Stretching along the Cumbrian shore of the Solway Firth, this is a low, open and windswept AONB with wide views across to the hills of Galloway.
Physically part of the Solway Plain, the coast’s characteristic feature is its continuous 7.6m raised beach. Silting along the estuary has left extensive marine deposits and the open foreshore strip now consists either of marine terrace with low, scrub-covered sandstone cliffs or undulating dunes. The falling tides expose wide sand stretches, intertidal mud-flats and, higher upstream, salt-marsh and peat moss, in a landscape with a sense of remoteness that is the essence of its value and character.
With varied habitats and rich feeding grounds, the estuary is of outstanding wildlife importance. An overwintering ground for huge numbers of wildfowl, the Upper Solway’s flats and marshes are a Ramsar site and seals, dolphins and porpoises have been sighted offshore. Glasson Moss National Nature Reserve is part of the largest undamaged area of lowland raised mire in Britain. Much of the foreshore has been bought, for its protection, by Cumbria County Council and conservation bodies. The area has a rich historical and cultural heritage associated with its position on the Scottish border.
This is a traditional agricultural area remote from large towns. The AONB boundary skirts Silloth, the largest settlement and stops short of the fishing town of Maryport. Inshore fishing includes shrimping and cockles and the local village farming, by rotational cropping and grazing, has evolved from the traditional Cumbrian pattern with its ‘statemen’ communities of farmers. Small, hedged fields are still a dominant feature in the landscape. Tourism is an important, though relatively undeveloped, supplement to the local economy, concentrated in caravan sites at the small resorts of Silloth and Allonby. A number of archaeological sites include defences built by the Romans.
The AONB is also a popular day trip destination for touring motorists from Carlisle, the West Cumbrian coast towns and Tyneside, and the shore road bears heavy peak season traffic. The Cumbria Cycle Way passes through the AONB and the proposed regional footpath, the Cumbria Coastal Way follows the foreshore and continues to Port Carlisle. The Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail follows the line of Hadrian’s Wall through the north of the AONB.