Gretna Green for Singles! The UK’s marriage capital also hopes to attract regular tourists
Gretna Green for Singles! The UK’s ‘marriage capital’ hosts 3,500 weddings a year, but here’s why regular tourists will love it too
- Gretna Green is a blink-and-you-miss kind of place, says Emma Cowing
- But stay and you’ll discover a ‘beautiful and welcoming’ town, he declares.
- Plus, he notes, it’s an ideal launching pad for exploring Dumfries & Galloway.
Oh, the honeymoon suite. Rose petals on the bed, champagne on the rocks, and a hot tub big enough for two. The only thing missing, in fact, is my husband.
But that’s rather the point of Gretna Green these days. While it remains very much Britain’s wedding capital, averaging over 3,500 of them a year, a revamp of its best hotels and the Famous Blacksmiths Experience, all owned by the same family, means which hopes to attract casual tourists, not just the marriage market.
Just a mile from the English border, Gretna itself is a place you blink and miss.
Open to all: The Blacksmith Shop on Gretna Green is now an “immersive experience”, billed as Britain’s first dedicated love and marriage attraction. His association with marriages began in the 18th century when an enterprising blacksmith reinvented himself as an ‘anvil priest’, marrying couples in his smithy shop, for a small fee.
But it’s also pretty and welcoming, and an ideal launching pad for visiting the rest of Dumfries & Galloway, where you’ll find delights like the artists’ seaside town of Kirkcudbright and the wild nature of Galloway Forest Park.
Gretna Green cemented her place in history in 1754, when a strict marriage law came into force in England, meaning that no one under the age of 21 could marry without parental consent.
The young lovers crossed the Scottish border, where the rules were more lax, and arrived at Gretna Green, home to an enterprising blacksmith who reinvented himself as an “anvil priest” who married couples in his smithy, for a small fee. , of course.
The anvil at the Gretna Smithy where thousands of couples laid their hands to marry between 1754 and 1940
double rooms in blacksmiths from £130 per night; from £300 per penthouse. Famous Blacksmiths Experience From £6.95 Per Adult.
Since those heady days, it has withstood accusations that it is a market-driven town of tawdry, but the truth is that today, it is simply a rural Scottish wedding destination, albeit with a unique history.
Smiths at Gretna Green is the classiest hotel in town and has recently undergone an impressive renovation. My penthouse suite had the aforementioned whirlpool tub, an elegant bedroom and living room, as well as a balcony overlooking rolling farmland. While parts of the hotel still need some TLC, the bar and restaurant are a sleek, modern space serving pub favourites.
And whether you’re single, newlywed, or a tourist on a stopover before heading to the Scottish highlands, what you’ll find in Gretna is love, and lots of it.
The newly converted Smithy is a good example. Now an “immersive experience”, it is billed as Britain’s first dedicated love and marriage attraction. There are letters written by lovers on the run (one, dated 1928 and addressed to ‘the village blacksmith’, begins: ‘Dear sir, my fiancée and I wish you to marry us in secret…’), interactive exhibits where you You can listen to the stories of star-crossed lovers and reaffirm your wedding vows with a marriage ceremony.
The final flourish is the original anvil, where thousands of couples laid their hands to marry between 1754 and 1940.
Before visiting Gretna, I envisioned a wedding theme park, appealing to the Las Vegas crowd on an Aldi budget. What I found was a town that maintains and preserves the love that built it. Next time I will bring my husband.