Gretna – The Gateway to Scotland

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Infamously known for the location in the British Isles where young couples fled to get married, the small town of Gretna is also the true gateway to Scotland as it lies on the border between the North and South, also known as the English/Scottish divide.

Located about 90 miles south of both Edinburgh and Glasgow, Gretna is the perfect spot to gently get acclimatized to Scottish culture. You won’t see locals with kilts on every street corner but you will certainly come across some with the broad Scottish accent that we all love, or in some cases find difficult to understand!


So what is all the history about Gretna and these thousands of marriages that took place in ‘The Last House in Scotland Marriage Room’? Well, statistics on the building show that over 10000 marriages have taken place in this small, quaint room since it was established in 1830. Folks in England that fell madly in love at a young age and wanted to marry were forced to wait until they come of age, or flee from their parents and head north to Gretna Green and exchange vows to confirm their love for each other.


Nowadays, Gretna has much more to offer than just a historic marriage town and one of the main attractions for visitors and locals alike is the new outlet mall that has a variety of leading stores including the always popular Cadbury’s Factory store where you can get some of the best chocolate throughout the British Isles for cheaper than regular shops.


Of course, Scotland is a proud nation that welcomes visitors from afar and even though there may still be that stereotypical tension between the English and Scottish, I think that’s more folklore than reality though whenever a sporting event takes place between the two nations, it is a little more apparent. Gretna doesn’t necessarily have such animosity but given its location right on the border between the Lake District and the Scottish Borders region, it hosts a mixture of people from both countries which makes this a pleasant location to get to know folks from either side of the border.


With the Lake District located just a few miles south of Gretna, this is a perfect spot for folks who want to spend some time hiking the English fells before heading into Scotland to challenge their infamous hiking spots.


Although our trip to Scotland was a little short-lived and we were only able to experience one spot, Gretna certainly proved to be somewhere you can easily find interesting and worth exploring. I am intrigued as to the validity of this ‘Marriage House’ and whether 10,000 couples truly visited here but even if this is just folklore, it’s a really cool to see and imagine those youngsters eloping here to show their love for each other whilst their parents are fuming back in their English hamlets.

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Chris Boothman
Chris Boothman is the co-founder of A Brit and A Southerner. Born near Manchester, England, Chris moved to USA in 2006 where he soon after met his wife and travel partner in crime, Heather. They have since embarked on an amazing journey of travel as they challenge others to follow in their paths of working full-time but also being able to travel frequently! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Chris at [email protected]


  1. I always wanted to run away and get married here. wshen we were in the UK years ago I read that you could get married and it didn’t count anywhere else so thought we might find a nice english pretend husband but it never happened…Ron now says if I didn’t beleive hime the first time then too bad so no chance of a renewal of vows either. It will just have to stay a dream

  2. I do love the Scottish accent, although sometimes struggle if it is especially strong. It’s amazing to think of all those couples since 1830 in that room, how fascinating.

  3. Although it’s only an hour and a bit from me, I’ve never really visited Gretna beyond the service station. If you are ever up that way again, one place I would recommend is the Rhins of Galloway. (head west in the direction of Stranraer and then south on that little bit that juts down). There’s some beautiful scenery and coastline there and interestingly it’s actually there (and not Gretna) where you’ll find the southernmost point of Scotland.

  4. I haven’t ever heard of this island. You pictures definitely make it look worth visiting. I love finding small little towns to visit on my travels because it is usually where you run into more of the locals.

  5. That’s a lot of marriages…looks like a very scenic place and very green – it’s beautiful countryside

  6. I have visions of all those Jane Austen characters taking the coach north to get marry against their family’s wishes – However apart from that historical quirk I think it would be the walking that would draw me.

  7. Now what I need to know Chris is…. are they still marrying people there? And can I still call it ‘eloping’ at the age of *cough, cough cough* ? I’ve never been to Scotland or the Lake District and it’s high time I did! (My fiance keeps joking that we should go to Vegas and be married by Elvis… at least I hope he’s joking!)

  8. Wow, great post and photos. We were disappointed that we couldn’t get to some of the smaller cities when we visited Scotland last month, and Gretna looks like a real hidden gem. Plus having cheap and direct access to chocolate can’t hurt! Thanks for sharing, we will definitely put this on the list for the next time we visit Scotland. Safe travels!

  9. One place I am interested in exploring is Hadrian’s Wall. Now I have some information of something else to see while I am in the area. I don’t think I’ll be getting married while I’m there, though.

  10. I haven’t been to Scotland, yet! Tho’ I’m hoping by the time I go it will require a passport, as I live in Southern England. I’ve been to Wales, but not Scotland. I really want to go but as always its cheaper to travel around Europe than it is to get around the rest of the UK! Tho’ I’d say tensions are higher amongst English & Scots than usual with the upcoming vote on Independence. We’ll see… haha.

  11. My grandparents are both Scottish (I’m from Canada), so I grew up hearing Scottish accents…so they aren’t difficult for me to understand, but I can definitely see that they might be! Lovely photos in this post!

    • Hi Jeff, yes the weather was perfectly appropriate for Gretna! We always associate everywhere in the UK with “rain” and “gloomy conditions” and I think it’s fitting to experience it that way!!


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