Part of a Family Business since 1885
Founded in 1885, Gretna Green Ltd is a family business that has been at the heart of Gretna Green's popularity for over 130 years. It is still very much a close-knit family run business.
It first began with the present owners (the Houstons) great-grandfather, Hugh Mackie who bought the Gretna Estate which included farming land and the tiny hamlet of Gretna Green back in 1885. One of the buildings in the hamlet was the blacksmith's workshop, already renowned for its romantic history as a haven for runaway lovers since the Marriage Act of 1754.
Since his great-grandfather's time, three more generations of their family have carried on the tradition of farming and contributing to the growth of the tourism business in the Gretna Green area. Hugh Mackie passed the business on to George Mackie, Alasdair's grandfather and then it passed to his daughter, Alasdair mother, Moira Mackie. Moira married Adair Houston and his parents have now passed the business on to Alasdair and his sister Susan.
Over the past four generations, their forebears and the Houstons have done their best to develop the Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop, as one of Scotland's best-loved landmarks, into one of Scotland's major visitor destinations. Involved in weddings for over 120 years Gretna Green are also the longest-established wedding planners in the area; probably the world!
Not just famous for weddings...
Through relentless and offbeat marketing efforts, their late father, Adair Houston was largely responsible for making Gretna Green one of Scotland's most popular visitor destinations. Adair's vision was to develop a family business that maintained its integrity; developing step-by-step, a first class visitor attraction that is in keeping with its locality and its legacy. Alasdair and Susan continue in their father's footsteps with a policy of continuous development and improvement of every business activity.
Looking towards the future...
Retaining the character of the Blacksmiths workshop is very important to the family; ... "having grown up with Gretna Green weddings you become very passionate and loyal to the heritage that you inherit. We have a responsibility to care for the fabric of the building, retaining its character while providing a venue for modern day weddings. As I have taken on this legacy from my parents I will continue to look after this ancient building for the next generation to enjoy".
"My vision is fixed firmly on the future while nurturing the value of our heritage and I see Gretna Green as not just about a fascinating past but also about a bold and exciting future. I am committed to developing Gretna Green's reputation as a modern-day wedding destination, and that is why in 2006 we opened Smiths Hotel, our latest adventure...and there is more to come!" - Alasdair Houston
Helping couples marry for over 130 years...
Gretna Green's dramatic rise to national and international recognition happened overnight when marriage restrictions in England forced couples to make drastic plans to travel to the Scottish border to become husband and wife. Nowadays over 1000 weddings and nearly 200 blessings take place every year within the Famous Blacksmiths Shop, the original marriage house. The whole area of Gretna Green and Gretna continues to break wedding records with around 4,500 weddings take place every year, about 13% of all weddings in Scotland!
For over 130 years Gretna Green Ltd has been at the heart of the weddings industry in Gretna Green and nowadays as an independent provider of both venues for your wedding and venues for your reception we have the flexibility to offer you the style of wedding you desire. You can choose to book separately or take your pick from a range of value for money wedding packages that suit all budgets. We believe Gretna Green should be all about providing choice for everyone: you are not tied down to a specific wedding package if you don't want one, as you may be with other wedding planners in the area; we are completely flexible and aim to create the wedding of your dreams.
One of Scotland's first visitor attractions...
When Hugh Mackie took ownership of the Blacksmiths Shop, the flow of runaway couples to marry in the Blacksmith's Shop was in decline due to the 'Cooling Off' Act. There were, however, many curious visitors peering through the windows to this little building to see more. They came to knock on Hugh Mackie's farmhouse door to ask to see inside the Blacksmith's Shop and this led him to open it to the public for the first time; breathing new life into this building full of history and character. So with several thousand visitors already arriving to see the building famed by its romantic history, Hugh Mackie effectively opened the doors to one of Scotland's first visitor attractions!
Nowadays Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop attracts over 800,000 visitors each year, beating all records in 2018 with over 812,000 visitors, from all over the world and it is recognised as one of Scotland's top visitor destinations, having been recently awarded 5-star status by VisitScotland, the country's official tourism organisation.
An internationally renowned shopping destination...
Having been around for as long as, (and sometimes longer than), many of Scotland's well-known manufacturers of fine Scottish knitwear, tweeds and tartans, Gretna Green Ltd has been nurturing relationships with all the best Scottish and UK manufacturers and designers for over 70 years. The quest to seek out new and exciting modern designers and manufacturers continues and they are all showcased within the shopping outlets that form part of Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop attractions. Much of the range is also available to shop online.
As well as our range of Scottish brands, we are also proud to host a number of major world-renowned brands in store and online, including Harris Tweed, Ness, Swarovski, Barbour, Joules and Walkers.
The company also owns the Canny Scots Shop, a retail outlet situated at the Gretna Green Services Area. With its unique range of quality goods it has already built up a loyal clientele of regular customers.
An award-winning hotel resort...
A very modern, stylish boutique hotel, Smiths at Gretna Green provides wedding parties, business people and leisure visitors with a very special accommodation choice. Smiths at Gretna Green has received a string of awards: Smiths hotel celebrated its first birthday as Wedding Hotel of the Year in 2007 at the Scottish Hotel Awards. This was followed by an AA Rosette for the restaurant and Smiths hotel head-chef received recognition as a Rising Star Hotel Chef in 2008. 2009 awards achieved include Wedding Team of the Year and Wedding Hotel of the Year - Intimate Venue, and in 2010 Smiths hotel received an award for Chef Team of the Year and Wedding Package of the Year. More recently a second AA Rosette has been awarded and Smiths Hotel opened their new luxury serviced suites, the Smiths Bensmoor Suites, opposite the Famous Blacksmith Shop and in 2018 Smiths also earned Runner-up in the Prestige Awards for Best Hotel Bar!
In 2012, Greens at Gretna Hotel, which sits opposite the famous Old Toll Bar joined the Gretna Green family, expanding our accommodation offering across the Gretna and Gretna Green borders. The first and last hotel in Scotland, Greens is our modern hotel, offering 3-star accommodation for weddings, leisure and business travellers alike and is home to the Water Gardens wedding venue!
In the latter part of 2016, we were very excited to include Gretna Hall Historic Marriage House and Hotel to our accommodation and wedding venue portfolio. This historic property has stood on Gretna Green soil since 1710 before even the Blacksmith's shop was built, beginning its life as a manor house and later becoming a coaching inn and the luxury runaway wedding venue for the 18th century, rich, famous and rebellious. With an excited and somewhat scandalous past, Gretna Hall has now been fully refurbished to offer a timeless juxtaposition of history and modern luxury and offers both accommodation and a venue for both weddings and functions; as well as a fantastic restaurant too,
From farm to fork...
Proud of the family's agricultural involvement the development of a Foodhall as part of the Famous Blacksmiths Shop attractions back in 2006 was a perfect link. Not only do we sell produce from the farm, the Foodhall has also enabled local food artisans to showcase their food and drink for both visitors and locals to buy. Restaurants associated with Gretna Green Ltd at the attraction and our hotels also take advantage of the food supplied by the farm and the abundance of delicious local produce available on our doorstep. Shop online for food hampers, whiskies and much more.