Solway Coast AONB

Criffel, Solway Coast AONB, Cumbria, England
Criffel, Solway Coast AONB ©

Solway Coast – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is located in Cumbria in north west England. The Solway Coast were the first designated AONB back in 1964, the area covers just over 100 square kilometres and includes 59 kilometres of shoreline. The Solway Coast is the second most northerly AONB in England after the Northumberland Coast. The area is well known for its cliffs, dunes, coastline, wildlife habitats and varied landscapes.

The local population of approx 3,400 live in local villages and towns located across the AONB such as Silloth and Allonby. The area covered under the AONB designation covers an area starting from Rockcliffe in the north down to Maryport in the south. The area is of national importance for nature conservation and includes of Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI), Scheduled Monuments and County Wildlife Sites.

The key features and special qualities of the Solway Coast AONB include the low lying landscape and narrow coastal strip creating a unique English wilderness, cliffs, dunes, range of wildlife habitats, cultural heritage and historical sites and settlements including Roman Milefortlet and Holm Cultram Abbey. The area is important for wildlife and habitats with a number of protected sites. The key features combined with the peace, tranquillity, remote nature of the site and panoramic views makes the area special.

The main industries in the AONB include farming, agriculture and tourism. The area attracts visitors for day trips, weekend breaks, longer stays and for a number of recreational activities. There are a number of scenic historic villages and towns located in the AONB, including Silloth, Beaumont, Burgh by Sands and Allonby. Main settlements located close by include Carlisle, Cockermouth, Penrith and Workington.

The area is popular for outdoor activities including wind surfing, fishing, swimming, bird watching, walking and cycling with a range of routes and trails to explore. Visitors can enjoy the tranquil environment, fine natural coastal scenery with panoramic views in the Solway Firth and across on to the hills of Galloway in Scotland.

Quick Facts

Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty:

Year of Designation: 1964

Population: 3,400 (approx)

Size in square kilometres: 115 (59 km of shoreline)

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI): 6

County Wildlife Sites: 16

Scheduled Monuments: 51

Main Settlements close by: Carlisle, Cockermouth, Penrith, Workington.

Located in: Cumbria.


The Solway Coast AONB is located in the county of Cumbria in the north west of England. The Solway Coast is located next to the border area with Scotland, visitors can see panoramic views over the hills of Galloway in Scotland in the distance. The AONB includes 59 kilometres of shoreline, the tranquil and peaceful area enjoys a remote location offering visitors a place of scenic natural beauty and landscapes away from the traffic and congestion of the cities and towns. There are a number of things to see, do and experience in the area for visitors.

The AONB includes a number of small settlements, the landscape makes the area one of the most scenic in England. The AONB area itself is sparsely populated with no major towns or cities falling within the AONB boundary, local settlements include Silloth, Allonby and Beaumont. The Solway Coast are home to a number of landscapes including agricultural land, raised mires, sand and mud flats, sand dunes and salt marsh, each of which has its own landscape character.

The Solway Coast AONB has a rich history and includes coastline, dunes, cliffs, wildlife and varied landscapes that have been shaped here over thousands of years; the area is of national importance for its landscape, ecology and geology. Local towns located close to the AONB border include Cockermouth and Workington and Penrith with the city of Carlisle also located close by. The local towns provide convenient places from which visitors can tour the Solway Coast AONB and surrounding areas.

The protection given to the area with its AONB status means the commercial development in the AONB area has been limited in order to help protect and maintain the special qualities of the area. The relative low profile of the area and its remote location means visitors can enjoy much of the AONB area away from the crowds.

The location in north west England means the AONB is easily assessable from across the north west and north east of England, the Midlands and Scotland. From Newcastle, Durham and much of north east England the area is 2 hours to 2 hours 30 minutes by car, from Leeds it is 3 hours by car, from Birmingham and much of the Midlands it is 3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours. From Liverpool and Manchester it is approx 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours.

From Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland it is 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours by car. From North Wales it is 3 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes by. From London and much of southern England it is 6 to 7 hours drive by car.

Tourist Information Centres and information points are located at various locations in and close by to the Solway Coast AONB. Inside the AONB there is a tourist information centre in Silloth inside the Discovery Centre, there are also ones located at Cockermouth, Penrith, Carlisle and Workington close to the AONB. The tourist information centres can provide visitors with useful information, help, advice and tips on the AONB area and the surrounding areas.

Each of the tourist information centres has knowledgeable staff offering useful local knowledge with information on local attractions, places of interest, things to see and do, along with local advice and tips. A visit to the tourist information centres provides a good first port of call for visitors helping to better plan and organise trips in and around the local area. At the centres visitors can find out about local events, public transport options and accommodation facilities.

