Explore the Solway

Whether you want to walk Hadrian’s Wall Path, part of the England Coast Path, Circular walks or cycle around the Solway villages, the Solway Coast AONB provides great days out for everyone.

Walks will take you through a varied landscape which will reveal the history of the landscape including its wildlife and culture.

Here are a selection of walks you can explore around Solway.

The Solway Villages Trail takes you through some of the most beautiful countryside on the Solway Plain and traces the history of ancient transport routes and the management of water courses for flour milling. The walker will visit both ancient woodlands and long-established settlements. Some were the product of much wealth, but others were purely the place where people made their living in an unforgiving countryside.

THRUSTENFIELD LOUGH was used as the header tank for the water courses which run toward the Solway. These streams powered corn mills, with different mills working on different days of the week to maintain the flow of water. The establishment of the Lough and its sluice, which still survives today, provided water to the mills even in times of low rainfall. This water management allowed each settlement down stream to run its own mill. Today, the Lough serves as one of the Solway's precious wetlands, and a valuable refuge for coots, great-crested grebe and teal. Please keep to the Right of Way and do not disturb the private areas surrounding the Lough.

One of the Solway villages you will visit is MOORHOUSE, a small settlement with an illustrious past. The large, imposing building is Moorhouse Hall, built c. 1780 by a Carlisle solicitor whose father farmed in Moorhouse. This partnership between father and son created one of the largest estates on the Solway Plain.

Along the banks of the SUNKEN LANES of the Solway Villages Trail, wildflowers flourish undisturbed. In April and May, bluebells and primroses emerge, followed by the nodding heads of water avens in the damper places. Later, in summer, the tall, pink spires of the foxglove emerge, backed by the cream flower heads of the aromatic meadowsweet.

THE HADRIAN'S WALL PATH National Trail follows the 73 miles of the Wall between Wallsend and the village of Bowness on Solway in the west. The path opened in the summer of 2002, and this Trail is one of a series of walks discovering the countryside around Hadrian's Wall.

The Eden Estuary Trail takes you through some of the most beautiful areas within the Solway Coast AONB. Starting in the village of Burgh by Sands, you will soon be confronted by the wide, open vista of the Solway estuary. You will visit historic sites and stunning landscapes with their richly varied wildlife. Always remember though, the estuary and river Eden can be dangerous due to the twice-daily tides.

Edward 1 monumentEdward I was king from 1274 to 1307 and spent most of his reign campaigning on England's western and northern borders. He was known as Longshanks, for his height, and the Hammer of the Scots, for his hard and efficient pursuit of supremacy in Scotland. In the winter of 1306, while attempting to quell another uprising, he became ill and rested at Lancercost Priory for several months. He died on Burgh Marsh of dysentery, within sight of the shores of Scotland which had plagued him for so long. The monument pictured marks the place of his death, and, although it is slowly sinking into the marsh, plans are afoot to rescue and restore it, to remember Edward I, Hammer of the Scots.

Architecture on the Solway Coast is varied and fascinating. Thatched cottages are rare on the Solway, but during late Medieval times, reedbeds were common, providing abundant raw materials for thatching. Later, drainage works to improve marshes for rearing sheep meant that many wetland habitats disappeared. Clay Dabbin barns are a relic of past times. They were constructed of a mixture of clay, pebbles and straw, and then plastered over. On your walk, look out for the clay barn just along the lane from the thatched cottage.

The intertidal river Eden is an ever-changing environment due to the twice-daily inundation of the river channel by the incoming tides. This provides a spectacle for the birdwatcher all year round. In spring the Solway is a feeding area for those birds migrating north to their breeding grounds in more northerly countries. In summer it is home to a large breeding population of gulls, terns, wading birds and other salt marsh species. Autumn sees the return of thousands of northerly breeding birds, some of which are Solway winter residents such as goldeneye, barnacle geese, pink-footed geese and whooper swans. Many are on passage to warmer wintering grounds such as Africa. In winter, due to the large concentration of birds, predators abound such as the peregrine falcon and its smaller cousin, the merlin. The walker is sure to see a wide range of bird species and should be on their guard for rarities at all times of year, as the inner Solway regularly produces notable species.

