From anvil to baronial castle
Weddings have always proved a good business concern in Scotland. This is particularly true, in the old days, for the blacksmith at Gretna Green. The village just over the border from England became, for over two centuries, the by-word for elopement, the act of rushing off to get married against society's or parental wishes. Immortality was achieved when Jane Austen had Lydia in 'Pride and Prejudice' race north of the border with her soldier lover.
Gretna Green, of course, was chosen for its proximity to the border, but Scotland was chosen for the difference in its laws surrounding marriage. Firstly, the marriageable age in Scotland was 16 as opposed to 21 in England. Secondly, in Scotland a couple only had to declare their intentions to be husband and wife for their word to be law. So young lovers, sure in heart, were drawn north like bees to the honeypot. And it was the blacksmith one of the most important of tradesmen before the age of the car who officiated, with his anvil, where metal was shaped and melded, acting as the altar. One of the last 'anvil priests' had married 5,147 couples by the time he retired in 1962. The allure of Gretna Green persists and over 4,000 couples still get married there every year (about 13 per cent of all weddings performed in Scotland).
In Scots' Law it is not the place of marriage which legitimises a wedding but the qualification of the person who is licensed to officiate, i.e. the minister, priest or registrar. The result is a variety of wedding venues (herring boats, lighthouses and standing stones included), unequalled elsewhere in the UK. Of course, many couples still get married in a church or registry office, but location wins time and again for both receptions and honeymoons. Country houses and castles from the mediaeval to Victorian Baronial abound, with the exclusive Skibo Castle being the ultimate venue for the rich and famous. But lovebirds with just a tandem between them are guaranteed to find equal bliss in a lochside cottage or a mountain but'n'ben on a beautiful day the scenery and the sunsets are unrivalled.
Something in the air
But it's not just the snow-capped mountains, the Spring promise of the yellow broom, the purple haze of August moors or the immaculate Autumn gold that create this romance. It's true, that looking out to the western isles on a summer's evening when the fading light of gold falls upon rocky outline beyond outline that you can feel you're looking into infinity: the Celtic heaven on earth, lands of eternal youth Tir na n-Og. Then, be there in the glens as the dawn light shines through the rising clouds of mist and you can almost glimpse the shapes of those who've trod here before; almost hear the echo of human song off the face of the mountain peaks. For Scotland's history is one of passion, blood, courage and folly and it's imbued in the landscape: here is a very earthly heaven that makes falling in love as easy as falling off a log. Over and over again.
And the Scottish tourist industry has never been ashamed to exploit romance to the full: it is, after all this aura of romance, this 'something in the air' an immense natural asset.
Rekindling the flames
Of course you don't have to be betrothed or newly-weds to appreciate and experience the romance of Scotland. You can be middle aged. You can be an octogenarian. You can even be a native.
Scotland is an ideal destination for a romantic break at any time and at any stage of life. In fact, Scotland is the perfect place to kindle or re-kindle the flames.
And it's not just the wee villages with unpronounceable names at the end of single track roads (with views to die for) that you should head for. It's the cities too. There a few places the world over more elegantly romantic than Edinburgh to restore your belief in the virtues of beauty. And Glasgow - that live-wire of cities - is one of three cities (along with Dublin and Terni in Italy) which even holds relics of St. Valentine.
This little known asset came to press and public notice in 1999 when the relics were being moved from St. Francis' Church to another Gorbals church, the Blessed John Duns Scotus.