Literary connections of the Scottish Borders

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  • Looking towards the House and gardens of Abbotsford, Melrose
    Abbotsford House, near Melrose
  • Scott's View with the Eildon Hills in the distance, near Melrose
    Scott's View, near Melrose
  • Looking across moorland to Smailholm Tower
    Smailholm Tower
  • Looking over the A708 road as it skirts St Mary's Loch
    St Mary's Loch

The beguilingly beautiful countryside and colourful history of the Scottish Borders has fired the creative imaginations of some of the world’s foremost writers and poets.

The most important of these literary figures is undoubtedly Sir Walter Scott whose romantic depictions of a bygone Scotland left an indelible imprint on the public’s imagination. Sent to stay at his grandfather’s farm at Sandyknowe as a young boy, Scott was immediately entranced by ballads recounting ancient legends and tales of the dramatic exploits of Jacobite heroes.

Read any of Scott’s stirring novels or epic poems and it’s impossible not to be swept away by his passionate love of storytelling and myth which was ignited by the rich culture of the Scottish Borders.   

Scott’s love of his ancestral home was such that he chose to build his magnificent home Abbotsford just outside the town of Melrose. Following an extensive programme of refurbishment and remedial works, Abbotsford House will once again open its doors to the public on the 4th of July 2013. Visitors will now be able to enjoy free access to a stunning new Visitor Centre which contains a stylish restaurant, gift shop and exhibition that sheds further light on Scott's remarkable life and enduring legacy.

Step inside the house and you'll find objects, books and works of art relating to the great writer on display alongisde old visitors books containing the signatures of famous guests to Abbotsford such as Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens and Ulysses S Grant. Afterwards you can explore its beautiful formal gardens and scenic walks through the grounds.

The Sir Walter Scott Way, a breathtaking walk between Moffat in the west to Cockburnspath on the south east coast, encompasses many of the atmospheric ruins and dramatic landscapes that feature in the writer’s work. Stop by the Tibbie Shiels Inn on the shore of St Mary’s Loch where Scott and his contemporary James Hogg, the author of the gothic masterpiece The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, would spend many an evening discussing local folklore.

Known as the ‘Ettrick Shepherd’, Hogg was the self-taught son of a Borders farmer who helped Scott compile his collection of Borders ballads. Now regarded as one of the nation’s most important literary figures, his sinister works have influenced generations of Scottish writers ranging from Robert Louis Stevenson to Irvine Welsh.

Another Borders native who incorporated his love of the region into his books was John Buchan. Best remembered for his fast-paced thrillers such as The Thirty-Nine Steps which later became a popular Hitchcock film, the John Buchan Way which goes through the Tweed Valley takes in the writer’s favorite beauty spots such as the summit of Cademuir Hill.