Travel Review: Abbotsford, Scotland

Abbotsford
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Literary giant Sir Walter Scott only had to look out of the window of his library to draw inspiration.

His beautiful house, Abbotsford is set in the stunning Borders countryside, some would argue Scotland’s finest.

As you gaze out of the window it is easy to see how Scott created such greats as Waverley and Rob Roy during his career. Scott died in 1832, but his works are still famous today and have inspired many other writers. He was the world’s first best selling novelist and for the last five years the house has been restored.

And what a great job has been done! A visitor’s centre which maps out Scott’s life and legacy is the visitor’s first stop, there’s a great café there too. And then out to see the lovely house, set in rolling grounds, with an idyllic river at the bottom.

As well as his writing, Scott was a renowned antiquarian and Abbotsford is crammed full of thousands of books, arms and armour and other objects which inspired his work. One of the most quirky is a fragment of an oatcake picked up in the Battle of Culloden.

To help you get a feel for the house, each visitor is given an audio guide with a choice of intensity and there is a special one for the children, which Ruaridh (6) and Flora (3) just loved, as it was it was based on a mouse speaking!. The rooms are set out as Scott would have had them and it is wonderful to get a glimpse into the life of this great man.

The gardens are well maintained and special activities are organised for children, with a play area too to keep them entertained.

Abbotsford is a stone’s throw from the beautiful market town of Peebles, which is a bustling place full of individual shops and with a lovely river running through it.

The Macdonald Hotel just down the road at Cardrona is a modern day luxury set in the midst of the Tweed Valley. This hotel is a haven for golf and spa enthusiasts. The championship course was designed in 2001 by former Ryder cup player Dave Thomas and many of the spacious and well appointed large and tastefull y decorated rooms have a lovely view of the course.

The 72 parkland and woodland course features wide and undulating USGA greens and a distance of over 7000 yards from the medal tees. Once the golf is over there is a chance to relax in the spa, which boasts a fabulous pool, steam room and sauna, with a state of the art gym. I enjoyed a deluxe body massage which saw me being brushed before pumelled using my choice of oils – pure bliss!

The hotel has an AA Rosette restaurant which also looks over the rolling hills and the cuisine is centered on local produce, with imaginative dishes such as braised shoulder of Highland lamb, Aberdeenshire smoked haddock and artisan cheeses high on the menu. There’s a bar and cocktail lounge too, so plenty of opportunities to relax!

Once the relaxing is over its time to explore the Borders again and just round the corner from the hotel lies another little gem. Kaizle Gardens is home to Lady Angela Buchan- Hepburn and is a wonderful oasis. It contains a walled and wild garden which contain many rare plants and visits during changing seasons pop up lovely colours. Well designed and spacious, the garden has lots of sculptures and archways and packed greenhouses.

Once you have drunk in the garden, the grounds are well worth exploring too. There is a Burnside and Major’s Walk and both are a delight for spotting wildlife and birds. An osprey watch organised in conjunction with the RSPB and the Forestry Commission of Scotland is run in the grounds and there is an award-winning restaurant. Enterprising Lady Hepburn also has accommodation to rent and weddings are held in the grounds. A petanque club has its base in the grounds too and there is a small, but fun children’s area.

The Tweed Valley is the place to go if you love the outdoors, its jam packed with adventures to try from horse riding to mountain biking and its clean air, spectacular views, coupled together with all you need accommodation and activity wise, means it’s a place to keep returning to and enjoying, just like Sir Walter Scott did all those years ago!

Factfile: For accommodation: The Macdonald Cardrona Hotel, Golf and Spa , Cardrona, Peebles near Edinburgh, is set amongst the stunning Borders countryside and has an array of facilities to keep the family entertained. Log onto www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk for latest prices and offers.

Things to do: Just around the corner from the Macdonald Hotel are the wonderful Kailzie Gardens which boasts a lovely walled garden, greenhouses and interesting walks. Log onto www.kailziegardens.com

Abbotsford, Melrose was the imposing home of Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott. It reopened in the summer following a multi-million pound refurbishment. Log onto www.scottsabbotsford.co.uk