gretna green

If Scotland has an equivalent to Niagara Falls, it would be Gretna Green. Many years ago, in as they say, “The Olden Times” Scotland decided to have a lower age of consent than England. This led to many young English people eloping at the blacksmith’s place in Gretna Green, the first stop you reach after crossing the Scottish border.

Today that tradition continues and it has become romantic among many English people to get married there. Gretna Green has taken advantage of this by turning the area into the Tackiest Tourist Attraction in the World. Busloads of people arrive everyday to see the place and shop at many of the souvenier shops. The actual Gretna centre features a history of the place including old telegrams (“WEDDING MUST BE STOPPED AT ONCE. GROOM IS A KNOWN EX-CONVICT. MOTHER BESIDE HERSELF AND SUFFERING FAINTING SPELLS.”) and other artifacts of that era. It also features the blacksmith’s room where couples get married before exiting through the gift shop to arrive outside where a bored piper plays “Scotland the Brave” and they take off on their honeymoon. K’s grandparents took us just to show how awful it is.

The day we went, we happened to see a wedding in progress. The bride and groom looked about 20 years old and already had a child (or maybe the bride did from a previous relationship. I didn’t ask). Someone’s father decided to go the whole hog with his rented Scottish gear including kilt and sgian dubh (that dagger thingy). And of course, not a single one of them were Scottish. So not only do they get married in tourist attraction and have to pass through a gift shop. Tourists also get to check out your tacky wedding.

Later that night, back in Langholm, K and I retired for the evening to the Eskdale pub where the same wedding party was holding its reception. I don’t think I’d ever been to wedding where the bridal party wear black mini-skirts and stillettos while the guys dressed in dark suits with mafioso style purple shirts and shiny ties. Then, of course, as they were in Scotland, they had the DJ play The Proclaimers’ “500 Miles.”

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