Exploring the Solway Firth
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Solway Tourist Route
The Solway Coast is one of the most beautiful areas of Scotland set just across the border from England and this was firmly stamped when it was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1964. This small part of Scotland has so much to give and being the third largest estuary in the UK it is absolutely full to the brim with wildlife, beautiful sandy beaches and dramatic coastline that no matter what corner you turn you will not be disappointed.
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As well as the incredible landscapes and seascapes the Solway Coast is steeped in history with many castles and fortifications being built to protect Scotland from the enemy. There are also a number of interesting abbey ruins scattered all across the region dating from as far back as the 1100’s as well as Whithorn Priory the site of the first Christian church in Scotland, founded by St Ninian in the 4th century.
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This beautiful underated area of Scotland is full of historical, geographical and mystical attractions to explore and the more time you have to enjoy the Solway Coast the better.
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Hotel recommendations
"Beautiful locations for a bite to eat"
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Stop off at one of our recommended hotels for a bit of lunch or afternoon tea, or why not make a weekend of it and book into the hotel for a few nights away and explore along the Solway coast at your leisure.
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Caerlaverock Castle
Caerlaverock Castle is in my eyes one of the most spectacular castles in Scotland. Built in the 13th century, this is an extremely unique fortress with its triangular footprint and incredible double moat all cleverly designed for defence purposes. If you're looking for historical ruins with a incredibly interesting story this is a must. Experience crossing the moat, walking through the impressive twin towered gatehouse and begin to explore one of the best ruins you will every come across. Being so close to the English border the castle has a troubled and turbulent past which can be plainly seen throughout this magnificent gem.
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Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve
Due to the mudflats and saltmarsh The Caerlaverock National Nature Reserves boasts one of the largest areas for wintering migrating waterfowl. It was designated a nature reserve in 1957 and covers 32 square miles of wildlife filled landscapes and seascapes. During the winter months an impressive 200,000+ geese, waders and ducks use this area as home and with an average of 50 different species hanging around during the summer this is a wildlife enthusiasts place to go.
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There is a fantastic network of paths, boardwalks, viewing platforms and hides allowing you to see the wildlife up close in their natural environment. An incredible area to visit and a great organisation to support.
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Cardroness  Castle
A magnificent tower house that sits high up in a strong defensive position looking over Fleet Bay. The castle is in remarkably great condition considering it was built in the 1470’s to house the local laird and his family. Like most castles in Scotland Cardoness has a wonderfully interesting background with murders and beheadings as local landowners fought for more spoils.
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The castle is now looked after by Historic Environment Scotland and there is plenty to see and do from the horrors of the pit prison to climbing to the top of the battlements and look over the Solway Firth, also check out the visitors centre where you can learn all about the castles chequered past.
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Dundrennan Abbey
Dundrennan Abbey was designed in the Romanesque style and was founded in 1142 by King David I of Scotland. Unlike Sweetheart Abbey this abbey is built with a very hard weathering stone which has allowed many of the architectural mouldings to be well preserved.
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Unbelievably this magnificent Abbey in 1587 fell into ruin when it was being used as a barn to house livestock. Even after sheltering cows and sheep the building today still shows off some of the best early Gothic architecture Scotland has to offer and Dundrennan abbey is one of the most impressive of the 13 Cistercian monasteries in Scotland.
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Glenluce Abbey
Glenluce Abbey was founded in 1190 where it remained as a monastery for nearly 400 years. After the Protestant Reformation of 1560 the abbey began to fall into disrepair. The abbey has a fascinating visitor centre where you can see artefacts that were discovered during some conservation and repair work back in 1933. These gems were able to help historians piece together how the monks spent their day to day lives across the 400 years when living at the abbey. Also being looked after by Historic Environment Scotland this is another one of these impressive ruins scattered right across Dumfries & Galloway.
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Gretna Green Blacksmiths Shop
This famous blacksmiths is situated just minutes from the border between England and Scotland and has over 265 years of wedding history. The reason for this small village becoming one of the worlds most famous wedding destinations was mainly due to the 1754 Marriage Act which meant lovers couldn’t get married south of the border until they both turned 21 but unbelievably 14 for boys and girls at 12 even without parental consent could get wed in Scotland. This blacksmiths shop hasn’t changed in centuries and you can still get married in the original anvil room today. With centuries of intesting stories of who and why couples eloped this romantic wee village has lots to offer.
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Mull of Galloway
Protruding out into the Irish Sea the Mull of Galloway has the most magnificent panoramic views no matter what direction you are looking. From the shoreline you can see Ireland across the water, the Isle of Man as well as Cumbria in England. The birds and wildlife are second to none with the local area full of interesting species, with the seabirds perched on the cliffs while birds of prey lurk about waiting to see what they can have for their dinner.
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As well as all the chattering Seabirds down by the water you may be lucky enough to see harbour porpoise, dolphins and atlantic grey seals. If you are extremely lucky you could see otters or a glimpse of a Minke whale dorsal fin.
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The Mull of Galloway also has a lighthouse which you can climb and a huge weird looking fog horn which was used to keep the ships away from the jagged rocks.
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Southerness Beach
Southerness beach is a large sandy beach stretching out for miles with many rocky outcrops and pools which are great to explore and discover marine life during low tide. A majestic white lighthouse towers over the rocks which was used to safely guide the ships through the Solway Firth for almost 200 years. During the summer the lighthouse built in 1749 and is the second oldest in Scotland is open to visitors to explore.
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Sweetheart Abbey
Sweetheart Abbey’s full name is actually the Abbey to the Virgin Mary and was a Cistercian Monastery founded way back in 1275. The Abbey was founded by Dervorguilla of Galloway in memory of her Husband. This is where the name Sweetheart Abbey comes from because after his death she kept his embalmed heart with her for the rest of her life where it was buried with her when she died. In the capable hands of Historic Environment Scotland this Abbey is an absolutely amazing ruin and it is quite unbelievable it has towered over the village of New Abbey for over 700 years.
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Threave Castle
Threave castle offers one of those unique experiences which is just magical, the castle is situated on an island on the River Dee so you need to get transported over to the castle by boat, although not far it is still quite quirky and adds to your visit. Built in the 1370's this beautiful architectural structure stands 100ft tall which is roughly about the height of a 10-story block of flats and was one of the first to be built this way in Scotland. The Castle was built by Archibald “the Grim” to help secure his hold on Galloway and to help resist onslaughts by the English. Looked after by Historic Environment Scotland this stunning historical site has lots to offer and is well worth a tour.
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Tourist Routes
"Other beautiful routes to explore"
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Our Top Guides
"personalised VIP tours"
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Why not explore the Solway Firth in style and book a V.I.P tour with one of the finest tour companies in Scotland
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