The word is that Sir Walter Scott is enjoying a revival and his novels and poetry are
back in popular demand.
In his beloved Scottish Borders Scott’s star has never waned, his presence shines as brightly today as it did in his heyday almost 200 years ago.
Those who would discover more about the man can follow a dozen tourist trails taking in Scott’s favourite border haunts. From Scott’s View, the Eildon Hills, wrapped in local myths and magic, dominate breathtaking countryside. In Selkirk, there’s Scott’s courthouse, now a museum, where he sat as the royal borough’s Sheriff Depute and dispensed justice.
But to understand more about the man, all roads must surely lead to Abbotsford, his “conundrum castle” home tucked away amid 100 acres between Melrose and Selkirk.
Here he assembled a treasure trove that reflects the enlightened times in which he lived: a massive collection of books, artefacts, porcelain and paintings. They also confirm an insatiable curiosity for the world at large but especially Scotland.
The Scottish nation’s most memorable names from history are all resident in this magnificent house.
Here you will find Rob Roy’s broadsword, dirk, sporran purse and gun on display;
knives belonging to Charles I; Montrose’s sword; a lock of Bonnie Prince
Charlie’s hair and Bonnie Dundee’s pistols.
In the library, the ceiling copies elements of Rosslyn Chapel; predictably arousing much excitement among Da Vinci Code addicts.
Elsewhere, items of furniture and oak panelled walls have been fashioned from timbers rescued from the Auld Kirk at Dunfermline; a stone fireplace is modelled on the stalls at Melrose Abbey, and the entrance is copied from Linlithgow Palace.
Another of Scott’s historic recycling initiatives is the Robroyston chair made of
wood from the House of Robroyston where Sir William Wallace was “done to death
by felon hand for guarding well his father’s land.”
If it were Scott’s intention that the heart of Scotland would forever beat at Abbotsford he can rest easy.
A super-celebrity in his day, wealthy on the revenues that accrued from bestseller after bestseller, Scott scoured Scotland, England and the Continent for acquisitions.
He was also an avid collector of popular publications, the penny dreadfuls of their day, that sold from door-to-door and speculated on sensational subjects such as witchcraft and the supernatural.
As a pioneer in popular culture, his modern-day equivalent could be Indiana Jones and J K Rowling rolled into one.
At Abbotsford, fact lines up neatly alongside fiction; much of it interleaved with
Scott’s best-known novels that took form at the writing desk in his wonderfully preserved study.
In the library there are 9,000 priceless tomes, including a 15th-century Middle English manuscript, poems and songs handwritten by Robert Burns, together with pamphlets from the times of Jacobites and Covenanters.
Wandering around this incredible time capsule of a building – much the same as it
was when Scott lived here – it is easy to imagine that it could still have some, as yet
undiscovered, secrets to share.
That being the case the Abbotsford Executive Trust is doing all it can to extend the welcome. Abbotsford has undergone a £14m development project that has allowed restoration, refurbishment and the building of an excellent visitor interpretation centre and restaurant.
Please check arrangements for booking tickets for Abbotsford at the official website at www.scottsabbotsford.com