The Solway Firth is an estuary on the west coast of the British Isles, being part of the Irish Sea, and, more notably, part of the border between England and Scotland. It is fed by many streams and rivers, including the Liddel and Annan, which of course run through the historic valleys of reiving renown, Liddesdale and Annandale respectively. The coastline of the Solway Firth has in many places been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and remains mostly rural, with fishing and hill farming comprising the main elements of the local economy (now, and historically).
At the head of the Firth lies the famous Gretna Green, the first settlement across the border on the old London-Edinburgh coaching route, destination of countless elopements, and scene of subsequent marriages over the centuries. Following the 1754 Marriage Act, which prevented couples under the age of twenty-one marrying in England or Wales without their parents’ consent, young lovers would often flee across the border into Scotland, and be married at Gretna Green.
The name Solway is of Scandinavian origin. The first part, probably the Old Norse súl, meaning ‘pillar’, may well refer to the Lochmaben Stone – a megalith, one of only two remnants of an ancient stone circle around three-thousand years old, standing high and solitary on a hill west of the Sark mouth on the Solway Firth. In a Borders context, it has an unsurpassed extent of history attached to it. In these treeless flatlands this stone, given its size, has been a distinctive landmark on the flat Solway Plain for several millennia.