Wayfarer Column- Tales of the oddities in towns and places across Scotland

The more you travel this marvellous country of ours the more you marvel at the oddities you find and not only among the people. Moffat, a historic spa town, boasts the world’s narrowest hotel.

The Famous Star Hotel is only twenty feet wide, you obviously have to squeeze to get through the front door but an interesting place to visit. Wick in Caithness is where we find the world’s shortest street. At the junction of Union Street and River Street lies Ebenezer Place which has a total length of six feet nine inches. Naturally there is only one address in this street, No.1 Bistro, which forms part of Mackays Hotel. The street came into being in1883 when N0.1 Ebenezer Place was constructed and the owner of the building was told by the Council to paint a name on its shortest side, it was then officially declared a street in 1887.

The first man to walk on the moon was Neil Armstrong whose family originated from Langholm in Dumfries and Galloway. Armstrong paid a visit to Langholm in 1972 when he was made a freeman of the Burgh. However Langholm was well known before that for an entirely different reason as it was famous for its annual Handfasting Fair where unmarried couples joined hands before witnesses, agreeing to live together for a year. They were obliged to return to the Fair the following year when if the handfasting had proved successful they were married, but if not, then they went their separate ways.

It is interesting to note that in early years the minimum age for marriage in Britain was 12 for a girl and 14 for a boy, but that was raised to 16 in 1929. In England and Wales parental consent for marriage was required until 18 years of age whilst in Scotland it was only necessary up to 16 years of age. This was when Gretna Green came into prominence for English couples wishing to avail themselves of marriage without parental consent.

The Scots took advantage of this by building a toll road to Gretna in 1770 to make it the most easily reachable town in Scotland. Providing the marriage was before two witnesses anyone could perform the ceremony which was undertaken in the main by the local blacksmiths over their anvils. These gentlemen became known as ‘Anvil Priests’ and although the law has changed considerably since then there are still a lot of weddings performed today at Gretna Green over a blacksmith’s anvil.

Life is full of unusual tales and I hope to see you next week with more.