Circular Walk Start-GR NY08887: at the Solway Coast Discovery Centre in Silloth

Before leaving the Discovery Centre it is advisable to check tide times, etc, as the Grune itself can be dangerous on exceptionally large tides. And is therefore not advisable unless with an experienced guide.

Turn right outside the Discovery Centre, and walk past the Community School entrance, the Sports Hall, then onto a small path beside the Primary School playground. This takes you to the main B5300 road, which you cross and go straight ahead into the Car Park beside the pine tree compound (a major Rookery in Spring and Summer). Pass the public toilets and carry on straight ahead onto the promenade.

Heading North follow the promenade past the Coastal Way finger post, and second car park with toilets, (NY11416) then towards East Cote lighthouse, which is quite a feature built in 1914 and is still in use today.

Carry on along the promenade; eventually you will come to a narrowing of the pathway which guides you up a ramp on to the grass (NY11772). At this point you have a choice you can stay on the lower narrow promenade path or join the grass footpath on the roadside verge. If you decide to stay on the lower promenade footpath there are breaks in the sea defences to allow you to leave the lower path in an emergency.

As you now approach the back of the sea front houses at Skinburness you will be guided up on to the grass path, which will then lead you through a narrow gravel track where you walk along a tarmac lane between the houses. Note: on your left are the former longhouses of Skinburness, which are reputed to be the haunt of smugglers from Scotland. It was said that this area was the place in which Sir Walter Scott modelled the Crackenthorpe Inn mentioned in his book the Red Gauntlet. The longhouses are now converted in to family homes.

Carry on along this small secluded lane, with the sea defence on your left. This was put in place to prevent coastal erosion and flooding. Cross the top of Dick Trod Lane and go though the gate with the cycle rack. (NY1246).Pass the large retirement home and its well manicured lawns on your right hand side.

Your walk will now continue over gravel and eventually you will drop down onto the beach, where the footpath was severely eroded during heavy tides of 2007. After a short distance you will be guided back on to a grass path, which will lead you past a detached house which is in an idyllic location over looking the Scottish coast; on passing this property note the view point opposite. The outward views of the walk you will note are of shingle, open sea and dunes.

Progressing along the path you will find yourself surrounded by gorse bushes, which are nesting areas for many passerine birds including Linnet, Stonechat and Whitethroat. In the summer you may also hear the occasional Cuckoo which will be up to no good laying her eggs in others nests. As the footpath narrows take a left turn through the gorse which will lead you to the next kissing gate on your walk (NY13300). You are now entering sheep grazing areas; it is advisable to keep dogs on a lead from here on.

For a short distance the coastal fringe will be out of view, however, there is a well marked footpath which will eventually bring you to another gate, where you will be guided through a narrow gorse area leading on to a well walked path with plenty of way markers pointing the way. In the distance, on the horizon to the left of the Anthorn masts, you will notice a former Second World War Pillbox. Here you can sit and enjoy the spectacular views over Morecambe bay; a bird watchers paradise when the tide is coming in, flowing up the River Waver Estuary. You are now at the half way point of the walk.

For your return journey, turn right from the Pillbox and follow the shingle-mud track by the River Waver Estuary, taking in the vast views of saltmarshes, creeks and on a clear day the Lake District Hills. Follow the track through a series of fenced off areas with public kissing gates. Along this footpath you will notice some large blocks of concrete rubble, these were dumped here after war time coastal defences were removed. They now form part of a sea defence protecting the Grune from erosion, also providing habitat for Rabbits, stoats, weasels etc.

On your way up this track you will also notice that you are climbing a slight gradient which eventually leads to a series of gorse and hawthorn hedgerows. It is worth spending a little time to look over the Skinburness Marsh, where large numbers of geese can often be seen and heard in winter. There is also the chance of seeing Peregrines hunting these marsh areas in pursuit of wading birds.

