The Solent is the body of water separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England.
The Solent is a major shipping route for passengers, freight and military vessels. It is an important recreational area for water sports, particularly yachting, hosting Cowes Week annually . It is sheltered by the Isle of Wight and has a very complex tidal pattern, which has greatly benefited Southampton’s success as a port, there being static or rising water levels for more than 8 hour out of every 12 hour tidal cycle. Portsmouth lies on its shores. Spithead, an area off Gilkicker Point near Gosport, is known as the place where the Royal Navy is traditionally reviewed by the monarch of the day.
The area is of great ecological and landscape importance, particularly because of the coastal and estuarine habitats along the edge of the Solent Much of its area is designated as environmentally valuable under both UK and European legislation. It is bordered by and forms a part of the character of a number of nationally important protected landscapes including the New Forest National Park, and the Isle of Wight AONB.
There is more information about the geology of the Solent on our ‘What is the Solent’ web page
First recorded in 731 as Soluente, Solent is “an ancient pre-English name of uncertain origin and meaning.”
(The above is adapted from the Wikipedia page on the Solent)