24th Jun 2020
The £224,200 Heritage Emergency Fund grant will help pay for a range of essential day-to-day costs including salaries, utilities, garden upkeep and security at Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, near Melrose in the Scottish Borders.
The Trust had to shut Abbotsford’s doors to visitors on 20th March and it has remained closed ever since. Even though it is closed to visitors, the running and conservation costs of the Category A listed buildings, gardens and collections remain virtually unchanged.
Giles Ingram, the Trust’s Chief Executive, said: “Abbotsford is not only one of Scotland’s most significant heritage icons, it is also a crucial linchpin to supporting the local and regional economy across the whole of the South of Scotland.
“Although we still anticipate there may be tough times ahead for us, the Heritage Emergency Fund grant is helping us to look to the future with more confidence. We can’t wait to welcome our visitors, friends and neighbours back again and are carefully following announcements from the Scottish Government for guidance on when we can re-open.”
At least 70,000 people of all ages from all over the world visited Abbotsford last year. In the absence of visitor income because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the charity feared its losses could reach £350,000 or more this year alone.
Created by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), Abbotsford is among the most significant designed landscapes in Scotland and is renowned internationally as the prototype of Scots Baronial architecture. The Scottish Government’s Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland designate Abbotsford’s Category A Listed historic buildings and gardens as being of Outstanding significance. Abbotsford is also home to Scott’s globally important collections of more than 9,000 books and 4,000 objects.
The Abbotsford Trust is an independent Scottish registered charity that owns and cares for the historic buildings, gardens, and collections created by Sir Walter Scott and his descendants. It receives no regular government funding and relies upon the financial support of visitors, friends and neighbours.
The Abbotsford Trust was established in 2007 to prevent Abbotsford closing to the public following the death of Dame Jean Maxwell-Scott, the last descendant of Scott to live at Abbotsford. Closure would have had a profoundly negative impact on the tourism economy of the region, as well as the loss of a national cultural treasure.
Abbotsford plays a vital role locally, regionally and nationally. The 200,000+ visitors it has welcomed since its post-restoration re-opening in 2014 have contributed many millions of pounds to the local economy and supported hundreds of jobs across multiple business sectors, as well as creating c35 FTE direct new jobs at Abbotsford itself.
Abbotsford’s multi-faceted business model encompasses multiple roles, including being one of Scotland’s most significant historical and cultural assets, a tourism destination, a self-catering accommodation provider, and a community linchpin for learning and development. Abbotsford is recognised by the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency (SoSE) and Scottish Borders Council as being of strategic importance to the entire south of Scotland economy and it makes an extremely significant contribution to the local economy. In 2019 Abbotsford set out its ambitions for a second phase of growth and development.
A major part of this is linked to the exceptional international opportunity presented by the 250th anniversary of Sir Walter Scott in 2021-22. A national 250th anniversary programme, led by Abbotsford and backed by Scottish Government, SoSE and VisitScotland, can and should play a key role in restoring growth to the region and nation’s tourism economy throughout 2021 and the Year of Scotland’s Stories in 2022.
Abbotsford’s Visitor Centre, shop, café, exhibition, woodlands and riverside walks are usually open all year round, with the historic house and walled gardens open daily from 1st March to 30th November each year. This means that Abbotsford is one of very few regional attractions to be open all year, absolutely vital in supporting local providers to market a year-round experience. In normal circumstances, income earned from visitors accounts for around 66% of the Trust’s total annual income, coming mainly from sales of visitor tickets for the historic house and gardens, retail sales in the shop, bookings for the Hope-Scott Wing accommodation, and a proportion of income from the on-site café, Ochiltree’s.