Sir Walter Scott's Connections
Sir Walter Scott 1771 - 1832
Born in Edinburgh he was a younger son of Walter and Anne Scott,
his father being a solicitor and Writer to the Signet. The very early
years of his childhood were spent in the Borders at Sandyford
(Smailholm) and Kelso before returning to Edinburgh. Walter Scott was
educated at Edinburgh High School and Edinburgh University and became a Advocate.
He married Margaret Charpentier in 1797 and they had four children.
In 1799 Walter Scott became Sheriff- depute of Selkirkshire and
shortly after that he and his family moved to the Borders area, first
to Ashiestiel then in 1812 to Cartleyhole farmhouse. This land was
renamed Abbotsford and the house that now exists was built in stages
and ultimately replaced the earlier house.
Sir Walter Scott was created a Baronet in 1820 by King George IV. On
his death in 1832 he was buried beside his wife at Dryburgh Abbey.
Sir Walter Scott had connections with the border area through his
ancestors, his early childhood and the many times he would ride
through the Ettrick, Yarrow, Teviot and Tweed valleys. This love of the
Scottish Borders was enhanced when he came to live in the area in 1804.
It is not surprising therefore that there are few if any parts of the
Way that do not have a close connection with Sir Walter Scott.
Some of these connections are detailed below:
Moffat - The Black Bull Inn
It is reputed that Sir Walter Scott had visited this Inn. If this is
so he would be one of several well-known author/poets to have
frequented this establishment. Undoubtedly the strongest literary
connection with the Inn is with Robert Burns who penned a verse on the window pane.
James Hogg was also thought to frequent the inn.
Close at hand is the Grey Mare's Tail, this has fictional and non
fictional connections with Sir Walter. The Waterfall and the Giant's
Grave at its foot are mentioned in "Marmion". In true life he and
his horse were forced to stop in the area due to a thick fog.
Also near Moffat is the Devil's Beef Tub, an area used by the
Border Reivers to hide cattle and mentioned in the novel Redgauntlet.
This long valley has numerous border towers. Many of them are
mentioned in the "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border".
Tibbie Shiels Inn
This was the meeting point of Sir Walter and James Hogg, and many
a night would have been spent in this small inn talking over their poems and ballads.
St Mary's Loch
This crystal clear loch is referred to in Sir Walter Scott's
Oft in my mind such thoughts awake
By lone St Mary's silent lake
Thou know'st it well nor fen nor sedge
Pollute the pure lake's crystal edge.
In addition St Mary's Chapel is mentioned in "Marmion".
Douglas Burn to north of St Mary's Loch
In this area and to the north in Peebleshire is the Manor Water.
This was the area in which much of the Black Dwarf novel was set.
This was a strong peel tower and it was the birthplace in 1550 of
Mary Scott, the "Flower of Yarrow" and wife of Watt Scott of Harden,
an ancestor of Sir Walter Scott.
The Waverley Novel mentions the Traquair House gates flanked by
two stone Bears. It was also Sir Walter Scott who perpetuated the story
that the gates would not be re-opened until a Stewart was returned to
The Walter Scott connection is through the novel "St Ronan's Well".
Innerleithen was first noted as a spa, the waters coming from the
Dow Well. This was said to have similar water to that found in Harrogate.
The spa's popularity increased as a result of Sir Walter Scott's novel
, "St Ronan's Well" and the pump house is now known by this name.
Newark Castle - Yarrow Valley
Apart from a very bloody history the castle is also associated with
Sir Walter Scott through the poetry of The Lay of the Last Minstrel.
It relates to the Minstrel singing to the sorrowing Duchess at Newark
Clovenfords, Caddenfoot & Ashiestiel
Clovenfords Inn was the stopping-off point for Sir Walter Scott
between Selkirk and Lasswade, his original home outside Edinburgh,
prior to his moving to Ashiestiel. Today a statue of Sir Walter
Scott stands in the forecourt of the hotel.
Close to Clovenfords and beside the Tweed there is the small
church of Caddonfoot with a memorial window to Sir Walter Scott.
Close by on the Tweed is Ashiestiel, a property that he rented in
1804 to enable him to be closer to his work as Sheriff-Depute of
Selkirkshire. It was in 1812 that he left Ashiestiel for "Abbotsford".
This area was know as Newharthaugh in 1811 when Sir Walter Scott
bought the land and the little farmhouse of Cartleyhole. After moving
in 1812 there was progressive development of the farmhouse and then
its total replacement in 1822 by the present day main block of
Abbotsford. The name however had changed to Abbotsford much earlier and
recalls the fact that in past times the monks of Melrose used to ford
the Tweed at a point adjacent to the property.
At Abbotsford there is plenty to see, both in the house and the surrounding gardens. Throughout the tourism season there are guided tours of the house, access to the formal gardens and to the larger woods and riverside terrace and fields
In the garden are some statues, one being of Edie Ochiltree from the "Antiquary". Also within the gardens you are sure to hear if not see the Peacocks. At the end there is also a tearoom offering the visitor and walker refreshments before heading off on the next leg of the journey.
Melrose and Darnick
The Abbey has literary and practical connections with Sir Walter
Scott. The east presbytery inspired him to pen as part of the Lay of
the Last Minstrel
"The moon on the east oriel shone
Through slender shafts of stately stone,
By foliaged tracery combined;
Thou wouldst have thought some fairy's hand
Twist poplars straight the osier wand,
In many a freakish knot had twined;
Then framed a spell when the work was done
And changed the willow wreaths to stone."
On a practical level Sir Walter acted as building superintendent for
much of the later restoration work of the Abbey.
Close by is Darnick with Darnick Tower. Sir Walter Scott had wanted
to buy this tower prior to acquiring Abbotsford and because of his
known intention he was nicknamed the "Duke of Darnick".
In the novel "The Monastery" Sir Walter situated elements in the
Allan Valley and in the Border Tower then known as Hillslap. The
fictional name for the Tower was Glendearg. Today this tower, not more
than a few miles from Galashiels on the road to Lauder, is know by its
In his youth, as a result of ill-health, Walter Scott was sent to stay at his grandfather's farm Sandyknowe next to
Smailholm Tower. This had an important impact on him and in the ballads
The Eve of St John and Marmion. One of the references to the Border Tower is:
These crags, that mountain tower,
Which charmed my fancy's wakening hour.....
Methought grim features, seamed with scars,
Glared through the window's rusty bars
The Lammermuir Hills are a series of low rolling hills extending
from the Gala Water to the Berwickshire coast. They have been described
as wild and cheerless and containing bleak moors. Perhaps a somewhat
harsh description but one that suits the setting for Sir Walter Scott's
novel, "The Bride of Lammermoor".
The ruined castle is on the cliff face between Cockburnspath and
St Abb's Head. This was known as Wolf's Crag in the novel "The Bride