Hazel McHaffie

Abbotsford

Abbotsford

This one was definitely not to be missed! A visit to Abbotsford, home of Sir Walter Scott, in the year the house and devotees are celebrating 250 years.

It’s about fifty years ago since I stood outside this elegant building chatting to his great-great-great-granddaughters, (Patricia and Jean Maxwell-Scott) the last of the family to live in the house, listening to their forebears’ illustrious history – long before I became a novelist myself.

Though a lawyer by profession, Scott has been described as the first international literary superstar! And the facts about his career certainly bear that out. The range and success of his writings – as historic novelist, poet, playwright, historian, is mind blowing, so it was a special delight to stand beside the very desk and chair where he wrote, penning famous works, fighting off debts, being paid a fortune for each new novel.

We chose a commentary voiced by an actor pretending to be Scott and telling us with vivid immediacy about his life and decisions as we moved from room to room. We snuck into the tiny anteroom where he had private conversations. We heard his protégé and later best friend, Thomas Purdie, calling him outside for a breath of fresh air.

We stood on the very spot, looking at his favourite view down to the River Tweed, where he chose to lie as he breathed his last in September 1832. Such a peaceful place.

The house is beautifully preserved, much as it was in his day, and the formal grounds and woodland walks are pure delight at this time of year. Highly recommended.

 

 

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Time travelling!

A few days away visiting stately homes with fabulous gardens, has taken me right into the world of Georgette Heyer’s novels which regular viewers know I’ve been dipping into again somewhat nostalgically.

Picture fabulous mansions …

long skirts swishing across the grass, embroidered coats glinting in the sun, buckskin boots crunching on the gravel …

 

earnest conversations in the formal gardens, flirtatious dalliances in the shrubbery, serious businesses transacted in the magnificent libraries, sedate quadrilles in the drawing rooms …

The enormous wealth that enabled families to add whole wings to their mansions; the titles inherited and lost; the long hard hours of the servants … it’s all writ large in the histories of these real life families, echoed by the fiction we soak up for entertainment. I felt as if these two worlds merged seamlessly in those enchanted hours away.

Where was I wandering … dreaming … imagining …? Floors Castle, Abbotsford and Mellerstain House in the Scottish Borders. All superb backdrops for a spot of romantic escapism.

 

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