This weekend a series of Wigtown Book Festival films and online events will celebrate the Solway and its saltmarshes as wonderful places for wild birds, animals and swimmers.

The festival has been exploring the human and natural history of the area as part of Scotland’s 2020 Year of Coasts and Waters.

A highlight will be Sunday’s showing of The Saltmarsh Library, a film by Colin Tennant, which follows Freelance Ranger Elizabeth Tindal and award-winning nature writer Stephen Rutt as they explore the landscape of Wigtown Bay. 

Stephen has been commissioned by the festival, in partnership with NatureScot, to write a book telling the story of the marsh, known locally as The Inks, which will be delivered in 2021. 

And for those with a hardy nature there is another short film by Colin in which Vicky Allan, co-author of Taking the Plunge, takes a dip in the Solway as she explains the joys of wild swimming.

She said: “It’s an incredible journey every time you do it. From the moment you step into the water you go on a roller coaster ride. There’s the cold water shock and then about two minutes later you are in this other place, your brain calms and you are staring at this beautiful environment.” 

Sunday will also see Ann Lingard in conversation with Polly Pullar about her book The Fresh and the Salt: The Story of the Solway, which looks at everything that makes up the Solway Firth – from its beautiful shorelines to the interwoven stories of the people who live on either side. 

Lingard, who lives within sight of this “crooked finger of sea that both unites and divides Scotland and England” recounts the history, geology and turbulent character of the Solway, and its effect on the life along and within its ever-changing margins.

Adrian Turpin, artistic director of Wigtown Book Festival, said: “Traders, travellers, pilgrims, raiders and invaders have arrived and departed from the coasts and waterways of Dumfries and Galloway for millennia.

“This year it has been a great pleasure to work with NatureScot to look at some of the multitude of stories of how the people, places and wildlife of our region have been shaped by the Solway and its long, beautiful coastlines.”

With this year’s festival being online it’s also possible to catch up on events that have already taken place, as they will remain available for viewing for 30 days.

Among them are Alexander McCall Smith and Tom Cunningham’s song cycle Ninian’s Gift and Professor Carol Hill’sfascinating discussion of A Seafaring History of Dumfries & Galloway.

Prof Hill, who is Head of School and Director of Campus, University of Glasgow, Dumfries Campus, wrote a short book called A Galloway Venture: The Kirkcudbright Shipping Company 1811-1817, which revealed the little known story of how local people invested in the voyages of The Britannia, a former military ship refitted as a cargo vessel. 

It carried clothes, supplies and equipment (pots and pans) from Britain to the plantations of the Americas, returning with timber, rum, sugar and other items.

Prof Hill says that the Solway Firth has played a distinctive part in the maritime history of Scotland, with bays and harbours that were suited to trade and fishing. 

It differs from other firths in Scotland due to the depth of the water and the extraordinary tides that almost expose miles of rich mud and un-navigable waters twice a day. 

From early explorers to the building of the Mulberry Harbours, Dumfries and Galloway is rich in marine history. 

Fiona Manson, from NatureScot, said: “We are pleased to have supported The Saltmarsh Library through our Plunge In! Coasts and Waters Community Fund for the Year of Coasts and Waters and are really looking forward to this fantastic programme of events celebrating the special landscape, biodiversity and wildlife of the area.”

  • This year’s Wigtown Book Festival runs to 4 October. Most events are free but donations are requested as part of a fundraising drive to assure its future. 
  • For full details see 

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About this year’s festival

Among the speakers taking part are:

  • Novelists AL Kennedy, Andrew O’Hagan, Juno Dawson, Stuart Turton and Philip Hensher.
  • Broadcasters Andrew Marr, Carrie Gracie, George Alagiah and Gordon Corera
  • Historians Neil McGregor and Charles Spencer
  • Nature writers Helen Macdonald, Dara McAnulty and Patrick Laurie.
  • Non-fiction writers Mark O’Connell, Richard Holloway and Helena Kennedy
  • Poets Michael Longley, Dean Atta and Inua Ellams
  • World Book Day children’s authors Pamela Butchart and Sibeal Pounder.

There will also be the world premiere of Ninian’s Gift is a new song cycle with words by the novelist Alexander McCall Smith and music from composer Tom Cunningham.  

The annual Magnusson Lecture (in honour of Magnus Magnusson and introduced by his daughter, the broadcaster Sally Magnusson) will be delivered by Rosemary Goring.

Talks will be available online for 30 days after the event.

  • Wigtown Book Festival is generously supported by funders including Dumfries & Galloway Council, EventScotland and Dumfries & Galloway Council, with support from the investment company Baillie Gifford and from Holywood Trust, which supports the children’s and young people’s programmes. NatureScot is also supporting a series of events at the festival as part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters.

For further information and interview requests contact Matthew Shelley on 07786 704299 or Matthew@ScottishFestivalsPR.Org  

Wigtown Festival Company Ltd, 11 North Main Street, Wigtown, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland, UK, DG8 9HN © 1999 – 2018. Wigtown Festival Company Ltd is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. Scottish Charity No. SCO37984.