Visit Gretna and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Gretna, Dumfries and Galloway. This Border village, comprising Gretna Green and Springfield, to the North of the River Sark, stands on the actual border between England and Scotland. It is famous as the place where runaway couples from England formerly came to be married in accordance with 18th-century Scots law; that is, by means of a declaration before witnesses.
These marriages took place at the Sark Toll Bridge (the King's Head Inn) till 1826, and at other inns as well as Gretna Hall (built 1710). From 1826, the smithy at Gretna Green became the most popular place for these declaratory marriages. The popularity of Scots declaratory marriages at Gretna was brought about by the passing of Lord Hardwicke's Act in 1754, which abolished irregular marriages in England. These were previously possible anywhere in the United Kingdom, and were particularly common in London's Fleet Prison. No banns or licences were needed for this style of marriage, and it could still be contracted in Scotland. After 1856, it was rendered invalid unless one party had residence of twenty-one days in Scotland prior to the ceremony. In 1939 the Marriage (Scotland) Act made the presence of a minister or registrar necessary, but runaway lovers still came to Gretna (or other parts of Scotland) to get residential qualifications and be married; this was because under Scots Law parents' consent was not required after the age of sixteen. Under the more recent Act of 1969, however, the age at which couples might marry in the rest of Britain without parental or other official consent was lowered from twenty-one to eighteen, and thus the attractions of a “runaway” marriage at Gretna were greatly reduced.
There are interesting registers of irregular marriages that have been made at Gretna Hall (where 1,134 were performed between 1826 and 1855); there are also registers at the smithy. At the Toll Inn, 1,300 marriages were carried through in a period of six years. The Lang family were prominent in performing the weddings, and their graves can be seen in the churchyard. Sark Toll Bar House is a prominent tourist site, with a marriage-room tablet above the door. It stands near the road built in 1830 and superseding the road via Springfield and Longtown.
The First World War saw considerable changes in Gretna, with workers arriving to work in the munitions factories established in the neighbourhood; and over 200 permanent houses were put up, along with 600 huts.
At the entrance to Gretna Green Kirk is a little house known as “Prince Charlie's Cottage”, where he is believed to have spent a night in 1745 on his way back from the campaign in England. Nearby is the site of the Battle of Solway Moss, where the Scots were defeated in 1542.
On the shores of the Solway Firth is the Clochmaben Stone, 7 ft high and weighing 10 tons; this could be a remnant of a stone circle. There is a possibility that the stone is connected with a shrine to Maporos, god of youth and music in antiquity. if so, its nearness to Gretna Green is oddly appropriate. The stone was certainly a place of Border meetings and fairs through the Middle Ages. In 1398 the details of a truce between Scotland and England were discussed there.
Nearby cities: Carlisle
Nearby towns: Annan, Brampton, Langholm, Lockerbie
Nearby villages: Beaumont, Belle Vue, Bowness-on-Solway, Burgh by Sands, Canonbie, Chapelknowe, Dornock, Drumburgh, Eaglesfield, Ecclefechan, Glasson, Harker, Kingstown, Kirkandrews upon Ede, Kirkbride, Kirklinton, Kirtlebridge, Linstock, Longtown, Middlebie, Newcastleton, Newton Arlosh, Port Carlisle, Powfoot, Rigg, Rockcliffe, Springfield, Stanwix, Waterbeck, Wetheral, Whitrigg
Have you decided to visit Gretna or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Gretna bed and breakfast (a Gretna B&B or Gretna b and b)
- a Gretna guesthouse
- a Gretna hotel (or motel)
- a Gretna self-catering establishment, or
- other Gretna accommodation