South Scotland

Canadians in dream Scots wedding heartbreak

Chris Tait and Tammy Lavigne Image copyright Chris Tait
Image caption Chris Tait and Tammy Lavigne began planning their marriage blessing in Scotland two years ago

A Canadian couple who travelled 3,000 miles to have their marriage blessed arrived in Scotland to find their dream castle venue had gone bust.

Chris Tait and his wife, Tammy Lavigne, spent almost £2,000 on the romantic ceremony at Comlongon Castle in Dumfries and Galloway.

But shortly after arriving in Scotland last weekend, they learned the business had collapsed.

It left them two days to rearrange the blessing they spent two years planning.

Mr Tait said the bombshell cast a shadow over the first few days of their holiday.

And the couple fear they will be unable to recoup the money they shelled out on the ceremony.

Comlongon Castle had been one of Dumfries and Galloway's most popular wedding venues but it ceased trading on 8 April.

The partnership that ran the hotel is applying to be declared bankrupt after running into cash-flow problems last year.

Alternative arrangements

Last year, the business was ordered to pay almost £40,000 to a former employee, after an employment tribunal ruled she had been unfairly dismissed.

Mr Tait, 47, told the BBC Scotland news website that he learned of the castle's closure in an email from a photographer booked to capture images of their ceremony.

The paramedic from Ontario said it was a "total shock" as they had received an email from the hotel seven days earlier and "everything was fine".

Image copyright Jay Wingfield
Image caption Comlongon Castle is attached to a 14-bedroom hotel

"We were told that there would be absolutely no problem," he said.

"I did email them on the 9th and did not receive a reply which I thought was a bit strange but I thought if there was any problems they would have contacted us.

"Then we arrived, and next thing we know, they're in administration."

The couple had been planning to take part in a "Laird's Blessing" - a symbolic ritual said to have its origins in Celtic ceremonies.

'Additional cost'

They said they paid about £1,900 for a deal which included two nights at Comlongon, meals and a piper, with their first payment made in 2017.

But when they learned the hotel at Clarencefield had closed, Mr Tait said his wife, who works in a regional police office, managed to make alternative arrangements.

Instead, they had a ceremony at the blacksmith's in Gretna Green.

Image copyright Comlongon Castle
Image caption The Comlongon Castle website directs visitors to accountants Johnston Carmichael, which has been appointed trustee

"It's not exactly what we wanted but at least we were able to pull something together," Mr Tait said.

"It was still an additional cost that we weren't expecting. We already had everything else paid for."

They have contacted accountants Johnston Carmichael, which is dealing with claims from creditors, but said they were given little hope of having their money returned.

And as their first payment by credit card was made more than 500 days ago, their card holder has told them they will not issue a refund.

Sympathy for staff

"It's quite disheartening to have this situation happening," Mr Tait said. "You read about it - especially in North America - all the time but to have it actually affect you is eye-opening, just how unfair it is."

The couple said they felt sorry for the staff at the hotel who have now lost their jobs, but he criticised the owner for failing to alert them to the hotel's closure.

Image copyright Angus Townley
Image caption The castle is set in 140 acres of grounds

"It just seems unfair that he knew what was going on in his books and just suddenly had to close down," Mr Tait said.

"It's not something that happens overnight - it's something you're aware of beforehand.

"If you know that's something approaching on 8 April and people are supposed to be showing up on the 16th from out-of-country, the least you could have done was contact all your patrons. Let them know."

He said it had "definitely put a dampener" on the first couple of days of the holiday but the couple were now travelling to Aberdeenshire and the Highlands and were enjoying excellent weather.

"We're trying to get as much in of Scotland as we can so we can at least praise its beauty when we go back home."

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