Gretna in Scotland is situated on the Scottish side of the border between England and Scotland, accessible through a beautiful old coaching route. It’s usually one of the first Scottish villages travellers see when they enter Scotland, and you’ll find there are many things to do in the Gretna, the ‘Marriage Capital of Scotland’.
Gretna is heavily associated with marriage and weddings, mainly because 18th-century English law had tightened marriage arrangements so that couples had to be age 21 before they could marry (without parental consent). Scottish law differed, and couples could marry on the spot, either by declaration or a ‘handfasting’ ceremony.
This meant that many childhood sweethearts would run away from England to Gretna Green and pursue their dreams of marriage – how romantic! These marriages were usually conducted by a local blacksmith who would provide homes and perform these marriages over an anvil!
These days, although the new law differs from the old and so much time has passed, many couples from England and Scotland, whatever their age, still have runaway marriages here to celebrate their love.
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Things to do in Gretna
Lovers come to tie the knot in Gretna, with marriage and weddings being one of the main attractions in this fairy-tale town.
While in this Scottish village, you can enjoy a visit to the famous Village Blacksmith’s Shop, once home to anvil priests, Old Toll Bar, Gretna Hall Hotel, or explore through the Courtship Maze.
A trip to Gretna guarantees seeing marriage ceremonies and romance, an endearing way to start your journey into the Highlands!
There are many amazing things to experience and see while exploring this beautiful town. Here’s our list of the top things to do in Gretna!
Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop
The Gretna Green Famous Blacksmith’s Shop is a historic wedding venue that has helped English couples elope since 1754! Usually, the village blacksmith married the couple without their parents’ consent in this famous blacksmith’s shop and escaped the rigorously enforced English laws.
History fans will love this tourist attraction in Gretna. It brings to life the town’s dramatic past with a fascinating collection of memorabilia and artefacts like marriage letters and photographs of rebellious brides and grooms at their wedding.
Even if you’re not looking for wedding venues or to get married anytime soon, a visit to this famous blacksmiths shop is something you should treat yourself to.
Fancy a shopping trip while staying on the border between South Scotland and the North of England? You’ll be remiss not to enjoy some time at Gretna Gateway, one of the best shopping centres in the area.
This buzzing outlet village in the heart of the main town is home to several designer brands and high-quality labels.
It is more than likely that you will find a bargain shopping here than if you headed down to Carlisle, as you can get up to 60% off original prices at brands like Nike, Polo, and Boss, to name just a few.
The Devils Porridge Museum
This 5-star museum in Gretna has won a Visit Scotland Thistle Award for Best Heritage Visitor Attraction in the West of Scotland. This exhibition, nicknamed after the explosives made here, is one of the most popular things to do in Gretna.
This family-friendly museum is an educational experience dedicated to the people who worked in the world’s largest ammunition factory during the First World War. It also commemorates and explores the stories of the Solway Military Coast during the Second World War.
At the museum, you can learn more about the fascinating history of this Border area, see artefacts, and read and watch films about these exciting periods!
Gretna Green is a south Parish in the Dumfries and Galloway region and one of the most popular destinations for weddings and those travelling through Gretna.
Gretna Green sits alongside Gretna and hosts many visitors every year. Couples of all ages come and enjoy one of the renowned Gretna Green weddings or at Gretna Hall, which has a variety of beautiful marriage ceremonies and wedding venues on offer.
There’s nothing more romantic for many loving finances than to host their weddings in this outstanding venue, with its intimate history and vibrance. Who wouldn’t want to have their wedding parties here?!
The Courtship Maze
The Courtship Maze exhibition in Gretna is an impressive structure that is fun for any age! This 70-metre by 40-metre Maze celebrates the union of marriage ceremonies and love.
The Maze has two separate entrances for each member of a couple to enter and find their way to each other, avoiding the border and reaching the centre together – a romantic way to show how lovers start separated and meet each other in life.
In the middle, couples can meet on a bridge in the centre that offers excellent views. Couples can even buy lovelocks to honour the tradition of a blacksmith sealing your love together.
This adventurous Maze offers the chance for a cute way to spend some time together, with parents often racing against their children to reach the centre!
Quitinshill is a historic site that memorialises the place where more than 21 soldiers died due to a horrific train crash on the 22nd of May, 1915. The site often sees pilgrimage and many visitors who come to honour their lost ancestry.
Gretna was a planned town built during the First World War, and this incident marked a turning point in the otherwise amicable building efforts of both Gretna and Gretna Green.
There is a beautiful monument that informs and speaks about the incident, a place you should undoubtedly pour a drink out to while in Gretna.
Westlands Country Park
The Westlands Country Park is nestled amongst 100 acres of tranquil woodland in the beautiful county of Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland.
This luxurious country park in Gretna is home to an array of first-class facilities, including luxury lodges with private hot tubs, world-class shooting, two well-stocked fishing ponds, and an inviting restaurant and a clubhouse! Check out their website for more information.
If you’re looking for a place to rest and relax as you’re making your way through the Scottish side of the border, then there is no better place than this beautiful park and lodge.
The Gretna Inn
Looking for an excellent place to eat and possibly accommodation while travelling through Gretna? Look no further than the beautiful Gretna Inn.
This gorgeous establishment is adorned with colourful flowers and is one of the best places to rest and relax as you travel through the United Kingdom. Their restaurant has an excellent selection and plenty to eat and drink, perfect after a long day exploring the beautiful sights and sounds that this Scottish town offers.
Make the most of your time travelling through Gretna and stay at the lovely Gretna Inn.
More things to do in Dumfries & Galloway
- Things to do in Castle Douglas
- Things To Do in Dalbeattie
- Things to do in Dumfries
- Things to do in Kirkcudbright
- Things to do in Lockerbie
- Things to do in Moffat
- Things to do in Newton Stewart
- Things to do in Stranraer