You would have thought that with scenery like this, I’d have come home with some first-rate pictures of Abbotsford, the castle-style home Sir Walter Scott built, but as I spent the time there in a weird state of literary reverie, this is as good as I could muster.
I read Waverley, as a youngster, but I’m ashamed to confess I have forgotten it. The Bride Of Lammermoor, a romantic horror story, stays with me.
I’d love to visit Abbotsford again when the roses are in their first flush of flowers. There are hundreds, not just in the lovely formal gardens, but in and around the car park. On the day of our visit, the few roses left were perfectly in tune with my imagination. The red roses, tethered to the wall in one place, withered in others, were not flowers, but young love, rapturously enjoyed, thwarted, then… no, I will not say, in case you have not read the book.
The face glimpsed between the rose leaves, though not the bride, somehow channels her, head framed forever by a stone veil. (Sir Walter Scott salvaged architectural details from ruined buildings and incorporated them into his garden’s walls.)
I’m a very poor advance guard, as I can barely explain what I experienced there (I’ll not say ‘saw’ as it went beyond that). Did Sir Walter Scott walk this way between the two guard dogs and through this doorway on his way to dream up new stories and characters? I can’t tell you for sure, but I imagined he walked past me as I paused to take the picture.
We happened to be within a few miles of the estate while travelling from Edinburgh to Lindisfarne, by way of another garden that escapes me and, though our schedule was tight, couldn’t resist calling in. We didn’t have time to fully appreciate everything on offer here, but when I was wondering what, from 2018, that I had not already shared I would not like you to miss out on, it was this place that came to mind: food for the imagination at this reflective time of the year.
With 2019 almost upon us, if you’re looking for a place to celebrate Burns Night (26th January), there might still be time to snag tickets for Abbotsford’s Burns Supper, for the very reasonable price of £32.50 (or £29 for Friends of Abbotsford). If you’ll have a long journey to make, read The Bride Of Lammermoor on your way over. Burns wouldn’t mind:
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
Ae fareweel alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I’ll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I’ll wage thee.
Robert Burns, from Ae Fond Kiss
(I’m not saying it all ends badly, mind you. You’ll have to take your chance on that.)
If you can’t make Burns Night, your pockets are deep enough, and you travel in numbers, you can rent a wing of the house and stay at Abbotsford with up to 14 other people. The experience comes with free dreams, not just nightly, but in the daytime too.