Scott often joked about his love for what he called ‘antiquarian old-womanries’, but he was a knowledgeable antiquary and took great delight in the artefacts he collected – the suits of armour, helmets, corslets and steel caps, the swords and poniards, the guns ancient and modern, the battle-axes, maces, pikes and targets, the accoutrements of a Highland warrior and the clubs of an Indian tribesman. ‘To my mind’, he chuckled, ‘they are very rare and handsome, but I defy you to say that there is a single item among them which can be of any use to any human being excepting me’.
When showing visitors this room he always pointed to Montrose’s sword (which he considered the finest treasure in his collection), Claverhouse’s pistol and Rob Roy’s gun, sword, dirk and sporran. Before 1826, when he confessed that he was indeed the anonymous ‘Author of Waverley’, visitors must have been intrigued to hear Scott enthuse so perceptively about historical characters they probably knew only from The Legend of Montrose, Old Mortality and Rob Roy. A fourth novel is associated with the keys supposedly retrieved from the water of Loch Leven, following Mary Queen of Scots’ escape from the castle, and the clutches of her nobles, on the 2nd of May 1568 – a daring event described by Scott in The Abbot (1820).
Scott’s own military and sporting equipment is here too. When the whole country feared that Napoleon would invade, Scott helped to set up the Edinburgh Volunteer Light Dragoons, training with them on the sands at Leith and Musselburgh and acting as the troop’s quartermaster. His sword and pistols are displayed here, as well as the blunderbuss and the Spanish flintlock that he used for shooting around Abbotsford.