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Gretna – the wedding capital

Everyone knows Gretna – with the Blacksmith’s Centre and Gretna Gateway Outlet Village – which is 8 miles from us.

But we forget as we speed past the historic importance of this area.

Travelling along the A75 towards the M74 / M6, just before the two roads diverge, you’ll pass on the left the signs for Gretna station.

Just think how many young hopefuls must have stood, terrified, at that station in days gone by!


Gretna and Gretna Green, despite the similarity of their names, are two very different places.

Like nearby Eastriggs, Gretna was a “new” town built in 1916 to house some 30,000 migrant workers brought into the area to work at the gov­ernment munitions factory.

As such Gretna itself is neither particularly attractive, nor particularly interesting to anyone other than recent his­torians.

It did however play a significant role in the First and Second World War efforts, and its building changed forever the demographics of the local population as workers came from far and wide.

The Devils Porridge exhibition at Eastriggs covers this part of the area’s history. In 2014 it moved to new premises on the main street in Eastriggs and is well worth a visit.


gretna green

Gretna Green, on the other hand, is far more famous for its “irregular” marriages. England’s Marriage Act of 1754 meant that weddings, a civil affair, were now governed by the church and had to be announced in advance via the Banns system. This Act also set the age of consent at 21.

The Scottish system had no such rules at that time and over the next 100 years Gretna Green became the place for illicit weddings for under­age English couples.

The weddings were conducted by “priests” – often blacksmiths – who took advantage of the gap in the market until 1856, when a 3 week residency requirement was introduced for Scottish wed­dings.

Gretna Green is still a very popular place for visitors from south of the Border and overseas, but marriages are now conducted by official registrars.


Things to see and do: 

  • The world famous Blacksmith’s Shop and centre at Gretna Green
  • The food hall at Gretna
  • The Gretna Gateway Outlet Village – a discount shopping centre
  • Devil’s Porridge Exhibition at Eastriggs 01461 700021