You should now have gone through a series of gate ways, and will be approaching the little Grune hamlet with Marsh Cottage, on your right, the first of these quaint coastal properties. As you pass this cottage you will come to a three way marker post (NY12916). Turn right in between the houses and follow the secluded country lane, which will guide you back on to the Coastal way. You have now gone full circle, and simply need to retrace your steps along the Cumbria Coastal Way, before returning to the Solway Coast Discovery Centre

5 do-in-a-day rides on easy to follow routes from Silloth, Kirkbride and Carlisle.

Cycling around the Solway Coast Is free of Charge and available from the Silloth Discovery Centre and the AONB Office.

The booklet provides a photographic record of some of the birds to be seen in and around the AONB, and where to find them. Using his own photographs to illustrate it, it is an ideal accompaniment for anyone interested in finding out where best to see the birdlife of the Solway.

Birdwatching in the Solway Coast AONB can be extremely rewarding both for the novice and the experienced. Estuaries are driven by the twice daily force of the tide and this alone creates a dynamic backcloth where birds are moved from their feeding grounds onto their roosting areas. The wintering birds are generally arctic breeders that winter in the milder conditions of the Solway although some move further south, even as far as the African continent. These passage migrants use the Solway Coast as a staging point where they take the opportunity to feed before moving to higher latitudes in spring and lower latitudes in the autumn. Summer breeding birds on the Solway are also noteworthy.

The range of bird species that visit the Solway is dominated by the thousands of migratory waders and wildfowl that over-winter. The total population of the Svalbard breeding barnacle goose winter on the saltmarshes surrounding the estuary. Pink footed geese, whooper swans and various dabbling ducks such as pintail, wigeon, shoveller and teal can be found throughout the inner estuary in large numbers. Wading birds like dunlin, oystercatcher, golden and grey plover, turnstone and curlew add to the spectacle.

Birds of prey are common and outside of the breeding season include peregrine, merlin, short eared owl and hen harrier.

Breeding birds like shelduck, snipe, lapwing, redshank and many others provide a constant backdrop of birdlife throughout the spring and summer. Behind the coastal areas lies the agricultural land and the lowland raised mires where many birds breed.

The Solway CoastAONB has something to offer the birdwatcher all year round and through using our new book 'Birdwatching on the Solway Coast AONB' we hope that your excursions will be enhanced and made all the more enjoyable. (Brian Irving)

The book is free and is available from the AONB Office or download here.

This is an easy guide to some of the wildflowers found in the Solway Coast AONB.

It is available from the AONB Office and is free. You may also download Exploring Wildflowers in pdf format.

The Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is an unspoilt landscape supporting many rare species of plants and animals. Set out below are the controls that are in place to keep it that way.

The Solway Costs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a special place with much to offer in quiet enjoyment or even more adventurous pursuits. This section is designed to give you all the information you need to enjoy the Solway Coast AONB, without breaking any of the statutory laws, bye-laws and restrictions that are in place to protect it.

The Solway Coast AONB was created in 1964 under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, because of its outstanding scenic beauty. The primary purpose of the designation is to conserve and enhance the area's natural beauty including flora, fauna, geological and physical features. There are also other areas within the AONB with their own level designation. These include Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and areas designated as of international importance to wetland wildlife under the Ramsar Convention (Ramsar Sites).

If you are unsure about how best to experience the Solway's unique appeal, or think you have seen illegal or damaging activities, please contact us on the number/email below and we will do our utmost to help you.

Tel: 01697 333055
Email: info@SolwayCoastAONB.org.uk


Local bye-laws are made under Section 235 of the Local Government Act 1972. For specific information regarding these bye-laws, please contact Allerdale Borough Council.

It is against the law to use any mechanical vehicles on the coast (this means within 15 metres seaward of the B5300). The term 'vehicles' applies to: horse-drawn vehicles, scramble/motorbikes, quads, tractors, cars, lorries, vans or any other mechanical means.

The only exceptions to this rule are:

  1. Users who have a licence that specifically allows access to the shore by mechanical means. However, even licenced users must use agreed access points;
  2. The Emergency Services;
  3. Users who are parking in one of the designated Solway Coast car parks.

