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Abbotsford House on 25,000 visits since revamp

Abbotsford House, Sir Walter Scott's former residence. Picture: Stuart Cobley

Abbotsford House, Sir Walter Scott's former residence. Picture: Stuart Cobley

  • by PAUL WARD
 

ALMOST 25,000 people have visited writer Sir Walter Scott’s former home since its multimillion-pound restoration.

Abbotsford House in Melrose, in the Borders, was reopened by the Queen in July following a £12 million, two-year refurbishment project.

Visitor numbers are double the forecast of the Abbotsford Trust for the period, and adds to the 21,000 people who visited the attraction’s gardens and visitor centre before the historic house reopened.

The trust hopes that numbers will rise to around 75,000 by the end of the year, almost matching the 80,000 who visited at the peak of the house’s popularity in the 1970s.

Scott, who wrote Rob Roy and Ivanhoe, is heralded as the world’s first best-selling novelist and creator of the historical novel. His home in Melrose was opened to visitors in 1833, five months after he died in the dining room.

Structural repairs have been made to crumbling stonework and around 4,500 objects from the house have been cleaned and catalogued.

Included in Scott’s vast collection of historical artefacts are Rob Roy’s broadsword, dirk, sporran and gun; a blotter owned by Napoleon, which contains a lock of his hair; and a silver urn gifted to Scott by Lord Byron.

Two rooms previously not on public display have been added to the tour: Scott’s original study which will host temporary exhibitions, and the religious corridor which features casts of stones from old ecclesiastical buildings.

So far this year 60% of visitors have been from the UK, 30% from elsewhere in Europe, 5% from the US and 5% from the rest of the world.

Jason Dyer, chief executive of the trust, said: “Scott left a huge global cultural and literary legacy and we’re delighted that the newly transformed Abbotsford is rekindling an interest in this great man.

“While we have always believed in the potential of Abbotsford and Sir Walter Scott to attract visitors to the region, these visitor figures have surpassed even our expectations and it’s heartening to see people from so many different countries, including the emerging markets of India and China, being drawn to this special place.

“We’re extremely pleased that this new chapter in Abbotsford’s life has been so warmly welcomed, bringing new people to enjoy not just Abbotsford but, we hope, other towns and attractions in the local area too.”

The reopening came after a lengthy campaign to save the property and its collections following the death of Dame Jean Maxwell-Scott, the last of the writer’s descendants to live in the house.

Major funders to restore the property are Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and Borders Council, as well as private individuals.

Fundraising is continuing, with £2.5 million still required for the house’s running costs. Donations are being matched pound for pound by Heritage Lottery Fund, the trust said.

 

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