Day Thirteen - Scottish Borders - Dryburgh Abbey, Abbotsford (Sir Walter Scott) & Melrose Abbey  

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It was nice being the only guests for two weekend nights at Dryburgh Arms. We tended to see the same few Scottish women (in their 30s) who ran the Pub & Hotel, more than once, and they were friendly. 

The old building had a lot of character. Our rooms were small, as were the bathrooms, but there were high ceilings, and it was comfortable overall.   

Having reserved for a Friday & Saturday night, I didn't know what to expect as to ambient noise. But it's a modest sized Pub, with room for only 6 or 7 people standing & four more at a table, plus a beer garden outside for smokers. 

On both weekend nights (with our window open) some voices could be heard coming from below, but they were low key & faded out by 10 pm, as did all traffic sounds. Turns out St. Boswell's is a sleepy little village, in the Eidon Hills, and the Pub downstairs is the only business in town.


After breakfast we headed out on foot, following a local trail downhill, which became very muddy. Eventually we found & crossed the Swing Bridge over River Tweed, and on the north side walked to the historic Dryburgh Abbey ruins. 

Sir Walter Scott's family are buried here, as well as other persons of interest. 

note - you can enlarge any part of a picture by left-clicking in and then out again.

River Tweed in Borders, see note same area w/walking trails, see note

note: on both of these maps, Newtown/St. Boswell's & Dryburgh Abbey are on the lower right, with Melrose Abbey in the center, and Walter Scott's Abbottsford on the left, all of them along the River Tweed.

River Tweed the swing bridge Abbey Hotel approaching the hotel
    Dryburgh Abbey ruins  the west door  
north Transept, where Scott's family is buried the Scott family had a connection to the Abbey land Sir Walter Scott Scott family grave
  walking around the Abbey south Transept east facing windows 
where the refectory used to be   ducks heading south in fall    
also buried at the north Transept WWI Field Marshal Earl Haig see note
Eidon Hills & River Tweed walking back to St. Boswell's  in the Eidon Hills red sandstone Dryburgh Arms Pub w/ Rooms

note: On the side of the base stone it reads: "Cross of Sacrifice to the dead of Lord Haig's Armies in France and Flanders". 

Dryburgh Abbey, considered to be the most beautiful of the four Borders Abbeys, was built in the 1100s but English armies partially wrecked it in 1322 and again in 1544. 

"It is said than in 1322, while retreating south to England, following their unsuccessful attack on Edinburgh, Edward II's army took exception to the sound of Dryburgh Abbey's bells being rung to celebrate the Scottish victory.  In frustrated revenge, the English troops burned Dryburgh Abbey and then did the same to nearby Melrose Abbey." This is from Borders Tales and Trails, 2018, Torchflame Books, by Kenneth & Norman Turnbull.   


Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832) intended that his house become a museum, once his family had passed it down for a few generations. In his lifetime, he was an extraordinary collector of all things Scottish.    

When we first arrived at the Visitor Center, we went to the second floor cafe. After our food stop I took the 3rd photo below of the Baronial home and realized that the afternoon sun was sinking fast, so I hurried to the walled garden for potential photos.    

view from cafe walled garden sweet peas in the fall
main entrance, see the last photo French soldier's pierced armor, see note 1 Scott wrote all of his books in this library >
another library another ceiling fall colors & the River Tweed
drawing room  see note 2 Scott's collectibles
view from the River Gatehouse at Linlithgow Palace, see note 3

note 1 - a Docent said that in June 1815, six weeks after defeating Napoleon at Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington gave Walter Scott (and other UK gentleman) a personal tour of the battlefield, and Scott returned home with this polished French soldier's (damaged) armor frontispiece, which he placed on display at the main entrance to his home, where it still is.       

note 2 - this hand-painted Chinese wallpaper was a gift from a cousin of Walter Scott, who worked for the East India company, which almost 200 years later is still attractive. 

note 3 - the main entrance to Abbotsford is an architectural reference to the Gatehouse at Linlithgow Palace (which we'll see tomorrow). 

Walter Scott grew up in New Town, Edinburgh and like his father earned a Law Degree from the prestigious U. of E.  Through competence or family connection, Walter Scott later became the acting Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire, an office he held for 30 years, for some of those years also holding the lucrative position of Principal Clerk to the Court of Session, Scotland's highest Civil Court, which met twice a year for a few months.  

In his private life, he was the most famous Author of his time, with his best-seller novels Ivanhoe & Lady of the Lake, and the Waverly series (29 books in all) appealing to readers across Europe, and America, and of course throughout Scotland.  Scott recreated & romanticized the Scottish Highlands, making them a place where heroes lead lives as noble warriors. 

Walter Scott had a fantastic imagination, and was said to be able to write for hours & hours, often w/o punctuation, leaving that to his editors. He essentially created the Historical Novel, a new literary genre.  He was a literary genius, but his books are impossible to read today.  (My wife and I both tried before the trip.)

Substantial income from his huge outpouring of poems, books, short stories, and other writings enabled Scott (by the 1820s) to expand the Abbottsford property from 110 to 1,400 acres, and, he brought in an architect & builder to increase the size of the rooms at Abbottsford, which he often referred to as "Conundrum Castle".   


We arrived in Melrose too late to walk inside the Abbey, but on the surrounding streets, we found some good views.      

first look at the Abbey  climbing a wall to get a photo
classic Georgian style house
Eidon Hills to the south Rich in the garden north of the Abbey... some other  ruin 
public warning  signs don't fall into a  medieval culvert St. Mary's Abbey, Melrose
window within a window post-sunset shot

As mentioned, Melrose Abbey was attacked & burned by Edward II's army, in 1322.  Scottish King Robert Bruce helped the monks rebuild the Abbey, and, before he died, in 1329, he asked his friend Sir James Douglas to carry his heart on a Crusade to the Holy Land, and afterwards to bury his heart at Melrose Abbey, under the altar, which Sir Douglas did.

Although the Abbey began to fall into ruin in the 1600s, it continued to be used as a Parish church until 1810.  (Info here is from Borders Tales and Trails as cited above.)

After our Abbey visit we headed back to Tweedbank for dinner at Herges on the Loch, a reservation made about a year ago, but at 5:30 pm our we could have just walked in, they were so uncrowded, even on a Saturday night. Locals are said to come out starting around 7 pm. 

It was a lazy Saturday night and due to a shift change it took us some time to be served, but eventually we were able to toast, once again, to our good fortune on this trip. Then we had a nice dinner, at sunset, above a small loch, with swans. 

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