Crap things seen while travelling. No.5: Gretna Green

124_5th July Gretna greenAs mrs worldofjames and I are getting married in Scotland this year, we’ve been travelling north of the border quite a bit.

Our first trip in January saw us touring venues throughout the country looking for somewhere suitable to wed and it seemed appropriate, as we headed back to England, to stop off at ‘the British Las Vegas’ or Gretna Green.

Gretna became an elopers’ paradise thanks to Scotland being exempt from a 1753 act of parliament that made it illegal to get married if you were under 21 without parental consent. As the first major village over the border, young Brits would solemnise their illegal trysts by tying the knot over the blacksmith’s anvil.

As we approached I had a romantic vision of what the village would be like: a small green surrounded by a few quaint houses with the smithy’s shop at its centre. Instead we found a town that seems to have been given a Trueman Show-esque mall-style makeover.

Walkways lead round a procession of buildings where any sense of identity has been whitewashed into oblivion and everything from the sound of Scottish pipers piped ubiquitously throughout to the tartan tourist tat on offer screams: YOU ARE IN SCOTLAND.

The restaurant was even worse and made my heart weep for the coachload of American tourists that had just pulled in to the ginormous car park: sub-school dinner fare with pies, lumpy mash, peas and gravy all congealing under infrared heat lamps all served with little charm by a spotty oik in white overalls.

As we disappointedly trudged back to the car, we passed the sure-fire stamp of any true rubbish tourist attraction: the head-through-hole picture board, in this case depicting a bride lifting her groom.