Whether you’ve read Waverley, or even heard of it, this historical novel has probably affected the way you think about Scotland in one way or another. Many critics have cited it as being the main cultural influence in creating long established and widely perceived views of Scotland’s wild and romantic side.
As a bit of a bookworm and former student of English literature, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never read a page of prose or poetry by Sir Walter Scott; not Waverley nor his other romantic novels Rob Roy and Ivanhoe or poems which include Lady of the Lake. But that’s all about to change.
2014 will mark 200 years since Waverley was published and according to historian Eleanor Harris, it’s time to dust off your copy of this nineteenth century international bestseller (or perhaps, more conveniently, download to your Kindle) and add it to your list of ‘must reads’ for this year.
And to really meet the requirements of the modern day reader, she’s even bringing this Victorian prose into the 21st century by providing it with a social media campaign, encouraging Scott enthusiasts, both old and new, to tweet about the novel using the hashtag #waverley200 and join this ‘book group’ on Twitter.
Many of sites that Sir Walter Scott knew or were inspired by are easily accessible so put aside some time for a visit. Here are some top places you can go to and things to see on your journey into the world of Sir Walter Scott.
Prestonpans Tapestry, Prestonpans, East Lothian and other locations across Scotland
The Battle of Prestonpans, the first major battle in the Jacobite Rising of 1745, is one of the historical settings of Waverley. The intricate Prestonpans Tapestry, which stretches over 100 metres, tells the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s journey from France to victory at the East Lothian village and is an exquisite community project that brings the battle to life. On completion in 2010, it went on tour around the Highlands, and each year after it has been exhibited around the country and beyond. It’s well worth checking out the touring schedule to discover where you can see it in 2014.
You can also see the Battle of Prestonpans brought to life in September each year at a staged re-enactment. Visit and take in the sights and sounds of the battlefield and smell the gunpowder as you watch Sir John Cope’s redcoats take on Bonnie Prince Charlie’s loyal men in brutal and bloody 18th century warfare.
Traquair House, near Peebles, Scottish Borders
Some believe that the gardens and manor houses fictional village Tully-Veolan, one of the settings in Waverley, were inspired by Traquair House, Scotland’s oldest inhabited home, and its grounds. Although Traquair was in a state of decline during Scott’s time, he may have encountered the house during his childhood and was reputedly great friends with owner Lady Louisa Stuart upon settling at Abbotsford.
Loch Katrine, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
Perhaps most famously known for being the inspiration for Scott’s poem Lady of the Lake, Loch Katrine is a 13 km expanse of fresh water at the heart of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. Discover this beauty spot while cruising the loch on the historic steamship named after the author, the SS Sir Walter Scott. Close by, you can also follow the long distance trail, the Rob Roy Way, and discover the lands once walked by notorious outlaw Rob Roy Macgregor, protagonist of another of Scott’s works, Rob Roy.
The Writers’ Museum, Edinburgh
You’ll find this trove of literary treasures housed just off the historic Royal Mile in Lady Stair’s Close. The museum is a one-stop shop for discovering more about Scott and you can see a reconstruction of his dining room from his North Castle Street home as well as the actual printing press upon which his Waverley novels were produced.
Make a day of it and ascend up the tight stone staircases of the Scott Monument. You’ll be awarded with great 360 degree views which take in Princes Street Gardens, the castle and Edinburgh’s busy shopping thoroughfares.
Abbotsford House, near Melrose, Scottish Borders
This beloved home of Sir Walter Scott is a must-see for anyone wanting to get to the essence of Scott. After years of restoration, the house officially re-opened to visitors last year. The peaceful grounds are probably the most perfect place to sit and read your copy of Waverley. Read more about Abbotsford.
Want to know more? Discover more about Scotland’s literary greats or why not find a literary tour. You can join the conversation about Waverley using #waverley200 or tell us about your Scott-inspired discoveries with #brilliantmoments.