The number exceeded the initial expectations of The Abbotsford Trust and has included visitors from Europe, the USA and the rest of the UK as well as a large number of people from the Scottish Borders.
Jason Dyer, Chief Executive, The Abbotsford Trust (blow) said: “The response to the Visitor Centre so far has been fantastic, particularly as the historic house is still under refurbishment and not yet open to the public.
“Visitors have told us that they have learned a great deal about Scott and his significance that they hadn’t previously appreciated, which is one of the main aims of this beautiful new building and its exhibition on Scott’s life and legacy. We’ve also had lots of positive feedback about our Ochiltree’s restaurant and our shop. We’re delighted with this extremely impressive start for the Visitor Centre”
The Abbotsford Visitor Centre and the new exhibition are open year-round, seven days a week from 9am until 6pm and are free to enter. The Abbotsford Gardens are currently open from 9am until 6pm (last admission to gardens 1 hour before closing). Garden admission costs: adults £3.50, concessions and under 17’s £2.50, children under 5, free.
The opening was the first stage of a £14.5 million transformation of Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford home in the Scottish Borders.
Situated a short distance from the main house and free to enter, the visitor centre is part of a master-plan developed by The Abbotsford Trust to create a world-class visitor attraction and centre of learning about Scott and his works, which included Waverley, Rob Roy and Ivanhoe.
The centre piece of the building will be a new exhibition that tells the story of the world’s first best-selling author from his birth in Edinburgh in 1771, his family life, education and his successful literary career to his financial ruin during the financial crash of 1825-6 and the cultural legacy he left to Scotland and the world.
Books of ballads, poems, myths and legends from Scott’s own library are displayed alongside paintings, engravings, letters, manuscripts and informative information panels telling the story of the man and the influences that led him to dominate world fiction and fuel a worldwide vogue for all things Scottish.
Many objects are on display for the first time and include the design books and accounts for the construction of Scott’s beloved Abbotsford home and visitors books containing the signatures of many notable figures including Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte and Oscar Wilde who came to Abbotsford in the years following Scott’s death.
Other items on show include the egg-timer Scott used to set the pace of his writing and increase his production levels as he attempted to write himself out of a £126,000 debt – the equivalent of £10 million today – that resulted from the collapse of his publisher and printmaker in 1826.
The £4 million Visitor Centre also includes a new work by contemporary Scottish artist Claire Barclay who has created an installation specially commissioned by the Trust as part of its efforts to attract new audiences and illustrate Scott’s story in a relevant and engaging way.
The Visitor Centre also features a shop and a dining space, named Ochiltree’s after a character in Scott’s novel, The Antiquary. Ochiltree’s overlooks the main house, which is currently being refurbished and will re-open in 2013.
For more information about Abbotsford, visit www.scottsabbotsford.co.uk