Sir Walter Scott, the great historical novelist, was also renowned as an antiquarian and collector. The design of Abbotsford – his “‘conundrum castle” – was inspired by local historical buildings and his knowledge of Scottish history. Scott set carved stones and wooden paneling salvaged from other buildings into Abbotsford to give it an ancient atmosphere. His builders created new fittings such as fireplaces and plaster ceilings based on historical buildings that he admired and wrote about. He also employed a talented designer called David Ramsay Hay to give Abbotsford a “weather-beaten” and theatrical appearance through painted decorative effects on the walls and ceilings.
The Smiths of Darnick – local builders responsible for much of the work at Abbotsford – carved the stone fireplace which dominates the room. The design was inspired by the Abbot’s Seat at nearby Melrose Abbey which featured in Scott’s poemThe Lay of the Last Minstrel. Niches in the walls house magnificent suits of armour and casts of Saints Andrew, Peter and Paul also copied from the ruins of Melrose Abbey. Some of the carved oak panelling which adorns the walls comes the ancient Abbey at Dunfermline which served as a parish church until 1821. Coats-of-arms and shields celebrating Scott’s ancestors and the infamous Border families of Armstrong, Kerr, Elliott and others adorn the ceiling and walls.