In this study we have obtained 17 cosmogenic exposure ages from three well-developed moraine systems – Halland Coastal Moraines (HCM), Göteborg Moraine (GM) and Levene Moraine (LM) – which were formed during the last deglaciation in southwest Sweden by the Scandinavian Ice Sheet (SIS). The inferred ages of the inner HCM, GM and LM are 16.7 ± 1.6, 16.1 ± 1.4 and 13.6 ± 1.4 ka, respectively, which is slightly older than previous estimates of the deglaciation based on the minimum limiting radiocarbon ages and pollen stratigraphy. During this short interval from 16.7 ± 1.6 to 13.6 ± 1.4 ka a large part (100–125 km) of the marine-based sector of the SIS in southwest Sweden was deglaciated, giving an average ice margin retreat between 20 to 50 m a−1. The inception of the deglaciation pre-dated the Bølling/Allerød warming, the rapid sea level rise at 14.6 cal. ka BP and the first inflow of warm Atlantic waters into Skagerrak. We suggest that ice retreat in southwest Sweden is mainly a dynamical response governed by the disintegration of the Norwegian Channel Ice Stream and not primarily driven by climatic changes. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.