003), Carlisle & Solway Firth, Landranger Map, No. 85, Ed.D., Scale 1:50 000 (1¼ inches to 1 mile), ISBN 0-319-22822-3
  • Ordnance Survey, (2006), Solway Firth, Explorer Map, No. 314, Ed. A2, Scale 1:25 000 (2½ inches to 1 mile), ISBN 0-319-23839-3

External links[edit]