Local Accommodation includes a range of hotels including historic and contemporary, B & B’s, Guest Houses, Self Catering houses, holiday homes and cottages. Local accommodation is available in Silloth and Allonby. Towns located in the area including Cockermouth, Penrith and Workington and the city of Carlisle, provide good access to local facilities and accommodation from which to explore the AONB and the surrounding local areas in north west England.

The Solway Coast AONB provides a place for visitors to explore a place of remote wilderness by the coast surrounded by natural beauty where it is possible to get away from it all and the stresses and strains of daily life. There are a number of small dispersed settlements in the AONB, many of the villages in the AONB have preserved their history, traditions and heritage offering visitors a number of local attractions and places of interest.

Local Towns and Villages include Silloth located within the AONB area 13 miles north of Maryport. Historically Silloth was a Victorian seaside town and continues to be a popular seaside resort for visitors with its laid back atmosphere, seaside attractions and impressive sunsets. he town enjoys a mild climate and is well known for its impressive views of the hills of Galloway in Scotland and sea views.

The town centre includes 36 acres of open grassy space known as 'The Green', that hosts a number of annual events during the year including Solfest music festival in August and a beer festival held in the summer. The location within the AONB area along with local facilities and amenities means the coastal town is a popular destination for visitors.

Local attractions includes the historic Christ Church noted as a recognisable local landmark. Bank Mill Nurseries and Visitor Centre is located in Silloth and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) within the AONB. The family run business has been growing and selling plants at Bank Mill for over 60 years and is one of the largest retail nurseries in West Cumbria. Attractions include Jurassic Island where visitors can go back to the Ice Age with the age of the dinosaurs and see a number of displays and exhibitions.

Other attractions here include the Nature Reserve featuring a number of birds and wildlife. There are play areas for children with indoor and outdoor facilities including a maze and crazy golf. There is a coffee shop serving a choice of sandwiches, cakes, scones, hot and cold meals and drinks, whilst the evening bistro offers a choice of evening meals made using fresh local ingredients. The range of attractions and facilities at Bank Mill offers a fun day out for the whole family.

Maryport is located at the southern edge of the Solway Coast AONB, 13 miles to the south of Silloth. Historically the town was a fishing village that later developed in to a coal port, the town is a planned one that is built using a grid system with traditional industry in coal mining and ship building. The convenient location of the town in addition to the local amenities including shops, restaurants, eateries and accommodation and transport links makes the town a popular location for visitors to base themselves from when exploring the AONB and the surrounding areas.

Local attractions include the Maritime Museum that showcases the maritime history of the town through time. Senhouse Roman Museum where visitors can find a number of Roman remains from the site of a historic Roman fort. The fort dates back to the 5th century and the site where the Senhouse Roman Museum is today was once a Royal Naval Reserve Station. Other local attractions include Netherhall, once a large country manor house known for its pele tower. The Wave Maryport includes a heritage visitor centre, community centre, conference and entertainment facilities, it is located in the historic harbour area of Maryport.

Lake District Coast Aquarium is located in Maryport, established since 1997 it has established itself as a popular local attraction. Visitors can see in excess of 55 themed tanks that house a variety of marine life that is found in and around the Cumbrian coastline. Visitors can see live displays of feeding and educational talks by knowledgeable staff. Other attractions on site include crazy golf, acquablaster fun and an adventure playground for children.

There is a cafe on site serving both light snacks and main meals visitors can enjoy wonderful views across the harbour and on clear days views across the Solway Firth to Scotland. The gift shop includes a range of toys, books, home furnishings and a range of gifts, mementos and souvenirs.

Allonby is located 10 miles north of Maryport, the small village is located between both Silloth and Maryport on the Solway Coast. Historically Allonby was a small fishing village that became a popular seaside resort during the early 19th century. The seaside village is known for its surfing and windsurfing along with the scenic coastline, there are some wonderful and inspiring views across the Solway Firth. The beach is a sand and shingle beach where families can enjoy a range of activities.

Local attractions include the Cumbrian Coastal Way that passes through the village offering walkers miles of green sea-banks. The village is home to a number of historic buildings including the Old Baths, Christ Church and the Reading Room that dates back to the 19th century.

Solway Coast Discovery Centre is located in Silloth Craven Arms, 13 miles north of Maryport in Cumbria. The centre is located inside a historic Victorian building and brings to life the heritage, landscape and wildlife of the area. The centre includes the tourist information centre with useful information, resources and advice on what to see, where to stay and what to do in the area. The exhibitions at the centre showcase local history, landscapes and communities both in the past and present. Visitors are transported back in history and can learn more about the area in the Ice Age and during the Roman and Viking eras.

