SIR Walter Scott called it a “conundrum castle” while others described it as his “greatest historical novel”.
• Queen to reopen Abbotsford next month after multi-million pound restoration
• Revamped property in Scottish Borders to reopen to public on July 4
Abbotsford House, the author’s Borders mansion which he based on a series of classic Scottish properties, is to be reopened by the Queen next week after a £12 million refurbishment.
The house, on the southern bank of the River Tweed, has been transformed into a world-class tourist attraction after a successful fundraising exercise and has been fitted out with an education suite and self-catering accommodation.
Yesterday, the media was given the first glimpse inside Abbotsford House since the work was completed.
The Queen will next Wednesday follow in the footsteps of Queen Victoria, who regarded Scott as her favourite poet and visited the property in 1867. It will then open to the public the following day.
The stately home, near Melrose, had faced an uncertain future after the death in 2004 of Scott’s last descendant to live in the house, Dame Jean Maxwell Scott.
The Abbotsford Trust, a charitable body, was set up in 2007 and raised the money for the restoration. A visitor centre containing an exhibition charting Scott’s life and legacy has attracted more than 18,000 visitors since it opened in August last year. Many objects Scott collected will go on display again. These include his library of more than 9,000 volumes, Rob Roy’s broadsword, dirk, dagger and gun, and a blotter owned by Napoleon with a lock of his hair.
Scott was the world’s first best-selling novelist and is credited with creating the historical novel. His works brought Scotland to the attention of the world for the first time and were translated into more than 30 languages. He is also credited with influencing the work of Pushkin, Tolstoy, George Eliot and Charles Dickens.
In addition to his literary works, Scott was responsible for the transformation of tartan into Scotland’s national dress through the visit of King George IV to Edinburgh in 1822, an event he suggested and stage-managed.
He spent years completing Abbotsford, whose main entrance is based on Linlithgow Palace and whose library ceiling is a copy of that at Roslin Chapel. The reopening will see the public allowed into two more rooms – Scott’s original study and his Religious Corridor which was used by the writer and his family before they went to bed.
Yesterday, Jason Dyer, chief executive of the Abbotsford Trust, said: “When the trust first took over Abbotsford, visitor numbers were dwindling and the house was in urgent need of repair. Sir Walter Scott was a global superstar in his time and even today, his influence is far-reaching.
“We are confident that Abbotsford will now resume its role as one of the world’s foremost literary attractions, bringing visitors from home and abroad to the Scottish Borders, the place that Scott loved and that inspired much of his work.”
The campaign was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Scottish Government, Historic Scotland, Scottish Borders Council and Scottish Enterprise, as well as a number of private individuals and charitable trusts.
An additional £2.5m is still required to create an endowment to secure the attraction’s future running costs.