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The Out About Scotland complete guide to the Solway Firth
Category: Beach, Forest or woodland, Landscape, Walk or cycle route
Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 10 out of 10
About the Solway Firth
The Solway Firth is rightly regarded as being one of the most beautiful areas of Scotland, and yet it’s often overlooked by visitors to the country. Stretching out across both England and Scotland the Solway Firth borders the stunning coastlines of Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway and reaches out into the Irish Sea to almost touch the Isle of Man.
Along both coastlines visitors will get to enjoy a remarkably diverse landscape that encompasses sandy beaches, grassland, mudflats, woodland, salt marshes and rolling fields, and it’s here where two of the most important wildlife areas in Britain can be found; Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve and the RSPB Mersehead reserve.
These reserves are absolutely stunning and they’re a great place to take a sunny afternoon stroll with the kids. There’s a huge amount of wildlife to see all along this part of the coastline and some of the hidden-away beaches easily rival those on the west coast islands in my opinion.
But it’s not just picture-postcard coastal scenes that you’ll find in this part of Scotland because there are loads of pretty villages to explore too including Kippford, Kirkcudbright, Gatehouse of Fleet, Wigtown and Whithorn, while the towns of Dumfries, Annan and Gretna are within easy driving distance if you need to stock up on supplies.
Things to do at the Solway Firth
There are over 110 square miles of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the Solway Firth which has to make it one of the best locations in Scotland for getting your hiking boots on and heading out on a trek, and walkers are well rewarded with the many routes available.
Perhaps the most popular trail is the 55-mile long Annandale Way which runs between the towns of Annan and Moffat and offers spectacular views of the broadleaf and coniferous woodlands at Hoddam Estate as well as the largest body of freshwater in Dumfriesshire, Castle Loch.
This is an area of Scotland that’s rightly proud of its countryside and across endless cattle farms, sand dunes, salt marshes, peat bogs and raised mires you’ll find a diverse range of wildlife, from buzzing dragonflies in the fields and pastures to bottle-nose dolphins looking for their next meal surprisingly close to the shoreline.
Tourists visiting the Solway Firth won’t be disappointed with the quality of beaches on offer either, with the ever-popular Rockcliffe, Southerness and Sandyhills areas all within close distance of each other, and many other hidden bays are just waiting to be discovered around the next corner.
But it’s not just people who flock to this area of Scotland. Due to the marine environment with its plentiful food supplies, the Solway Firth has become a haven for wildlife and bird watchers will enjoy seeing thousands of barnacle and pink-footed geese making the area their home from autumn through to spring.
At other times you can see finches, yellow-hammer and reed buntings, lapwings and skylarks, to name just a few.
Moving slightly inland you’ll find a variety of lochs and ruined castles (Caerlaverock Castle with its unique triangular shape is a highlight), while tourist attractions such as Gretna Green Blacksmiths Shop and the market town of Dumfries are within half an hours drive by car.
If you want to investigate the land further south you’ll find the Hadrians Wall World Heritage Site which has several fascinating Roman ruins, with the Senhouse Roman Museum at Maryport being a firm favourite with tourists.
As a place where you can really immerse yourself in nature I think the Solway Firth is massively underrated, so if you’re looking for places to spend a few weekends I’d suggest you put this area right at the top of your list.
What I liked about this attraction
- It’s great for birdwatchers and photographers
- The Solway Firth has some spectacular walks
- There are loads of other attractions in this area
My top tips
- Visit Caerlaverock Castle while you’re in the area
- Take binoculars. The Solway Firth is full of wildlife
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Address and directions map
There are several options for enjoying the Solway Firth but perhaps the best way is to explore some of the beaches that lie along this part of the Dumfries and Galloway coast:
- Southerness beach: Dumfries, DG2 8AX
- Sandyhills beach: Dalbeattie, DG5 4PT
- Rockcliffe beach: Dalbeattie, DG5 4QQ
- Mossyard beach: Gatehouse of Fleet, Castle Douglas, DG7 2ET
- Nun Mill bay: Kirkcudbright, DG6 4TQ
- Brighouse Bay: Kirkcudbright DG6 4TS
- The Dhoon: Kirkcudbright DG6 4TL
- Port Logan: Stranraer DG9 9NG
Prices and opening times
The Solway Firth is open at all times throughout the year. There are no charges to visit any of the public beaches, although car parking charges may apply.
Getting there: Dependent on location
Getting around: Dependent on location
On-site conveniences: Dependent on location