Other attractions include art exhibitions where visitors can see works from local and up and coming artists, the exhibitions include a featured artist. The gift shop offers visitors a choice of gifts, souvenirs and mementos. A visit to the discovery centre makes for an interesting trip where can learn more about the rich heritage, culture and social history of the area.

Walking offers visitors the most cost effective and environmentally friendly ways to discover the AONB and the surrounding areas, there are a number of popular walks in the area for visitors to try. The Solway Coast AONB includes a choice of landscapes and terrain, offering both shorter and longer walks for walkers of all abilities.

Walks include The Solway Villages Trail, a 10 km walk going through some of the finest countryside in the area. The Hadrian's Wall Path National Trail is a 73 miles path that goes from Wallsend to Bowness on Solway going through the north of the AONB. The Eden Estuary Trail is a 12 km trail that begins in the village of Burgh by Sands.

Cycling provides both a cost effective and environmentally friendly way to explore the Solway Coast AONB. There are a number of quiet country lanes, hilltops, cross country routes and more challenging terrain making the area suitable for cycling. There are a number of cycle routes in the area these include; the Burgh by Sands to the Solway Coast, a 24 miles route that takes visitors through some of the finest countryside in the AONB and offers some spectacular coastal views.

Visitors to the Solway Coast AONB in north west, England will find a quiet, scenic coastal area that retains its charm and sense of remoteness. Visitors can explore a number of historic villages and towns in and around the AONB. A visit to the Solway Coast offers peace and tranquillity where visitors can explore the great outdoors and get closer to nature.

How to Get There

Solway Coast AONB is accessible by both car and public transport.

By Car:

The town of Maryport is located next to the southern edge of the AONB area and provides a convenient located from which to explore the area with a choice of accommodation, facilities and local amenities. Located approx 335 miles from central London. From London take the A40 then the M40. From the M40 take the M6 (there is a M6 toll road and M6 non-toll road visitors can take), up to junction 0 at Penrith and exit on to the A66. From the A66 exit on to the A595 and then on to the A594 that goes in to Maryport. The approx journey time is 5 hours 30 minutes to 6 hours 30 minutes depending on traffic and time of day.

By Train:

From London Euston station there are regular services to Carlisle train station and from Carlisle there are trains to Maryport. The journey time is approx 4 hours 30 minutes to 5 hours, depending on service, connections and time of day. From Maryport there are bus services to Silloth in the AONB via the Reays Coaches number 60 service, the approx journey time is 30 minutes.

By Bus/Coach:

There are regular coaches available from London Victoria Coach station to Carlisle. The approx journey time is 6 hours 35 minutes to 8 hours depending on connections, time of day and traffic. From Carlisle, visitors can use train services to Maryport and there are bus services from Carlisle to Silloth via the Stagecoachbus service 38 towards Silloth, with an approx journey time of 1 hour. Coach services to Carlisle are provided by National Express

Contact Details

Solway Coast AONB
Liddell Street

Telephone: +44 (0)16973 33055

Website: Solway Coast AONB


For Local Search and Directions see: Solway Coast (AONB) Map

Tips & Other Considerations

The weather and climate can be unpredictable, there can be elements of all four seasons in one day. Ensure you check the weather forecast before you travel and have the correct clothing and footwear including comfortable walking shoes, fleece, raincoat and umbrella.

Follow travel advice and remain alert, vigilant and aware of your belongings at all times especially your wallet/purse and valuables and ensure they are hidden away from public view. If you have a bag try to use a shoulder bag with a good quality, strong strap, that is put across your shoulder not on your shoulder making it more difficult for anyone to take your bag.

If you are travelling by car to the Solway Coast AONB in Cumbria ensure you are well prepared with maps and Sat Nav to aid your journey, particularly if you are not familiar with the local area and roads. Use the journey planner for door to door directions. Check traffic updates before you travel.

If you are looking for car parking in and around the AONB, ensure you fully understand the rules, regulations & charges for car parks and street parking. The rules & regulations can be complex & confusing if you are unclear, it is wise not to park there.

If you are travelling by public transport, check for service updates prior to beginning your journey for any delays, disruption or cancellations to services that may impact on your journey. Ensure you have the service timetables for the trains, trams, buses and coaches. Remember when the last services are and ensure you make it to the train/bus/coach stops well in time to avoid missing the service.

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