Abbotsford | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Abbotsford

Melrose, Scotland, United Kingdom

Peta Stamper

26 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Abbotsford

Abbotsford is a large country mansion in the Scottish Borders best known as the home of historical novelist and poet, Sir Walter Scott. Scott massively extended the house and grounds, hosting writers, politicians, noblemen and many of Scott’s readers during his lifetime and later becoming a place of literary pilgrimage.

Today, Abbotsford and its beautiful surrounding woodland and gardens are available to wander, situated along the banks of the River Tweed in Scotland.

Abbotsford history

The Abbotsford estate was originally a small farm called Cartyhole, and was bought by Scott when his lease ran out in 1811 at the neighbouring house Ashestiel. Scott renamed the estate ‘Abbotsford’ after the nearby Melrose Abbey, and the original farmhouse was massively extended by Scott between 1816 and 1824 using his literary fortune.

Inside the mansion Scott collected ancient furniture, amassed a spectacular library overlooking the gardens and river, displayed medieval armour and weapons as well as other Scottish relics such as the Celtic Torrs horned cap. The style of Abbotsford was primarily Scottish Baronial – a miniature castle with small towers and imitation battlements that incorporated other historic objects, such as the old Tolbooth door from Edinburgh.

While the neo-medieval features of Abbotsford satisfied Scott’s love for all things historical, the house also reflected modern living. Abbotsford had early gas lighting and bells connecting the servants quarters with the rest of the house. Unfortunately, Scott soon fell into debt. The library and museum within the house were given to him as a gift from creditors.

Abbotsford was opened to the eager public in 1833 but still hosted Scott’s descendants until 2004 when the Abbotsford Trust was founded to maintain the estate.

Abbotsford today

Open 7 days a week between 10am and 5 pm, today you can step back into the historic house and chapel before wandering the beautiful gardens. Inside the house, walk the halls lined with medieval battlements and enter rooms with grand fireplaces and wallpapered in the rich colours and textures of East Asia, reflecting the period’s colonial fervour.

The gardens and house are straight from a romantic novel – the Regency gardens providing a set of secluded ‘rooms’ unlike English landscape gardens and feature a greenhouse modelled on a jousting tent. Exploring beyond the gardens you can see Scott’s passion for planting trees, which he started planting even before moving in.

Getting to Abbotsford

From Edinburgh, the drive to Abbotsford takes around an hour and 10 minutes, following the A27 from Peebles and the A7 towards Galashiels and Melrose. Exit at Tweedbank onto the B6360 and Abbotsford is on your right, with plenty of car parking.

You can also get the train to Tweedbank from Edinburgh, which takes roughly an hour, and can walk the 20 minutes over to Abbotsford.