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Thursday, 14 July 2016

Walk 184 Gretna Green (Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland) to Carlisle (Cumbria)

Walk 184 Gretna Green (Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland) to Carlisle (Cumbria)

(Fourth leg of English coastal walk – Gretna Green to Chester)

Map: L/R 85
Distance: 15 miles or 25 km approx
Difficulty: Easy, mostly flat
Terrain: roads, coastal and river paths.
Access: Parking in each location
Public transport: Trains between Carlisle and Gretna

The start is in Gretna (means place of the gravelly hill) which is in Scotland but walking from here ensures the border can be crossed into England. While in the village it is worth walking up to the famous Blacksmith's Shop where marriages have been held right up to the present day.

Gretna's claim to fame came in 1753 when Lord Hardwick's Marriage Act was passed in England. If both parties intending to marry were under 21 parental consent was needed. However, in Scotland the law did not apply, boys here were allowed to marry at 14, and girls at 12, without parental consent. Hence young couples fled to the nearest point in Scotland to get legally married. Look out for the anvil sculpture in the village which marks the millennium

On the road walk out of Gretna you pass the last house in Scotland which is also a marriage venue boasting over 10,000 marriages since 1830. Next is the border marked by the 'Welcome to England' sign. The walk continues on the minor road which runs southwards near to the motorway. A tedious, noisy and not very pleasant walk.

A pub called The Metal Bridge is on the southern side of the concrete bridge and comes from the original Thomas Telford designed bridge constructed in 1815. On the north side of the River Esk there was a huge World War 1 munitions factory employing over 30,000 people. The drinking of alcohol became a problem so the government took over all the pubs in and around Carlisle and strict rules on drunkenness were applied. The scheme persisted until the 1970s when it was sold off.

The walk across the fields along The Cumbria Coastal Way takes you to the River Eden and Rockliffe. The walk passes through farmland and when it enters a farm the gates and stiles are (were) in a poor state. I negotiated these and was soon attacked and bitten by a group of dogs which appeared from the farm. They eventually ran off but my shouts were ignored by the farmer. In view of this, a better alternative route may be to follow the cycle route along the roads marked on the OS map.

Rockliffe has had a lively past including warfare with Scottish raiders and the smuggling of whisky from Scotland. It was also a commercial port with activities including shipbuilding. Look out for the few remnants of old wooden jetties along the river and the ship weather vane on top of the church. Good evidence of the past.

From here it is a pleasant but long walk into Carlisle which is the county town of Cumbria and was originally a Roman settlement to serve Hadrian's Wall. 

Photos: The last house in Scotland; The Metal Bridge pub on the River Esk; view along River Eden on the way into Carlisle.

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