To Be Married Over the Anvil

The 1750s saw many changes in Great Britain under George II. In 1752 the calendar was reformed from the Julian to the Gregorian, and the 1st of January gained official status as the first day of the year, even though it had been commonly accepted for a long time. With the adjustments to the calendar, the tax year was set to begin each year on the 6th of April.

The following year, Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act passed in England. The Act prevented anyone from getting married under the age of 21 and marriage was only allowed with full parental consent. This law did not apply in Scotland, where boys could be 14 and girls 12 to get married – with or without their parent’s consent.

So, following the historic coaching route from London to Edinburgh, young elopers crossed the English / Scottish border, and the first village they came to, along the
River Esk was Gretna Green.

It was in the Old Blacksmith’s Shop, which was built around 1712, that the marriage trade apparently flourished for these ‘runaway marriages’ (other venues in the town included inns and smallholdings).

Under Scottish law, “irregular marriages” took place, which simply meant that the marriage declaration had to be made in front of two witnesses. Anyone therefore had the authority to conduct the ceremony. The blacksmith’s anvil was struck and the declaration of “Under the ancient rights and laws of Scotland you are now man and wife” was made publically. The Gretna Green blacksmiths became known as ‘anvil priests’ and the anvil became an important symbol of the wedding ceremonies at Gretna Green. Today, for good fortune in affairs of the heart, one only needs to touch the famous anvil.

In 1929 Scottish law was amended and both parties had to be at least 16 years old to marry, but still without parental consent. Today the law in England, Scotland and Wales states that you may marry at 16 with consent and 18 without.

Over 5,000 weddings (and 1 in 6 Scottish weddings) take place at Gretna Green each year, which gives it the title of ‘Number 1 wedding venue in the UK’ and one of the most famous in the world. All services are performed over an iconic blacksmith’s anvil and thus one can declared to have been married ‘over the anvil’ at Gretna Green.

Today in common law, a “Gretna Green marriage” means a marriage that takes place outside of the residence of either the bride or the groom, which allows them to avoid any restrictions on the circumstances of their marriage which may be applied in their places of residence.

A visit to Gretna Green can simply include some shopping, a visit to the museum, or a Gretna Green Anvil Blessing. For an additional overnight stay at the luxury hotel, a Scottish piper, champagne and flowers it will only cost you about £500 (a lot cheaper than the national average cost of a wedding, of between £15,000 and £25,000!)

So, ‘over the anvil’ until death do you part…

A Tour Around England’s Northern Counties

There is many a tourist who flies direct from London to Edinburgh, stays on the A1 Trunk Road as it zips, or often crawls, through North East England. Or you may be one of those passengers on the train that gazes out over the towers of Durham Cathedral and the iconic Tyne Bridge as you arrive into Newcastle and continue on your journey to the Scottish capital.

Your memory of the North of England, along with many more visitors to our shores, may be a day visit to York, to see its famous Minster and The Shambles. Which I might add are very worth seeing. But why don’t you take a break in your journey and stay awhile in Durham, home of one of England’s top universities and a town at the centre of a County with a rich industrial and rural heritage, or maybe stay in Newcastle, England’s party city, with vibrant nightlife and the culture offered at the Baltic Arts Centre and iconic Sage music venue on the south bank of the Tyne, in Gateshead.

Numerous guided or self drive tours can be arranged within this region of England, each with a different focus. Perhaps the tour which takes you around the historical religious highlights of the region. If your staying at one of the stylish hotels in the centre of Durham City, you tour can start with a gentle walk up to what is perhaps England’s greatest Norman building, if not in Europe. It is not only spectacular for its architecture, but for its setting within the sharp bow of the River Wear. The Cathedral, together with the adjacent Castle, ensures that you start your tour at one of Britain’s first registered World Heritage Sites.

Our experience guide will direct you, or take you onwards to Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland, a few miles from Durham City, where you can visit the official home of the Bishop of Durham and the wonderful grounds that it sits in, filled with listed buildings and structure. This can be followed by the third visit, of four, in our historic religious tour of the North East of England, Bedes World in Jarrow on the southern banks of the River Tyne. Bedes World is an excellent interactive museum celebrating and informing on the life of Bede, who is perhaps best known as the author of The Ecclesiastical History of the English People in 731 AD.

Follow this vest onwards and northwards with a journey to Holy Island, accessed over a short causeway from the windswept Northumberland coast. Holy Island, or Lindisfarne is where Aidan came from Iona and founded his monastery in 635AD, enabling the Christian message to spread from hear around the world. It is also an excellent place to end your tour and spend a pleasant night in one of the local inns or guest houses on the island.

Plan Your Spring Holidays in Advance

How time flies! It seems like only yesterday we were ringing in the New Year, yet soon enough we’ll be in the midst of spring. This year, be organised and plan your spring holidays in advance.

Choosing Your Destination

It’s worth scouting the internet to see what destinations have been touted as the must-sees of 2013.

CNN has named Scotland as its top travel destination for 2013. The northern beauty offers visitors ample opportunities for city breaks in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and elsewhere, as well as outdoor holidays in the Highlands and Islands, and the Borders.

The Independent recommends you visit the exotic destinations of Montenegro and Iceland, while Conde Nast suggests you pay Brazil or The Philippines a visit. All wonderful places for independent travellers, couples and families.

Try to ensure you have at least a week to spend in your destination of choice, particularly if travelling to another continent. You need to keep jet lag in mind too.

It’s quite common for travel companies, like others to offer discounts in the month of January. The sales period usually applies to holidays booked for the first half of the year, so this is perfect for anyone looking to travel in spring.

See if you can snap up a good all inclusive deal or upgrade to a pricier hotel than you’d normally choose.

Spring Holiday Wardrobe and Footwear

The weather in spring can be very unpredictable, especially in northern countries like Scotland and Iceland, with fluctuating temperatures, occasional showers and potentially even surprise snow, depending on where you’ve chosen to go. You’re best off packing for all eventualities.

Layering is key to getting your spring wardrobe just right. These can be added and removed according to the temperature. Start with some simple base layers like a cotton T-shirt or a stretchy vest top and build your way up from there with cardigans and jumpers. It’s well worth taking some chunky knitwear as mornings and evenings can get very chilly. A waterproof top layer is essential. If heading on a city break, bring a trendy mac, but for the great outdoors choose a sturdy waterproof jacket from a specialist outdoors retailer.

In terms of footwear, a good idea is to bring a pair of wellington boots. Teamed with the appropriate clothing, these can be worn both in the great outdoors and in the city. Pack a short or foldable style to take up less space in your luggage.

For evening outings, pack a pair of leather loafers or brogues. These will satisfy most dress codes, even if you’re planning to head out for a special meal or a performance.