Sitting on the very north westerly tip of England, Cumbria’s Solway Coast is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a haven for wildlife, a place of a thousand acres of sky and seemingly endless beaches. It’s the perfect place for a weekend away. Features Writer, Rob Bullock, discovers more.
It is official, Cumbria’s Solway coast is beautiful, its natural beauty is outstanding and a weekend away on the Solway Coast will let you see why it was designated an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) in 1996. The area stretches from its easterly boundary at Floriston on the border with Scotland to Maryport on the West Cumbrian Coast. It covers an area of approximately 118 sq km of unspoilt nature to help you recharge your batteries during a short weekend stay.
It is true, many people who visit the Solway coast come for the brilliant cycling through nature, or to ride horses, but if you want to just sit and watch, there is plenty of wildlife and culture to keep you occupied.
A fantastic destination for cycling
The Solway Coast is a wonderful destination for cyclists. There are miles of quiet roads and some lovely off-road routes and what’s more, it’s quite flat, so exploring on two wheels is a great idea. Why not pick up some information at the Discovery Centre or the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty office in Silloth.
Why not try Hadrian’s Cycleway or the Maryport to Allonby Cycle Path, which is a dedicated route offering a safer alternative to riding on the B5300 road. You can even cycle the Cardurnock Peninsula, a 16-mile route past beaches and saltmarshes. Or you could try the Burgh-by-Sands to Solway Coast route, or even the Carlisle to Workington path, both parts of the National Cycle Network.
Explore the area by horse
There are loads of places where horse riders can explore the Solway Coast. Lots of people head for the beach, while others head inland along the country lanes. When the tide is out, you can cover an area stretching from Maryport to Silloth, with places to stop along the way.
There are three easy spots where you can access the beaches and park a horsebox. But, please be respectful of other users. In Allonby there are large car parks to the south and north of the village and another big car park at Silloth’s west beach. Alternatively, try the south and central beaches at Mawbray Banks though the parking here is limited.
Please do be careful of the wildlife when you ride. Birds nest on the beaches above the high-water mark between March and July and they are at their most vulnerable when sitting on eggs. Try to stick to existing paths and tracks whenever possible, or ride below the high tide line if it’s safe to do so. Please take a wide route around birds that appear distressed. Move away quickly and quietly – even if that means you are going back the way you have come.
Nine nature reserves along the coast
Why not visit one of the nine nature reserves along the coast from Crosscanonby Carr in the south to Drumberg Moss in the north, you might be lucky enough to see some of the unique wildlife in the area. There are rare amphibians, insects and invertebrates, birds which choose to come here out of only two locations in the world, mammals onshore and in the sea, an ever-changing population which is driven by the tides and the seasons.
Wildlife lives and breeds in the dunes and on the saltmarshes, in the mires and through the hedgerows. The Solway Coast is home to a fascinating mix of some familiar species – and some which are a little more unusual.
In the centre of Silloth is The Discovery Centre, home to the Tourist Information Centre and a permanent exhibition about the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Here you will find everything you need to know about the area, from where to stay, where to go for food and drink, information about special events and activities, and practical information to help you make the most of your visit.
There are a variety of visitor attractions from Holme Cultram Abbey to the Maryport Maritime Museum, and from the Tullie House Museum to the Senhouse Roman Museum.
A weekend away on the Solway Coast
Allonby is a picturesque, unspoilt village at the heart of the Solway Coast and has many nooks, crannies and interesting buildings. Visitors can enjoy a meander around the village, stroll along the bay, or walk along the vast sand and shingle beach stretching some five miles. The open bay and shallow waters make Allonby Bay a popular spot for beach sports such as windsurfing and kitesurfing.