Gretna and Gretna Green – History, Romance and Shopping

Gretna is a town in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, originally part of the historic county of Dumfriesshire.  It is located close to the A74 on the border of Scotland and England and near the mouth of the River Esk.

Prior to the Acts of Union 1707 of the Parliaments of England and Scotland, Gretna was a customs post for collecting taxes on cattle crossing the border between the two kingdoms.  The Gretna customs post was established in 1612.  A drove road was constructed between Gretna and Annan in 1619, possibly to facilitate the transportation of cattle from Wigtownshire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Dumfriesshire to markets in England.

Gretna - A Great Day OutGretna’s principal claim to fame arose in 1753 when an Act of Parliament, Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act, was passed in England, which provided, among other things, that if both parties to a marriage were not at least 21 years old, consent to the marriage had to be given by the parents.  This Act did not apply in Scotland, which allowed boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12, with or without parental consent.  In addition, the Act required procedures that gave notice of an impending marriage to the community.  As a result, many elopers fled England, and the first Scottish village they reached was often Gretna.  The act was repealed in 1849.

During World War I, HM Factory, Gretna, codenamed Moorside, was a cordite munitions factory built between Gretna Green and the Solway Firth to supply ammunition to British forces.  This developed into the town of Gretna.

Eloping To Gretna Green

For two and a half centuries, couples would travel to Gretna Green, where they were married by blacksmiths, who were authorised to perform marriages.

The ceremonies were called “anvil marriages” because the blacksmith would strike his anvil with his hammer.  The ringing sound would symbolise that two lives had become one.

You can still get married in Gretna Green today, whether you want to do it quickly, have planned nuptials, or just bask in all the love stories that have passed through with someone special.

Gretna - A Great Day OutThe Old Blacksmith’s Shop is a historic building famous for its association with the tradition of “runaway marriages”.  The building was once used as a blacksmith’s forge, and it was there that young couples would come to be married quickly and without the consent of their families.

Today, one part of it is a museum dedicated to the history of elopement to Gretna Green.  The museum incorporates the original marriage site into its grounds and visitors can see exhibits that showcase the history of the village and the blacksmith’s trade.

Beyond its function as a museum, the Old Blacksmith’s Shop is still a popular wedding venue.  According to British Heritage, as many as one-sixth of all the couples who marry in Scotland choose to do so here, just as generations of couples have done in the past.

Make It A Day Trip

Maybe your relationship isn’t quite at the stage where you’re ready to get married, renew vows, or get engaged.  There are still several other romantic things to do in Gretna Green where you can just enjoy your significant other’s company.

If you and your partner enjoy romantic walks, an evening stroll along the banks of the River Esk should suit you nicely.  You can also visit the Gretna - A Great Day OutGretna Green Garden.  Locals consider this a great place to relax and enjoy some quality time together.  You can admire the flowers and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.  You can also take horse-drawn carriage rides through the picturesque streets of Gretna Green and the surrounding countryside.

If retail therapy is more your thing, Gretna Gateway Outlet Village is a shopping centre on the east side of Gretna.  In 2021, this was renamed Caledonia Park.  Caledonia Park Designer Outlet offers a shopping experience of over 45 stores and restaurants, with the latest in fashion, beauty, home, sport and dining with a wide range of discounts.

Coastal Kippford Makes It All Possible

With Coastal Kippford holiday park as your base you are well situated to explore all that Dumfries and Galloway has to offer.  Whether you’re looking to visit Gretna to learn more about its history, elope to Gretna Green, or have a great day out with some retail therapy to boot, you’ll not be disappointed.

Check out our Holiday Homes for Sale.  Alternatively, you may want to stay in one of our Park Holiday Lets or Private Holiday Lets.  We’re open all year so you can enjoy all four seasons in our beautiful region.

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Coastal Kippford (aka Kippford Holiday Park)