Abbotsford, the Scottish Borders home of one of Scotland’s greatest writers, Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) – who penned works including Waverley, Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, will enter a new era this week when it opens to the public following a £12 million transformation
Her Majesty The Queen will officially re-open the historic house today (Wednesday 3 July), 22 months after it closed to the public and 180 years after it first opened to visitors five months after Scott’s death. The Queen will be welcomed by staff and trustees of The Abbotsford Trust, the charitable organisation that runs the property, as well as around 500 guests including representatives of the Trust’s funding partners, descendants of Scott from the UK and overseas, as well as other supporters from across the Scottish Borders and beyond.
Her Majesty will be given a tour of the house where she will see the collections that inspired many of Scott’s works and helped to make him one of the most celebrated writers of his generation. The Queen will sign the Visitors’ Book and will also view the attraction’s new Visitor Centre where she will unveil a plaque commemorating the occasion.
The reopening of Abbotsford follows a five-year campaign to save the historic property and its important collections following the death of Dame Jean Maxwell Scott, the last of Scott’s descendants to live in the house. When Dame Jean died in 2004, Abbotsford’s stonework was crumbling, visitor numbers were dwindling and restoration and refurbishment work was vitally needed. The Abbotsford Trust has since raised over £12 million to transform Abbotsford into a world-class visitor attraction.
In the historic rooms that will be on show to the public, over 4,500 objects within Scott’s collections have been returned to the house after months of cataloguing, cleaning and, in some cases, repair and are now displayed as they would have been in Scott’s day. Two new rooms have been added to the public tour and modern interpretation techniques have been used to appeal to a new generation of visitors. A few yards from the historic house, a modern Visitor Centre now stands, featuring an exhibition showcasing the author’s life, work and global legacy.
The work has been funded by grants and donations from private and public sources. Major funders include the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Scottish Government and Historic Scotland, Scottish Borders Council and Scottish Enterprise, as well as a number of private individuals and charitable trusts.
Lord Sanderson, Chairman, The Abbotsford Trust said;
“This is a very proud and exciting day for The Abbotsford Trust and we would like to thank all our funding partners, our staff and the local community. With their help, we have been able to create a world-class attraction that will be a jewel in the crown of Scotland’s tourist industry and attract visitors from across the globe. We are honoured that Her Majesty The Queen is visiting today to help us celebrate the legacy of one of Scotland’s most important sons.”
Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in Scotland, said;
“The transformed Abbotsford House is testament to arguably the most influential Scot that has ever lived. Abbotsford was Sir Walter Scott’s creation – the landscape, the architecture, the interiors remain as he left it. It can now take its proper place on the world’s stage as the focus for the understanding and celebration of this great Scot. The Heritage Lottery Fund is very proud to be part of a project which protects the legacy of Sir Walter Scott while bringing tourists from across the world to the region to enjoy a wonderful visitor attraction.”
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said:
“Abbotsford has huge cultural significance for Scotland so I am delighted to see it restored for visitors to enjoy. Sir Walter Scott leaves behind a rich legacy, which we should continue to celebrate, and the restoration of Abbotsford is one fitting way to do so. That so many dedicated people fought to save the property is testament to that enduring legacy, and following a lot of hard work, it has been transformed into an outstanding attraction which is sure to be enjoyed by visitors from Scotland and beyond. The Scottish Government contributed £1.85 million towards this worthwhile project and I am pleased that we have been able to play a role in safeguarding the future of this historic building.”
David Parker, Leader of Scottish Borders Council, said:
“The reopening of Abbotsford House along with the new visitor centre is a tremendous boost for the Scottish Borders. The Abbotsford Trustees have created a world-class tourist and heritage facility and I am overjoyed that the hard work and commitment of the trustees, and all of those who have worked so hard on this project, has come to fruition in such a fantastic way. With the arrival of the Borders Railway in 2015 we will be able to ensure that Abbotsford is open to the world.”
Scottish Enterprise executive director, Jim McFarlane, said:
“Abbotsford is a truly iconic cultural asset for Scotland’s tourism sector. Supporting tourism businesses like Abbotsford, to develop new, quality visitor experiences is a priority for us. These experiences and assets are fundamental to Scotland’s reputation as a world-class visitor destination, and form the basis for sustainable economic growth from tourism. I wish the Trust every success for the future.”
Abbotsford will open to the public at 9am on Thursday 4 July.
Fundraising for Abbotsford remains ongoing as an additional £2.5 million is still required to create an endowment to secure the attraction’s future running costs. Donations made are being matched pound for pound by the Heritage Lottery Fund under its Catalyst Endowment Programme.