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

return to 2019 UK trip index

return to mdimage site index

It was very nice being the only guests for two nights at the historic Dryburgh Arms Pub with Rooms, in the tiny town of St. Boswell's.  We tended to see the same few Scottish women (in their 30s) who ran the Pub and Hotel, more than once, and they were friendly. The old building had a lot of character and our rooms were small, with high ceilings, and very comfortable overall.   

The Pub downstairs is the only business in town.  Having reserved there 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.  There's a beer garden outside for smokers.  As for noise, on both weekend nights (with our window open) some voices could be heard coming from the beer garden, but the general noise level was low & faded away around 10 pm, as did all traffic sounds. Turns out St. Boswell's is a sleepy little village.    


After another great breakfast, we headed out on foot, following a local trail downhill, which was very muddy.  Eventually we crossed the Swing Bridge over the River Tweed, and on the north side was the walk to the Dryburgh Abbey ruins, where Sir Walter Scott's family is buried, 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

note - in this map St. Boswell's & Dryburgh Abbey are on the right, Melrose Abbey is in the center, and Walter Scott's Abbottsford is at the left, all on the River Tweed.

River Tweed the swing bridge Abbey Hotel L & L approaching the hotel
    Dryburgh Abbey ruins from the hotel  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 wonders
where the refectory used to be   ducks heading south    
also buried at the north Transept WWI Field Marshal Earl Haig see note 1
Eidon Hills & River Tweed walking back to St. Boswell's  in the Eidon Hills, see note 2 red sandstone Dryburgh Arms Pub with Rooms

note 1 - On one side of the base stone it reads:  "Cross of Sacrifice to the dead of Lord Haig's Armies in France and Flanders". 

note 2 - The Eidon Hills consist of just three small peaks, which lie between the towns of St. Boswell's and Melrose, where we'll be later today.  The OS map shows a good 8 mile round trip walk from St. Boswell's, up through the saddle and then downhill to Melrose & the Abbey.  The return route is a foot path along the River Tweed.  Were you to add another few miles, the same walk would include a visit to Abbotsford.  

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.' (from Borders Tales and Trails, 2018, Torchflame Books, by Kenneth & Norman Turnbull)   


Sir Walter Scott had every intention of handing off his home as a public museum, once his family had passed it down for a few generations.  In his lifetime, he had become an extraordinary collector of all things Scottish.    

When we first arrived we went to the second floor cafe.  After coffee I took the 2nd photo below of the Baronial home and realized that the afternoon sun was sinking fast, so I hurried to get photos of the walled garden.     

view from cafe walled garden sweet peas in the fall
main entrance 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 below Scott's collectibles
there's one of everything view from the River

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

note 2 - this hand-painted Chinese wallpaper was acquired by a cousin who worked for the East India company.  

Walter Scott grew up in New Town, Edinburgh and like his father he earned a law degree from the prestigious U of E.  Walter Scott later became the acting Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire, for almost 30 years.  During that time, he also held a lucrative position as Principal Clerk to the Court of Session, Scotland's highest court, which met twice a year for a few months.

And yes, he was a famous the early 1800s, Sir Walter Scott was the most well-read novelist of his time, with Ivanhoe and Lady of the Lake and the entire Waverly series (29 books total) appealing to readers all over Europe.  To some extend Scott recreated and romanticized the Scottish Highlands, making them a place where heroes led lives as noble warriors.

Substantial income from a 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, to expand the rooms at Abbottsford, which he sometimes referred to as "Conundrum Castle", to their current proportions.   


We arrived in Melrose too late to pay a fee and take a walk inside the Abbey, but by walking on the surrounding streets, some good views were found.      

mostly walls at street level climbing a wall to get a photo
classic Georgian style house
Eidon Hills to the south Rich in the garden north of the Abbey another ruin to the north
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 the Bruce helped the monks rebuild the Abbey, and, before he died, in 1329, Robert the Bruce 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, which he did, under the altar.

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 a 5:30 pm dinner at Herges on the Loch, a reservation made about a year ago.  But at that hour we could have just walked in, they were so uncrowded, even on a Saturday night. 

We toasted once again to our good fortune on this trip.      

return to 2019 UK trip index

return to mdimage site index