The village of Gretna Green is well known for its history of runaways and clandestine marriages. Back in the 1970s we were married at Gretna (but we were not runaways!) Before and after our wedding we stayed at the Gretna Hall Hotel. we always said we would return but for various reasons never got round to it and all of a sudden thirty six years had quickly passed. Then I spotted an advert from Easy Breaks offering a late deal of a two night stay at the hotel with dinner, bed and breakfast for two for a total price of just £127, I booked it!
Built in 1710 as a manor house, this white painted, 100 bedroom, three star hotel stands in 10 acres of gardens. It is clearly visible from the main road into the village of Gretna and it is just a two minute walk from Gretna Rail Station. It’s location in the beautiful Scottish county of Dumfries and Galloway, just over the border from England makes it a good base for exploring South West Scotland, The Scottish Borders and the English Lake District.
Ample car parking in the grounds provided us with a space for the car, close to the hotel. Steps lead to Reception (there is a separate level access for the less mobile.
It was early March, our journey had involved driving through snow showers, so the open fire in Reception was welcoming.
My first impression was the interior of the hotel looked tired, the style and décor was similar to what I recalled when I last stood at Reception on the eve of my wedding thirty six years ago but it had aged, perhaps it needed a refurb. (I thought to myself I hope we have aged better!!!!) Nevertheless, Reception Staff were welcoming and soon we were on our way to our room.
Rooms. For the price we paid I wasn’t expecting much but our room was disappointing. A cold breeze from an ill fitting window frame greeted us. A light bulb needed replacing, the heater was dust covered, the kettle needed cleaning, the waste bin emptying. We telephoned Reception, said we were not happy, very quickly there was a knock on the door and a staff member told us we were changing rooms, adding “you should not have been given this room, because it had been reported!”
Soon we were in our replacement room, overlooking the front gardens and drive, it was clean, warm, spacious comfortably furnished with everything working!
Public areas. Before dinner we wandered down to the ground floor lounge/bar for pre dinner drinks. This spacious area was furnished with comfortable leather sofa’s and chairs standing on a red and gold patterned carpet. The age of the building meaning the floor sloped in areas. We sat by a welcoming open coal fire, enjoyed our drinks. The service was good, the staff friendly.
The Anvil Restaurant – is situated on the ground floor. Having paid so little for our stay I was wondering what the included evening meal would be like, to be honest, my expectations were low, how wrong I was. The evening meal was lovely, with delicious, freshly cooked, quality food from a good menu choice, nicely presented, service was superb. The wine list was good. The restaurant was spacious, airy, clean, with plenty of tables. Cheerful, friendly staff added to the pleasant atmosphere.
The restaurant had two menu’s the Simple Menu or the Special menu. Our package included a three course meal from the Simple Menu. Had we been paying separately for our evening meal, this meal would have cost £19.95 a person. Had we wanted to order from the Special Menu it would have cost £6.50 extra per person.
Vegetarians were catered for, as were those with special dietary requirements (the hotel requests those with special dietary requirements to inform them in advance)
My first course of Waldorf Salad was very enjoyable. Followed by a traditional Sunday Roast – a delicious tender beef with rich gravy. Yorkshire Pudding, Roast Potatoes which were crisp on the outside, fluffy inside. Vegetables perfectly cooked – a bit of bite but certainly not undercooked. For desert I enjoyed a delicious dark chocolate torte. Clifford, my husband chose Carrot soup followed by stir fried beef in black bean sauce and Basmati rice, then Rhubarb crumble and ice cream. We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening and sent our compliments to the chef. Our evening meal the next evening, again came from a good menu choice. We enjoyed Salads, Pate, followed by melt in the mouth pork, then cheese cake to die for, Once again it was beautifully cooked, nicely presented and the service was excellent.
Breakfasts were a slightly different story. Whereas the food was ok, the hot food (traditional British breakfasts) being cooked to order with the cold food (cereals, yogurts, fruits, cakes, breads) being self service. The service was, however, poor due to the fact there was insufficient staff and the staff that were present, were rushed and without the cheerfulness we experienced at Dinner. One morning they were mainly focused on setting tables in another area of the restaurant for a wedding, with little time for guests at breakfast.
On our last evening, we were woken at 12.30 a.m. by the fire alarms and a staff member shouting “everyone out, evacuate the hotel”. We quickly put on our coats (it was snowing outside!) and made our way down the fire escape to the exterior of the hotel. We stood at the assembly point beneath a tree in the middle of a lawn with the wind blowing the snow at us. The fire brigade quickly arrived and after their inspection we were allowed back in the hotel. Apparently a guest smoking in a room had set the alarms off. As unpleasant as the situation was, we did notice that the staff were very much in control with good evacuation procedures in place, with guests being checked off a list to ensure everyone was accounted for. The evacuation went smoothly and calmly including the evacuation of a wheelchair user.
In the grounds of the hotel there is a Blacksmith’s shop where weddings can take place. There is also a Gift shop which also provides history of the hotel, the village and Gretna Green weddings. The hotel is almost on the doorstep of Gretna Gateway outlet village where we enjoyed shopping. Gretna forms part of Dumfries and Galloway’s Romantic Itinerary.
For the less mobile the hotel provides:
Car Parking facilities close to the hotel. Disabled Access. Ground floor bedrooms, wheelchair accessible lift with voice announcer. Ground floor public rooms – although I did notice the floor sloping and uneven in areas. Stannah Platform lift from Reception area to the bar area.
We had enjoyed our trip down memory lane, visiting the village where we had married and of course our stay at The Gretna Hall Hotel which was the first stop in a week long holiday in Dumfries and Galloway.