Abbotsford House & Gardens – The Home Of Sir Walter Scott

Go back in time to the 19th Century with a visit to Abbotsford House and Gardens near Melrose in the Scottish Borders. It was the home of Sir Walter Scott, the iconic Scottish writer and poet, and the house located on the banks of the River Tweed has been preserved to show it as it was back when he lived there. 

Disclaimer: I enjoyed a complimentary visit to Abbotsford House and gardens as part of my recent trip to the Scottish Borders with Scotland Starts Here.

Sir Walter Scott died in 1832, and since then his descendants continued to live there, right up until 2004, but the main rooms of the house, the ones so important to Scott were preserved and opened to the public since just a few months after his death. 

They have remained as they were, the decorative panelled entrance hall, complete with suits of armour, his study where he wrote many of his works, the enormous library, the Chinese drawing room and the armoury. A visit to Abbotsford House and Gardens will take you back through history to paint a picture of what life for Scott was like while living here.

Whether you’re interested in history, Walter Scott or his works, a visit to Abbotsford can be enjoyed by anyone of all ages. If you’re not as interested in the house then the gardens and the estate with it’s 120 acres of nature is free to enjoy around the house and along the river. 

The Abbotsford Visitor Centre

When you arrive at Abbotsford, which is clearly signposted and easy to find not far from Melrose, there is a big car park by the visitor centre. Anyone can visit here and enjoy the cafe which has views over the estate, browse the gift shop or see the free Scott exhibition on site that details the story of his life, and has some of the objects and books that once belonged to Scott.

He kept visitor books whenever anyone visited him at his own, and these are also on display showing signatures from visitors you might recognise – Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde.

Abbotsford House visitor centrePIN IT

The visitor centre is open every day from 10am-4pm, and is currently operating a one way system to comply with government guidelines. If you do want to visit inside the house and take the audio tour, then you need to purchase tickets which give you a time slot. You can book your tickets here.

If you don’t want to go in the house, enjoy the estate and gardens instead. You could get a takeaway picnic from the cafe to enjoy by the river, or walk one of the many trails around the estate. Speak to the staff who will be able to provide advice and guides if this is something you’re looking to do. 

Abbotsford House

A short walk from the visitor centre, passed the walled gardens and you will arrive at the house. It’s beautiful even from the outside, with turrets, a Juliet balcony and a grand entranceway. 

There are staff waiting to let you in when the previous person ahead of you has moved on from the first room. Due to Coronavirus the tours are audio, and can be done from your phone. They help you find and load it, and then take you through to the entrance hall where the tour begins.

I’m not usually a fan of audio tours, but it did actually really help understand what you were seeing, and it told a story rather than just throw facts at you. It was much more interesting than I expected.

I’m not going to take you through the full tour and all the details, as that’s what a visit to Abbotsford House is for, but I will share some of the rooms.

The grand entrance hall, with wood panelling, ornate decor, a huge stone fireplace and suits of armour:

Scott’s study, with his giant desk and wrought iron staircase up to reach his bookshelf.

The library, which was really impressive. Thousands of books, dictionaries, manuscripts, and biographies line the walls. Scott was gifted books of all kinds from across the world, including some you might recognise like the Brothers Grimm book of fairytales. 

The library also has views out across the landscape down to the river, showing just how vast the estate is.

The Chinese drawing room, which was decorated by Scott’s wife. It was very ornate and colourful compared to the rest of the rooms, with big mirrors, and a giant harp that his daughter would play.

Chinese drawing room at Abbotsford HousePIN IT

The armoury, which has Scott’s collection of weaponry and armour on display.

Sir Walter Scott Armoury PIN IT

All of these rooms have been preserved and are open to the public. The rest of the house continued to be inhabited by Scott’s ancestors and so was altered through time with their developing needs, tastes and changing fashions of the time. 

An extra wing was added to the house, which included a small chapel which you can also go in and see.

Abbotsford Gardens

Once the tour has finished the gardens are also worth seeing. There are three areas to the gardens by the house, each landscaped differently. I loved the rose bushes under the archway, it just reminded me of Beauty and the Beast. 

Scott developed the estate himself, planting many of the trees that make up the woodland today.  

When I first arrived at Abbotsford and learned I would be doing an audio tour, I wasn’t sure if it would be my cup of tea, but it was one of the biggest surprises of my trip how much I enjoyed it. 

The house is so interesting and the entire estate is beautiful. It’s worth a visit even for the landscape and woodland trails especially on a sunny day, but it would be a shame to miss out on the history lesson that Abbotsford House delivers.

Disclaimer: I enjoyed a complimentary visit to Abbotsford House and gardens as part of my recent trip to the Scottish Borders with Scotland Starts Here.

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Abbotsford House and GardensPIN IT
A Day Out to Abbotsford House and Gardens

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