Adjacent to the 20th century town of Gretna, is the historic village of Gretna Green…
Status: Dumfries & Galloway, Village, Scotland
Travel: Car, Scotrail (Carlisle – Gretna Green)
Eating & Sleeping: Gretna Gateway Cafe
Attractions: Old Blacksmiths, Courtship Maze, Parish Church, War Memorial, West Coast Main Line etc
The most famous attraction in village is the Old Blacksmiths Shop, and on our main visit it had been snowing so the whole complex of buildings looked beautiful under a layer of white.
The Blacksmiths was built in 1712, long before it became a centre for runaway marriages. A new law passed in 1754 meant that parents of young teenagers could veto any marriages plans they had, and to wed they required parental consent. This law only affected England and Wales, so in Scotland the law meant that a boy could get married at 14, and a girl at 12, without parental consent.
Due to his discrepancy, young couples would run away to Gretna Green to get married, and in Scottish law anybody could marry a couple as long as two witnesses were present. During the marriage, the couple would bang the Blacksmiths Anvil to make it official, and the anvil is still used today. It wasn’t until the 1770’s and the establishment of the Gretna Toll running through the local area on the Turnpike Road that the village became easily accessible, so the marriages began around this time due to it being easy to get too and the closest place to the border.
The last man to perform the weddings at the Blacksmiths was Richard Rennison (1889 – 1969) and he performed 5,147 in total. The law was then changed to prevent “irregular marriages” and certified people were required to perform them.
Gretna Green is the most popular destination in the country to get married, with over 5000 weddings performed annually, along with one in six of every Scottish marriages.
The main car park for the Blacksmiths is located at the back of the complex so you may well enter through the back arch, which is very impressive and with it’s snowy covering it looks stunning. Through here you will find a variety of shops selling souvenirs, as well as a cafe.
The Blacksmiths has been open to visitors as an attraction since 1887, and coach loads of tourists from all around the world arrive every day, as part of tours around Scotland and the UK.
The complex has been modernised in recent years, with the new cafe and shops. Again it looked wondrous in the snow, and it was the best timing there could have been to visit the Blacksmiths. I even found a Lilliput Lane model of the Blacksmiths to add to my collection, as I collect models of famous buildings and structures during my travels.
This whole area is known as the Sculpture Garden, which was opened by Britt Ekland (Former Bond Girl and Girlfriend to Rod Stewart) in 1994.
One of the major new features here is “The Big Dance” which was created by Ray Lonsdale and installed in 2010. A circular plaque stands between the two arms and gives an inscription: “Neither had the notion that the big dance had just begun” and the two arms represent a bond between two people. Many people like to stand beneath them to get there picture taken.
This is the new shop at the Blacksmiths, and there a few more behind it. They sell many delights of Scotland including Tartan, Burns Crystal and Shortbread.
Out by the car park, some shaggy Highland cows watched as we left, they must have been nice and warm in their fur coats!
We have been to the Blacksmiths a few times since, to check out the Courtship Maze and take advantage of the view of the West Coats Main Line you get from here, to do a bit of train spotting.
The Courtship Maze is a very recent addition, and as you can see from the bridge in the middle that it is still growing as you could see through the walls when we visited. It is designed for a couple, with one going one way round, and the other going through the adjacent entrance. There are a few opportunities where you can see your partner through grills etc as you go round, and you meet up in the middle.
You also get a perfect view of the West Coast Main Line and we saw a variety of trains passing through on their way to and from Glasgow. A separate branch of the railway comes off just before here and local trains going to Glasgow via Dumfries call at Gretna Green railway station.
Elsewhere in Gretna Green is the historic Parish Church, from 1790. There have been earlier churches here, going back to 1170, however this one lasted through the ages. Parts of it were rebuilt in 1910 but it kept its lovely old flavour. It is one of the oldest buildings in the area, and has quite an interesting tower with an extra mini tower atop it.
Outside the church is the Gretna Green War Memorial, dedicated to the soldiers of the two great wars. If you head past the church on the right you can walk under an old tunnel beneath the train station and into Gretna Town.
Gretna Green is a very historic place to visit, and a popular tourist destination. You can enjoy the history contained in the Blacksmiths Shop, and enjoyed the brilliant local scenery.
You will find Gretna and Gretna Green off the M6 (J45) and A74(M) J22, as well as the first stop between Carlisle and Glasgow via Dumfries, and coming the other way it is the 2nd to last stop from Glasgow via Dumfries. Local buses call at Gretna Green and the larger town of Gretna has buses to Longtown, Dumfries and Carlisle.