Water sports such as power boating, water-skiing and windsurfing are controlled. These activities are zoned for your safety. For example, power boating can take place around Silloth harbour and windsurfing around Allonby Bay.

None of these activities may take place within 50 metres of the high water mark. Only use the agreed access points to the shore.

Please remember:

  1. Don't dispose of refuse at sea.
  2. Keep an adequate distance from roosting or feeding birds.
  3. Anchor away from bird feeding or nesting sites.
  4. Avoid oil spillage.
  5. Look to the map for siting of nature reserves and respect them.

It is an offence for any unauthorised person to set any form of trap or snare in order to catch a wild animal.

It is also an offence for any unauthorised person to intentionally kill, injure of take any wild animal included in Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Examples of these include: bats, otters, toads, butterflies and red squirrels.

It is now illegal to take sand and gravel from the shore without an extraction licence from the Environment Agency. Even small-scale collection, for example to build a rockery, is forbidden. Illegal gravel extraction causes damage to the shore's natural flood defences and destroys important bird breeding sites.

Commercial bait digging is illegal on the Solway Coast. Large-scale removal of such species as peeler crabs may cause irreparable damage to the food chain, placing many species at risk.

Bait digging also causes disturbance to sediments that can threaten fragile habitats. Individuals may dig bait for personal use, but should not stockpile bait for long-term use.

Photography of birds in Britain is restricted by law if it involves disturbance of rare breeding birds.

Crows and several other species of bird can be killed by authorised persons only to protect livestock and crops.

All wild birds' nests are fully protected and it is an offence to destroy them whilst they are in use or being built.

It is an offence to collect or possess wild birds' eggs, unless you are a landowner with permission to take eggs of a few 'pest' species.

N.B. During the breeding season, birds nest on the beach above the high water mark. Some of these birds are listed in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This means it is an offence to disturb them at any time. Please keep away from the high water mark between April and June.

Fly tipping is illegal. In Allerdale it is punishable by a fine of up to £2,000.

If, from time to time, you have household waste or bulky items such as old furniture or white goods you wish dispose of, call Allerdale's environmental service on: 01900 326453 to arrange removal, FREE OF CHARGE. Call this number also if you require details of other chargeable or non-chargeable collection services for DIY or garden waste.

You may dump your waste in Cumbria County Council Civic Amenity Sites. These can be found at: Clay Flatts, Workington; Lillyhall Industrial Estate, Distington; Glasson Industrial Estate, Maryport, and Syke Road, Wigton.


Remember, fouling by dogs is punishable by a fine in certain areas and dog waste can cause serious health problems in young children.

Who can use them?

Right of Way is a right by which any member of the public may travel across land. There are several different kinds, including:

  1. Footpath: where the public has a Right of Way on foot only;
  2. Bridleway: where the public has a Right of Way on foot, horseback or pedal cycle, including mountain bikes;
  3. Permissive Path: where there is no Right of Way, but the landowner has agreed to allow the public use of the path.

A landowner may temporarily disturb a Right of Way that crosses the centre of a field or enclosure in order to cultivate the field. However, the line and surface of the path must be restored soon afterwards.

Please be responsible and considerate of both other users and landowners when using the Rights of Way network. Dogs should be kept under closer control. In most cases this mean on a lead. Remember, if a landowner believes your dog to be worrying or chasing stock, he is within his rights to shoot it.

Sections of the Cumbria Coastal Way are permissive paths. SRI reserves the right to divert these paths where safety to users is in question or continued usage would cause damage to an historical or nature site. Diversions would be minor and still allow the walker to stay within the route corridor.

Further information in Rights of Way legislation can be obtained from SRI on 01697 322620.

Please follow the Country Code:

  1. Enjoy the Countryside and respect its life and work
  2. Guard against all risk of fire
  3. Fasten all gates
  4. Keep your dogs under close control
  5. Keep to Rights of Way across farmland
  6. Use gates and stiles to cross fences, hedges and walls
  7. Leave livestock, crops and machinery alone
  8. Take your litter home
  9. Help to keep all water clean
  10. Protect wildlife, plants and trees
  11. Take special care on country roads
  12. Make no unnecessary noise