Gretna Green

Written by    Last updated: June 6, 2006

Border town steeped in historical romance… Must‐see sights, perfect places for two, plus love bites and love potions, for the most romantic wining and dining.

Border town steeped in historical romance

In a nutshell…

Gretna Green has been surrounded by romantic myth ever since it became a destination for secret elopement in 1754. Now over 3000 couples a year wed in this Scottish border town, some of them coming from as far away as Japan.

It all goes back to the time when the law in England and Wales was changed to prevent couples marrying outside a recognised place of worship. Gretna happened to be the first stop across the border on the stage coach route between London and Edinburgh. Being just inside Scotland, the law didn’t count.

Magnetic attractions

  • Old Blacksmith’s Shop and Museum This is where eloping lovers tied the knot in the mid‐18th century. Desperately love‐struck couples, usually arriving by stagecoach (and sometimes with angry parents in hot pursuit), would be hastily wed by the blacksmith or “anvil priest”.
  • Caerlaverock Castle This picturesque castle in Dumfrieshire is a good place to spot deer, otters and birds of prey.

Romantic rendezvous

  • Sweetheart Abbey This Cistercian Abbey was built in the late 13th century by Lady Dervorguilla in memory of her husband John Balliol (founder of Balliol College, Oxford.) Lady Devorguilla is buried there with her husband’s heart which she had embalmed after he died in battle. Romantic or what?!
  • Moffat This regular recipient of the Best‐kept Village award from the Britain in Bloom competition has a beautiful park with a boating pond. Now what could be more romantic than sitting back, fingers trailing lightly through the water, and looking on as your loved one struggles with the oars?

Love bites and love potions

Gretna Green doesn’t have much in the way of restaurants but there are of course plenty of hotels that cater to wedding parties. The Comlongon Castle is a country house hotel set in its own grounds, with ornamental ponds, lawns and woodlands (perfect for pics and picnics). The Crossways Inn, located in between the registry office and the Old Blacksmiths Shop, also puts together a good buffet for wedding parties.

Propose here

Hire a stagecoach, dress up in 18th century garb and time your leading question for the very moment you cross the border between England and Scotland.

To get you in the mood

Scot pop has plenty to offer the modern‐day eloper. How about Texas’s Once in a Lifetime? Love is All Around by Wet Wet Wet? Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams Are Made of This (with Aberdonian Annie Lennox on vocals)? Edwyn Collins’ Never Met a Girl like You Before? Or if you fancy something a little different, there’s always The Crankies, Andy Stewart or ‘folk‐rock supergroup’ The Incredible String Band. On second thoughts…

The Complete Illustrated Poems and Songs and Ballads of Robert Burns should set the heart racing, while Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley novels will add some historical panache to your Scottish romance.

Language of love

Huppy anniversurry!

A luv ye = I love you

Awrebest! = congratulations!

Wull ye merry mi?

Stags and hens

There are plenty of golf courses in the Dumfries and Galloway area, including those at Langholm, Powfoot and Lockerbie. Lovers of the great outdoors can walk the Scottish Lowlands Way linking the east and west coasts, stopping off en route for refreshment. (Don’t forget the hip flasks!) There’s salmon and trout fishing in the River Dee for keen anglers, and in Gretna itself, the Gables hotel has a karaoke machine for embarrassing night‐time entertainment.

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