Honoring Our Scottish Heritage: Day Six

Written by: Barbara Carpenter, Recording Secretary General
October 20, 2014

What a finale!

Friday morning, our last day in Scotland, we headed south to the Scottish Borders to visit Abbotsford, home of Sir Walter Scott, on the banks of the river Tweed.  Scott, a prolific nineteenth century author, playwright, poet, antiquarian, and collector, was also a lawyer by training and served as Clerk of Court of Session in Edinburgh and Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire.

Best known for his literary accomplishments, Scott’s first novel, Waverley, was published in 1814 and instantly became a best seller.  Among his other popular novels were Ivanhoe and The Lady of the Lake. Have you ever wondered about the common phrases “caught red-handed”, “cold shoulder”, “blood is thicker than water”, “lock, stock, and barrel”, “tongue in cheek”, or “a wide berth” to name a few?  Look to Sir Walter Scott!

As a youngster, Walter Scott lived for a time with grandparents in the Scottish Borders.  During this time he developed a love for this part of Scotland, returning later to build Abbotsford.  Completed in 1824, Abbotsford was designed in the Scottish Baronial style by architects William Atkinson and William Burn and was the first home in Scotland to be lit by gas.

An avid collector, the house was full of Scott’s collection of over 9,000 books, antiquities and weapons from around the globe, suits of armor, animal skulls including a walrus, and many foreign curios sent to him from around the world. 

From the moment we set foot in the house, his passion for collecting was evident.  Through the Entrance Hall, full of heraldic shields, relics of Waterloo, keys to the Edinburgh prison, fifteenth and sixteenth century armor, antlers, horns, and artifacts adorning the walls, we moved to his book-lined study that featured his leather armchair and his custom-made desk where he did much of his writing.  The Library held most of his impressive collection of books, still shelved in the order he kept them.  Moving through the Drawing room, with its hand-painted Chinese wallpaper and Scott’s portrait with his dogs, Camp and Percy, hanging over the fireplace, we entered the Armoury with its swords, daggers, and weapons of every kind from Scotland and around the world, before ending in the portrait-lined Dining Room where Scott died in September of 1832.

At Abbotsford, many of the places of our trip came full circle.  The ceiling in the Library was copied from the ceiling of Rosslyn Chapel (Day 3); a casting of the skull of Robert the Bruce was reminiscent of our visit to Stirling Castle and the Battle of Bannockburn center (Day 4); and a crucifix said to have belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots, brought to mind her tower at the Palace of Holyrood (Day 1).

After a peek at the family chapel and a walk through the formal walled gardens, designed and laid out by Scott, we made our way to a traditional mid-day meal of Shepherd’s Pie in Ochiltree’s Restaurant overlooking the grounds.

After a short rest back at the Balmoral Hotel, we donned 1920s period attire for an evening at Hopetoun, Scotland’s finest stately home, home to the Hope family since 1699, and the ancestral home of our Scottish Host, Hope Vere Anderson.

What an evening it was!

Did I mention the theme of the evening was Downton Abbey? Our coaches arrived to the sounds of a bagpipe and were greeted by the head butler.  Just inside he introduced us to the staff, lined up in the Entrance Hall to greet us, Downton Abbey style.

The house was designed by famous Scottish architects, Sir William Bruce and William Adam. The interiors have remained virtually unchanged for three centuries and reflect the elegance of the Georgian era, with period furniture, portraits, paintings, tapestries, and decorative arts, and beautifully crafted finishes of carving, gilding, and plasterwork.  A champagne reception allowed time to experience the rooms, their opulence and history, and chat with each other.

From the entrance hall where we were greeted, we passed through the front stairs and tribune.  A glance above revealed a cupola painted with the history of the Hope family.  We experienced the Garden Room with views of the gardens, the Large and Small Libraries whose paneled walls held the many collections of books from the 1600s to present, and family portraits of the Hopes, and the Dining Room with its Derby china, Edinburgh Crystal, and fine family portraits.  Once up the grand staircase, we peeked in the White Satin Bedchamber and West Wainscot Bedchamber with its Anteroom, each room elegantly adorned with wall tapestries, furnishings, carpets, and paintings.  A small winding staircase took us to the Roof-top Viewing Platform where we saw a rainbow.

After our reception, the Hopetoun House Piper led us to the State Ballroom, originally designed as the Library, for dinner.  Amid the music of a string quartet in the background, we dined on a first course of smoked salmon mousse, followed by a second course of Gressingham duck marinated in lemon grass and ginger, and dessert of chocolate praline fondant pudding and French macaroons.

After warm welcoming remarks from Andrew, Earl of Hopetoun, the Hopetoun House Scottish Dancers entertained us with rousing highland dancing.

With the evening coming to a close, the House Piper led us back to the entrance stairs where we had begun our evening, and we assembled for one last group photo before departing Scotland.

The final surprise was the Royal Burgh of Stirling Pipe Band rounding the corner of the home, their bagpipes and drums piping music in the glow of the full moon.  In full formal dress of feather bonnets, Stirling tartan kilts with fly plaids, sporrans, hose, ghillie brogues, and white spats, and accompanied by highland dancers in kilts and waistcoats, the band was a magnificent sight.

As our bus made its way back to the Balmoral, we softly sang “Auld Lang Syne,” a Scottish poem written by Robert “Rabbie” Burns in 1788, a fitting end to a memorable journey into our Scottish heritage.

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