In Scott’s Footsteps


Mr RR and I found ourselves with an unexpectedly free day so decided to take stroll in the footsteps of Sir Walter Scott who loved this area so much that he managed to get a viewpoint named after himself!  And a splendid view it is too don’t you think?


This walk comes from a Cicerone Walker’s Guide to The Border Country by Alan Hall.  It wasn’t until we’d parked at the start though, that we noticed that this is a 4.5 mile linear walk, which would have made it a bit long for us by the time we’d walked 4.5 miles back again so we cut it short just after Dryburgh Abbey.




Scott’s View to Dryburgh Abbey and back again (5.25 miles)

We pull into the car park at Scott’s View and leap out of the car to take in the astonishing views.  It really is breathtaking up here:DSCN2883.JPG

The triple peaks of the Eildon Hills – the remains of a chain of volcanic activity that stretched across The Borders – these hills are formed of the hard rock, whinstone, which was left behind when the softer rocks surrounding them were eroded by glaciers and rivers. This almost indestructible rock is used to build many of the walls around here – and was used to build the Ricketyramblers house as well!

We’re high up above the tree line and look down on a lush green river valley as the birds circle before us – a buzzard is being seen off by crows. Down below winds the Tweed and we can catch glimpses of it between the trees.  It is said that Sir Walter Scott stopped here often to stare at the panoramic views and when he was being taken to his burial site at Dryburgh Abbey, the horses drawing the hearse stopped at this very point as they had done so often in the past.

Apparently the steep hillsides have provided protection for the trees, as they are difficult to cut down on these slopes so much of the woodland has been undisturbed since the last Ice Age.

We tear ourselves away from the view and head south through the hamlet of Bemersyde before turning into a small copse and along a dirt track where we suddenly find ourselves peering upwards at the most ginormous statue of William Wallace:

32 feet high and mounted on a plinth of red sandstone this statue was erected in 1814 by the 11th Earl of Buchan. William Wallace was of course, one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence defeating the English in 1297 at the Battle of Stirling Bridge

David Stuart Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan, was an eccentric man fascinated by, and passionate about both Scottish history and Greek mythology.  Sir Walter Scott wrote of him as a man whose ‘immense vanity obscured, or rather eclipsed, very considerable talents’.

We turn left onto a steep-sided tree lined track which will lead us sharply downhill to the village of Dryburgh.  Mr RR pauses to remind me – cruelly I think – that we have to come back up this way later!

Following the road through the village we find ourselves at the entrance to ‘the sorely mutilated remains’ of Dryburgh Abbey.  In our guide, Mr Hall goes on to describe the scene  before us: “To the west of the abbey an hotel, to the north a stud farm, and in the summer months an invasion of motorised travellers”!

Well, today we’re lucky.  It’s barely springtime here and very few cars stand in the Abbey car park.  We enter through the little shop and buy hot chocolate which we take outside where we can sit on a bench and enjoy the calm and silent grounds.  The Abbey sits in a peaceful riverside location and we sit surrounded by ancient trees many planted during the 1700s.  One, the Dryburgh Yew is considered to be one of the most important trees in Scotland.

We’re sitting next to an Atlas Cedar, which is shedding it’s cones – they resemble wasp’s nests on the tree, but open out once fallen and look just like roses:



Dryburgh is considered to be the most beautiful and most haunting of all the Border abbeys.  It’s difficult to describe the atmosphere here as we wander around but it’s certainly very different to Melrose Abbey which we visited only yesterday.  It’s very tranquil with a strong feeling of the history of the place.  As with all the abbeys here, Dryburgh suffered devastation during attacks by English armies beginning in 1322.  The final blow came in 1544 and the abbey never recovered although it has been enjoyed at various times as a private home, a romantic ruin and a beautiful garden.  It is the burial place of that eccentric David Erskine, Sir Walter Scott himself and Field Marshal Earl Haig.

The South Gable – the only remaining part of the South Transept which would have mirrored the North Transept – the magnificent window is composed of five lancets which are stepped at the base in order to accommodate the roof of what would have been the dormitory on the outside.
The North Transept – the best-preserved part of the church – the setting for the grave of Sir Walter Scott.
The rose window on the west gable of the south range which housed the abbey’s refractory or dining room.
A book cupboard – see the grooves which held the shelves?  Every year at Lent the canons (there were no monks here ) were given a book which they spent the next year reading and meditating over.
View of the Abbey through the gatehouse which was added in the 1500s.
An amazing amount of detail was carved into the stonework – this is part of the Processional Door which links the church and the cloister.
The cloister – the only place that the canons were allowed to speak – and then only if they had something to say to everyone – no chatting amongst themselves!

Dryburgh was the first Premonstratensian abbey in Scotland. Also known as ‘white canons’ due to their undyed habits – the Premonstratensians followed the rule of St Augustine but with a focus on personal hardship and austerity.  The canons were priests who lived together in community offering perpetual rounds of prayers on behalf of those who chose to live in the outside world.  They spent most of the time in church to achieve this and were woken at 1am by the dormitory bell to start their day in prayer.  This was a small community and there may have never been more than 20 canons resident at any one time.

I could go on for a long time about the architecture and the history of this place – it was fascinating and we spent a long time wandering amongst the ruins and the graves imagining the lives of the canons and the lay people who lived here.

We walk on around the grounds, through the gatehouse towards a curious obelisk depicting James I and James II:

Obelisk erected in 1794 by that eccentric 11th Earl of Buchan –  but carved with the figures of the Kings  were added later.

We follow the water channel towards the river:

Water Channel, originally fed from the River Tweed but now lined with daffodils and snowdrops.  

and stop to gaze at the Tweed which would have provided the canons with some of their food.  They caught trout and eels here and netted duck and goo sander (the eating of animals with four legs was not allowed).


Today we spot mallards, moorhens and oyster catchers before turning back to leave the abbey grounds and walk a little further along the Tweed to see the ‘Muses of Nature’ – a modern sculpture housed in a columned rotunda which was built by that busy but eccentric 11th Earl of Buchan.

The Muses of Nature

We cross over the chain footbridge just to see more of the river

River Tweed from the chain bridge

and then its time to turn back and follow the same route – uphill this time – back to Scott’s  stunning Viewpoint.


Thanks for reading….RRx



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