Hot Desk

27th Jul 2017

The desk at which Sir Walter Scott wrote his famous Waverley novels has been revealed by VisitScotland as one of the top 25 objects to have shaped Scotland’s history in a stunning new e-book.

Sir Walter Scott’s desk becomes one of ‘25 objects that shaped Scotland’s history’

Other items appearing in the list include a Roman distance slab, a medieval football, Antarctic goggles, a carved footprint and a dancing fiddle.

Sir Walter Scott’s desk is a simple wooden architect’s desk which Scott brought with him to Abbotsford House from his previous home near Selkirk. Inside are two secret drawers, discovered in 1935, which contained more than 50 letters that Scott wrote to his wife, Charlotte Carpenter, before and after their wedding in 1797.

Compiled by an expert panel for the 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, the 25 objects cover over 5,000 years of Scottish history and every region of the country from Shetland to Dumfries & Galloway.

The objects were chosen based on chronological and geographic spread alongside their individual interesting stories. The final 25 were chosen by a panel that included representatives from Historic Environment Scotland, National Museums of Scotland, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and VisitScotland.

VisitScotland hopes that visitors will go on a trail this summer to discover as many of the objects as possible and in turn discover more about Scotland’s fascinating past.

The desk is on display at Abbotsford near Melrose where visitors can learn more about the life and work of the man who is credited with inventing the historical novel in the west.

The oldest object in the list is a barbed harpoon point (originally found in the Macarthur Cave, Oban) that dates back to the Middle Stone Age, and is one of the earliest instruments used to hunt and fish in Scotland.

The most modern in the list is Dolly the Sheep - the first animal to be cloned from an adult cell – who is currently housed at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and celebrated her 20th anniversary in 2016.

More unusual objects on the list include the Orkney Venus – the earliest known depiction of the female human form - which dates from the Neolithic period and was uncovered at the Links of Noltland on the Orkney island of Westray in 2009.

A violin which ignited Robert Burns’ rebellious streak, revealing more about the great Bard’s personality is another object that makes the final cut. The Gregg Violin was owned by Burns’ dance teacher, William Gregg. In around 1779, Robert Burns started taking dancing lessons and wrote that he hoped these new skills would ‘give my manners a brush’, but it was most likely an act of rebellion because his father did not approve of such seemingly sinful behaviour.

Full list of Scotland’s History in 25 Objects:

  1. Barbed Harpoon Point
  2. The Orkney Venus
  3. Poltalloch Jet Necklace
  4. The Carpow Logboat
  5. Mousa Broch
  6. Roman Distance Slab
  7. Carved Footprint
  8. Martin's Cross
  9. The Lewis Chessman
  10. Stone Effigy at Sweetheart Abbey
  11. Robert the Bruce Equestrian Statue
  12. Honours of Scotland
  13. Oldest Football
  14. Castle of Mey Tapestry
  15. Penicuik Jewels
  16. Bonnie Prince Charlie's Travelling Canteen
  17. The Gregg Violin
  18. Sir Walter Scott's Desk
  19. Mackintosh Trail Music Room
  20. Paisley Shawls
  21. Tom Morris Junior Medal
  22. Dallas Dhu
  23. Captain Scott’s Snow Goggles
  24. Steam Locomotive "Maude"
  25. Dolly the Sheep

Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology began on 1 January 2017. To date xxx events and xxxx have happened across the country including xxx and xxxx

Paula Ward, Regional Director at VisitScotland, said:

“It is fantastic to see Sir Walter Scott’s desk on this list as one of the top 25 objects which shaped Scotland’s history. This list of 25 objects has been selected to best represent Scotland’s rich and colourful history – but it is by no means an exhaustive collection and we know there will be many more out there that people want to add.

“Like the desk at Abbotsford, objects were selected that are not only important to the history of the country, but which also have an interesting narrative behind them, that would inspire people to find out more.

“Scotland’s history, heritage and archaeology are among the top reasons for visiting Scotland. 2017 is the year to delve into the past and discover Scotland’s fascinating stories through a wide-ranging, variety of new and existing activity to drive the nation’s tourism and events sector, boosting tourism in every single corner of the country. We hope lots of visitors enjoy this fascinating e-book.”

Giles Ingram, Chief Executive of Abbotsford, said: “We are delighted that Sir Walter Scott’s desk has been selected as part of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology celebrations.

“The new e-book is sure to prove a hit with visitors and encourage them to discover more about some of our greatest assets and icons in the Scottish Borders and across the country.”

Scotland’s History in 25 Objects is now available to download at

For more information about Abbotsford, visit:

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