Abbotsford House: Residence of the famous Scottish novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott

Katerina Bulovska
Abbotsford House. By LeCardinal – CC BY 3.0

The castle-like Abbotsford House and its beautifully landscaped woodland estate was the home of novelist and poet Walter Scott, author of several literally classics including Rob Roy and Ivanhoe.

Ever since Sir Walter Scott was young, he had loved the serene rural landscape of the Scottish Borders, a region bordering the City of Edinburgh in the south-east of Scotland.

He spent his childhood at his grandparent’s home, Sandyknowe Farm, where he grew up fascinated by his grandmother’s folk-tales and stories about the history of the beautiful countryside.

After Scott finished his studies at the University of Edinburgh, he knew the city was not a place he wanted to spend the rest of his life.

He wanted to return to the Scottish Borders, and in 1811 he bought a farmhouse situated on the banks of the River Tweed, where he intended to live with his family.

However, the modest house turned out to be too small for the family. Scott extended dwelling and named it Abbotsford after the nearby picturesque ruins of Melrose Abbey.

Walter Scott wrote many of his poems and novels at Abbotsford House, including the popular Waverley novels.

Abbotsford House. Author: ingawh. CC BY-SA 3.0

The following period was very successful for his literary career and finances, so he decided to demolish the existing house and build the grand mansion that still stands today.

Abbotsford is a particularly interesting historical house because, unlike the homes of many other great authors, Scott himself was involved in the property’s design and construction. The Abbotsford estate therefore reflect the mind and soul of the famous writer.

To build his dream home, Scott collaborated with the famous English architect William Atkinson.

The construction of the castle-like building was instrumental in the development of a new architectural style that would later be known as Scottish Baronial.

Abbotsford House, the residence of historical novelist and poet, Sir Walter Scott. Author: Ad Meskens. CC BY-SA 4.0

Scott used reclaimed wooden paneling and carved stones from abandoned castles and abbeys, incorporating them into his iconic building.

The writer’s descendants remained resident in the house until 2004, although some parts were opened to the public after he passed away in 1832.

Abbotsford was later transformed into a major tourist attraction under the lairdship of Sir Walter Scott’s great-great-granddaughter, Patricia Maxwell-Scott.

Following a multi-million pound restoration in 2013, the museum-house was reopened by Queen Elizabeth II herself. The rooms in the house look exactly as Sir Walter Scott left them.

Sir Walter Scott’s Library at Abbotsford House. Author: Ad Meskens. CC BY-SA 3.0

The library is the most impressive room in the house. On the shelves, around 9,000 books narrate historical events, myths, and legends written in 17 different languages, collected by Scott.

Its richly decorated ceiling in the library is an imitation of the one in the Rosslyn Chapel, which is described as “the most mysterious and magical chapel on earth” by The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown.

Ceiling decoration in Abbotsford House. Author: Ad Meskens. CC BY-SA 4.0

He didn’t only collect books but also historic artifacts, such as a crucifix of Mary, Queen of Scots, armor, and weapons.

Among his enormous arms and armor collection are also Claverhouse’s pistol, Bonnie Dundee’s pistol, the sword of the Marquis of Montrose, Rob Roy’s broadsword, dirk, and gun, and two cannonballs used in the siege of Roxburgh Castle in 1460.

Scott’s study is where the great author wrote his literary classics. His reading glasses are still on his writing desk.

Armor in Abbotsford House. Author: Niels Elgaard Larsen. CC BY-SA 3.0

The captivating entrance hall is decorated with statues of St. Andrew, St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as suits of armor from the battle of Waterloo and historical relics.

The hall is richly ornamented with oak paneling from Dunfermline Abbey, while the table in the dining room is adorned with ornate wood from Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire.

The walls in the dining room are decorated with various portraits including those of Sir Walter Scott’s great-grandfather, also named Walter Scott, his grandmother, Barbara Haliburton, his wife Charlotte Charpentier, and his daughter Anne.

It was in this room that Sir Walter Scott passed away on September 21, 1832.

The entrance hall of Abbotsford House. Author: Ad Meskens. CC BY-SA 4.0

Abbotsford House is surrounded by lovely flower gardens, topiary, and tranquil woodland. One garden is named the Morris Garden, in honor of the character from Scott’s historical novel Rob Roy.

Another curious original feature in the colorful gardens of Abbotsford is a stone basin that was brought from Edinburgh. In 1660 this basin was filled with wine for the celebration of the Restoration of Charles II to the throne.

Topiary in the garden at Abbotsford House, in the Scottish Borders. Author: GavinJA. CC BY-SA 3.0

Much of the estate grounds, in fact 120 acres of traditional British meadow and woodland that were lovingly developed by Scott, is now managed by the Abbotsford Trust. The Abbotsford Estate is freely accessible.

A wide diversity of native flora and fauna can be found there, including many trees that were planted by Walter Scott 200 years ago.

Provand’s Lordship, built in 1471 is the oldest house in Glasgow

The historic house is one of the most famous houses in the world and remains one of Scotland’s most visited tourist attractions.