Abbotsford: Sir Walter Scott’s Home In The Scottish Borders

Wide flower borders in front of a castle-like house

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.)

Stone dogs lie on either side of the arched door at Abbotsford

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.

Hydrangeas in the flower borders at Abbotsford

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.

39 thoughts on “Abbotsford: Sir Walter Scott’s Home In The Scottish Borders

  1. margaret21 says:

    You’re a good woman. I don’t know a soul who’s willingly ploughed their way through any of Walter Scott’s offerings. Too romantic by half. Seriously, did you enjoy it? Happy New Year, with or without Sir WS!

    • susurrus says:

      I think ‘Waverley’ was prescribed reading, back in the day. Perhaps they would just not admit it! 🙂 Happy New Year to you too! I had been wondering whether these would qualify as abstract but decided that would be a stretch.

  2. Su Leslie says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I have, on past visits to Scotland, intended visit Abborsford, but never managed to do so. Nor have I ever managed to read any of Walter Scott’s books. Vicarious enjoyment is enough!

  3. diane in northern wis says:

    How beautiful! You’ve set me to dreaming of kings and princesses and others who might dwell inside those walls. I’d love to visit there. I enjoy your posts all the time. Thank you much for taking the time to inspire and entertain us out here, all year long. You’re awesome!

  4. Cindy Coghill says:

    Oh, what a beautiful place. Like a fairy tale castle. Your pictures are stunning and make me wish I was there. I think I would just sit down to drink it all in and never get up. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • susurrus says:

      You’re right – it’s somewhere you can very happily linger in if you like architecture, plants, books, history, being outside, or ‘just’ dreaming. A place designed for thinking, you feel.

  5. Oddment says:

    These aren’t first-rate pictures? I cannot imagine better. But I can indeed imagine that “literary reverie,” and I think it must have been wonderful. The whole of this place seems as though the intention was to give form to reverie. I love the unreality of it, and I thank you for taking us there.

    • susurrus says:

      The basic ingredients do help a lot and I picked the best of them to share here. I’m sure you’re right when you say, ‘the intention was to give form to reverie’ – this place seems to be as composed as any novel. I loved the idea that the original house was half paid for by an advance on an unwritten poem, which we could say was giving reverie form, were we to want to play with the idea a little more.

      • Oddment says:

        Now THERE’S reverie: an advance on an unwritten poem! Enough to build the original house? That too stretched the imagination. But it also makes the whole place more wonderful, and, yes, it tilts towards the notion of form to reverie. Lovely!

        • susurrus says:

          There or thereabouts: half the price of the farm (which was later expanded into the Abbotsford estate) was raised using an unwritten poem as security, which I suppose is a third party advance. It does not seem to have made the poem any easier to write!

  6. Heyjude says:

    I have never read any of Walter Scott’s books and unlikely to do so now, but I have heard of Abbotsford and if we ever venture that far north again it is definitely on my list of gardens to visit. Meanwhile I shall enjoy viewing it vicariously. Thanks Susan. I look forward to travelling with you in 2019.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.