The main house at Abbotsford reopened to the public in July 2013 after a major programme of repair and refurbishment, and a new visitor centre opened in August 2012. See the links on this page for further information. For the moment the rest of this page remains as written prior to the start of the refurbishment at the end of the 2011 season, and will be updated when we have revisited.
Sir Walter Scott died in the dining room of his house at Abbotsford on 21 September 1832 and was buried at Dryburgh Abbey. Scott's final years had been overshadowed by financial problems, but these did nothing to dim his status as what would today be called a literary superstar: an author whose work had fired the imagination of a generation and a man who had done much to re-establish the idea of a distinctive Scottish identity at a time when "North Britain" was in danger of becoming indistinguishable from any other region of Great Britain.
Scott's celebrity status meant that Abbotsford became a place of pilgrimage for his fans after his death, and a feature in the tourist guides that were starting to appear as the Georgian era moved into the Victorian era. By the 1850s the house was being adapted specifically to cater for the increasing number of visitors, with a dedicated entrance being created for tourists.
Just two miles from either Melrose or Galashiels, Abbotsford must certainly qualify as one of Scotland's longest standing tourist attractions. Those visiting included Queen Victoria on 22 August 1867. In 1883 the total number of over 1500 visitors included 20 from the USA. Today's visitor is therefore following a very well established trail.
Sir Walter Scott is now a Scottish icon whose name may be more widely known than his writings. But Abbotsford remains an essential stopping off point for those visiting the Scottish Borders. And when you come to Abbotsford you begin to understand why: a visit is like a journey back in time.
After entering via a side entry into the basement level you progress through the magnificent public rooms that occupy the ground floor of much of the house. Sir Walter's Study is simply wonderful: the sort of room you'd love to pack up and take home with you, complete with books around the walls at ground floor level and around a gallery.
The books on show here formed just a part of Sir Walter's collection of 9,000 volumes. You find the rest in the next room, the Library, a vast space lined with books and offering superb views down to the River Tweed at the rear of the house.
The Drawing Room has a strongly Chinese theme, while beyond it is the spectacular Armoury. Here the walls are full of artistically displayed firearms and other weapons, and reflect a theme found throughout the house: Sir Walter's tendency to collect artefacts from Scotland's history. As a result the Armoury contains guns belonging to Bonnie Dundee and Rob Roy, as well as Rob Roy's broadsword and dirk.
The Dining Room feels almost Spartan after the other rooms: apart from the paintings lining the walls there is relatively little to distract the diners who would have gathered around the oak table from their food, and from the conversation that would doubtless have flowed freely with the wine. From the Dining Room you move into the Entrance Hall, a room where suits of armour vie with sculptures for attention, all against a backdrop of wood panelling decorated with coats of arms. It is a room you are grateful you don't have to dust...
Visitors can also explore some of the gardens surrounding Abbotsford. The South Court offers magnificent views of the house itself, while beyond a stone arcade lies the East Court. Access is also possible to the beautiful chapel, at the west end of the house, and to an exhibition about the author Nigel Tranter, in one of the upstairs rooms.
Abbotsford itself was very much the personal creation of Sir Walter Scott. He purchased a farm on the banks of the River Tweed here in 1811 and his family moved into a space which was barely large enough for them and for Sir Walter's already extensive collections of Scottish memorabilia.
Between 1817 and 1819 he therefore oversaw a major extension to the original farmhouse, which included the addition of what now forms the Dining Room and Armoury.
From 1821 to 1823 much more major changes were made. The original farmhouse was cleared away and replaced by most of the areas of the house whose ground floor is now open to the public. What emerged was a building that set a trend that swept right across Scotland in the middle 1800s, establishing "Scots Baronial" as a distinctively Scottish form of architecture.
In 1853, Sir Walter's descendents, the Hope-Scott family, added what is now the West Wing of Abbotsford, including the Chapel. At the same time they made other changes including better arrangements for tourists visiting those parts of Abbotsford that would have been known and loved by Sir Walter.