One is a village famous as a destination for runaway weddings, the other is a planned town, built during the First World War to house munitions workers and, although still two distinct communities, Gretna Green and Gretna together form one of the most romantic corners of the world.

Couples flock to the area to tie the knot in a variety of locations and around 84 per cent of wedding ceremonies in Dumfries & Galloway take place in Gretna and Gretna Green.

In Scotland during 2022, 17 per cent of all weddings took place in Dumfries & Galloway, with 15 per cent in the Gretna area

Gretna Green’s romantic history dates back to the 18th century when young couples defied England’s 1754 Marriage Act, which stopped under 21s marrying without their parents’ consent.

They would flee into Scotland where the new law didn’t apply and, arriving at the first village over the border, would be married over the anvil at the Famous Blacksmiths Shop.

Great British Life: Munitions girl statue in front of Richard Greenhow CentreMunitions girl statue in front of Richard Greenhow Centre (Image: Allan Devlin)

Neighbouring Gretna was established in just two years to house 20,000 people following the creation of a gigantic First World War munitions factory on the inner Solway coast.

The distinctive red brick terraces and semi-detached villas form the heart of the town, which is now a thriving community, home to a busy registry office, other wedding venues and hotels.

With their fascinating roots and present-day attractions, there’s certainly lots to love about Gretna and Gretna Green...

Great British Life: Famous Blacksmiths Shop marriage rooms. Famous Blacksmiths Shop marriage rooms. (Image: Lex Fleming Photography)


Thousands of brides and grooms from all over the world choose to follow a long held, romantic tradition by marrying at Gretna and Gretna Green, whether they’re looking for an intimate ceremony steeped in history or a big celebration with family and friends.

The family-run Gretna Green Ltd owns Gretna Hall, Smiths and Greens hotels along with the Old Toll Bar First House in Scotland and the Famous Blacksmiths Shop centre, a five-star visitor attraction as well as arguably the most famous wedding venue in the world.

The centre also incorporates a fully immersive, interactive museum which shares Gretna Green’s history through artefacts, images, tales of the ‘blacksmith priests’ and real-life love stories.

Gretna’s Registry Office is the hub of official marriage activity, and officially the busiest registry office in Scotland for marriages. Its team of highly experienced registrars conduct weddings in its own elegant suites and arrange ceremonies at other approved venues across the region.

Gretna also has the stunning Anvil Hall, a former Catholic church which hosts candlelit wedding ceremonies for anywhere between two and 200 guests as well as the elegant Grade II listed Gables Hotel.


Great British Life: Shops on Central Avenue, GretnaShops on Central Avenue, Gretna (Image: Allan Devlin)


Despite being well away from the hustle and bustle of busy city centres, Gretna and Gretna Green have some of the best shopping on offer anywhere in the UK.

Gretna Green Since 1754 is a shop in the grounds of the Blacksmiths Shop offering luxury British and Scottish brands, designer fashion and accessories and a selection of Scottish souvenirs.

Barbour, Harris Tweed, Lochcarron and Lona Scott Cashmere are just some of the famous names to be found there.

Next door at the Foodhall, shoppers can browse local craft beers, Scottish and international whisky and gin, and food favourites from clootie dumplings to haggis.

Gretna’s Main Street has a variety of independent shops including a baker’s, butcher’s, pharmacy, general stores and florist’s, while over at nearby Caledonia Park designer village, a huge range of well-known brands, with everything from lothing to cookware, accessories to beauty products, have their own outlets.


Great British Life: Walk along the shore near the River Sark to StormontWalk along the shore near the River Sark to Stormont (Image: Allan Devlin)


Following the fascinating footpaths along the Solway coast, the River Sark and inland along quiet lanes and farmland is the perfect way to truly explore Gretna and Gretna Green, discovering more about their strategic position on the Scotland/ England border and the very eastern end of the Solway Firth with its stunning scenery and wealth of wildlife.


Great British Life: Lochmaben Stone near StormontLochmaben Stone near Stormont (Image: Allan Devlin)


To find out about the creation of Gretna and life in the town in its early years, The Devil’s Porridge museum at Eastriggs, a short drive away, is the best place to visit. The award-winning museum commemorates HM Factory Gretna, the largest munitions factory in the world during the First World War.

Artefacts, information panels, film and audio, photographs and oral histories combine to bring the history of Gretna and its neighbouring communities to life.

The Lochmaben Stone, a Gretna landmark from much further back in time, sits on the Solway at the south western end of the town at Stormont. All that is left of an ancient stone circle dating back to around 3,000 BC, the 7ft high granite stone is steeped in history and mystery and is well worth finding.

It sits near the site of the 1448 Battle of Sark, which saw 6,000 English soldiers routed and pushed back into a rising tide by a smaller army from Annandale and Nithsdale.

Great British Life: Visitor centre sculpture at Gretna GreenVisitor centre sculpture at Gretna Green (Image: Allan Devlin)

To the north east of Gretna Green the site of Britain’s worst rail disaster at Quintinshill is marked. On May 22, 2015, more than 200 soldiers bound for Gallipoli were killed, along with several other passengers and railway staff, when their southbound train collided with a stationary train and was then ploughed into by a northbound express.

At the Famous Blacksmiths Gretna Green Experience, as well as travelling back to the village’s romantic origins and discovering real-life tales of love overcoming adversity, the story of five generations of the same family who have owned, run and cared for the Blacksmiths Shop and surrounding estate for well over a century is also told.

It was Hugh Mackie who first recognised the potential to share Gretna Green’s romantic story with visitors after he bought the Gretna Estate, installing a penny turnstile on the door of the blacksmith’s workshop.

Subsequent generations have continued to preserve the area’s unique heritage, developing retail and hospitality resulting in a world class visitor destination.


Great British Life: Gretna Greens historic blacksmith's shop and visitor centreGretna Greens historic blacksmith's shop and visitor centre (Image: Allan Devlin)