Abbotsford House


Abbotsford House as seen from rear
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Abbotsford House as seen from rear

Abbotsford House, the former home of Sir Walter Scott, stands on the south bank of the River Tweed, 1½ miles (2.5 km) SE of Galashiels and 2 miles (3 km) west of Melrose in the Scottish Borders. With his great love of the Border country, Scott, who saw himself as a Tweeddale laird, bought a farmhouse and land from a local minister in 1811 for £4000. Originally called Cartleyhole, Scott with his keen sense of history, renamed it Abbotsford in honour of the monks of Melrose who had originally owned the land. Scott and his family moved to the farmhouse in 1812, but almost immediately he made plans to build a larger property, to be funded by the success of his writing. By purchasing adjacent properties, Scott extended the estate to 566 ha (1400 acres) and commissioned architect William Atkinson to draw up plans for a new house. In 1822 the original farmhouse was demolished and the core of the current house was completed by 1824. Abbotsford represented one of the earliest expressions of the Scots Baronial style, incorporating castellations, crowstepped gables, pepperpot turrets and a corbelled-out parapet, together with copies of architectural features of historical interest such as a gateway from Linlithgow Palace, roof designs from Rosslyn Chapel, a mantelpiece from Melrose Abbey and oak panelling from the Auld Kirk, Dunfermline. Scott also built various cottages on the estate, in which he installed his friends. He landscaped the grounds, planting a large number of trees.

Abbotsford is filled with Scott's enormous collection of historical curiosities, including Rob Roy's purse, a tumbler once owned by Robert Burns and a lock of Bonnie Prince Charlie's hair, together with weapons, armour and paintings.

Visitors to Abbotsford included English authoress Maria Edgeworth (1823), the American essayist Washington Irving and the poets William Wordsworth and Thomas Moore. After Scott's death in 1832, tourists came to Abbotsford in increasing numbers, including Queen Victoria (1867), King George V and Queen Mary and the Duke and Duchess of York, who became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (1923).

In 2013, HM Queen Elizabeth II officially reopened the house after a multi-million pound restoration.

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