New Visitor Centre for Abbotsford

A new Visitor Centre has opened at Abbotsford House near Melrose in the heart of the Scottish Borders.

Abbotsford House is located on the banks of the River Tweed in the heart of a beautiful landscape that inspired the poetry and novels of its creator, Sir Walter Scott.

The Visitor Centre is a new building within the grounds of the original 19th Century house and includes exhibitions, conference areas, a shop, café and function room.

Sir Walter Scott was one of the leading literary figures of his day and the first to have a truly international career in his lifetime. His novels and poetry are still read, and many of his works remain classics including Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, The Lady of The Lake, Waverley, The Heart of Midlothian and The Bride of Lammermoor.

Scott’s 26 novels came to be known as The Waverly Novels, which were the world’s first real historical novels and the world’s first best-sellers. These books paved the way for the great popular novels of the Victorian age – influenced Pushkin, Tolstoy, George Eliot and Dickens – and earned him the money to buy land and to build Abbotsford.

The building gives visitors a chance to see interpretations of Scott’s life and achievements and also has a balcony with stunning views across the walled garden to the main house.

The visitor centre is part of a multi-million pound overhaul of the property which is currently under way.

The main house is currently closed for an extensive programme of restoration and refurbishment and is scheduled to reopen next year.

The Visitor Centre is timber framed and opened in August 2012. More than 2,000 went to see the new Visitor Centre at Abbotsford House within the first two weeks of opening.

The main contractor was Border Construction and the architect was LDN Architects LLP. The project manager was Gardiner and Theobold.

Martin Sinclair from Gardiner and Theobold said:

“The new build has included a two-storey visitor centre and car park. The building is timber framed with exhibition and information areas downstairs and a spacious café area upstairs.”

The Visitor Centre has been a great success since it opened in August and those at Abbotsford House are looking forward to the completion of the restoration of the main house, to be opened early 2013.

The centre contains exhibitions charting Scott’s life, influences and literary and cultural legacy as well as objects, books and works of art – many of which will be on display for the first time.

Among the items going on show are old visitors books, which including names such as Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Charlotte Bronte and former US President Ulysses S Grant.

Abbotsford Trust chief executive Jason Dyer said:

“Visitors have told us that they have learned a great deal about Scott and his significance that they hadn’t previously appreciated, which is one of the main aims of this beautiful new building and its exhibition on Scott’s life and legacy.

“We’re delighted with this extremely impressive start for the Visitor Centre.

It’s extremely exciting to see the new Abbotsford Visitor Centre taking shape and we’re confident that it will help us to attract more people to the Scottish Borders to see the beautiful home and countryside that Scott loved so much.”

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