Abbotsford Revisited

My brother, Michael and wife, Susan, came over from America for their planned tour of Scotland and had the most fantastic time. Visiting Scotland is always a gamble but they were blessed with the most amazing weather. You may remember the north west of Scotland in early May enjoyed the warmest and sunniest weather in the UK and this coincided with their arrival, a couple of days in Glasgow and then the Isle of Skye. As they travelled across the northern coast to John o Groats and down to Wick in north east Scotland, the easterly wind which had plagued us for so long fizzled out and so, there too, conditions were idyllic. As they headed south my brother Robin, Marisa and I drove up and met them in the Scottish Borders and stayed overnight in the Drybrough Abbey Hotel.

This was very nostalgic for us as this is where Michael and I went to school, the school which was burned down whilst we were there in 1963.

We have both been back on a number of occasions since but this was the first time we had been there together since that eventful day 54 years ago.

The Scottish Borders must rank as the most picturesque scenery in the country. I have often posted photos on my blog of walking Cookie along the River Tweed but one place I had never visited until now was ‘Scott’s View’. This is, of course, Sir Walter Scott’s country and ‘Scott’s View’ overlooking the Eildon Hills was a sight he dearly loved.

It is said that in 1832 when Sir Walter Scott died, the horses pulling his coffin through the countryside automatically stopped at this point because they had habitually done so when he was alive as he would always stop to admire the view.

I have never been a Walter Scott fan but he must have done quite well and sold a few books as he built himself a rather nice house on the banks of The Tweed.

His house, Abbotsford, is now a museum and it proved to be a very worthwhile visit complemented by a very sophisticated audio tour guide of Sir Walter Scott showing you around his humble abode.

I recall visiting museums in Paris and one in particular, The Hotel Carnavalet which I think was in ‘Les Marais’ district if my memory serves me correctly. I’m not sure which word would suit them most but there would be ‘attendants’ watching your every move hoping that you might touch something so they could pounce on you. Here at Abbotsford the guides couldn’t have been more welcoming and took great delight in sharing their knowledge and answering your questions.

We learned that the museum was restricted to the ground floor of the house and the upper floor together with the adjoining annexe had been transformed into a luxurious apartment boasting 7 double bedrooms each with bathrooms en-suite beyond belief. This was not open to the general public but, yes, we were given a private tour after Susan mistakenly interpreted the rental cost of £3000 as the price per night. Well, I suppose some people pay that for a hotel room in London and here we had 7 luxurious rooms with extraordinary facilities. The apartment was tastefully decorated to reflect and accommodate the needs of guests yet maintain the style, character and ambiance of what was in effect Sir Walter Scott’s home. So, at £3000 per week it seemed exceptionally good value.

The entrance and private car park are set aside from the main tourist entrance and as soon as you step through the front door into the lobby you know this is not going to be a run of the mill holiday rental.

We gasped in awe as we were shown from room to room. It was as if we had stepped back in time but with all modern amenities tastefully added. A detailed description of the accommodation would undoubtedly abound with superlatives

Looking out of the windows on one side were the formal gardens and on the other side the little track down to the River Tweed. A sizeable courtyard with barbecue and seating were accessible off the main kitchen. You could, of course, have free access to the gardens and indeed the museum during opening hours but, once the house was closed to the public, the gardens and river became your own personal playground.

For those wishing to savour the history and the authenticity of the building at its extreme, the apartment also housed the very same ‘loo’ which Sir Walter Scott sat upon!

Well, that was it. We’ve decided to have a family reunion and booked it for next Easter!

Whilst we were buying the tickets for entry to the museum at Abbotsford we were asked “Have you been here before?” “Yes” Michael replied, “in 1962 on an outing from St Columba’s!”

When he got back to America he didn’t only manage to find the photograph but also the negative.

Happy Days!


Gerard Lenaghan

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