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Day 5: Abbotsford House, Melrose Abbey, Dryburgh Abbey, Smailholm Tower & the Border Country

The weather for today's adventures was nothing short of perfect. Clear skies, warm sun on a crisp cool fall atmosphere. I set out first for Abbotsford House - the home of Sir Walter Scott. If you are not familiar with this poet and author, you may know his stories Waverly, Rob Roy, and Ivanhoe. Not only was he a famous literary success, but he was an important political figure and an advocate, judge and legal administrator by profession. As learned at the Edinburgh castle, Scott also lead a team of men for the hunt of the missing crown jewels of Scotland (the Honours) which were hidden from Cromwell at the time of the Protectorate in the mid 1600s and then not uncovered until 1818.

Sir Walter Scott ran out of money towards the end of his life, however his daughter married a wealthy man who helped save and secure the future of the Abbotsford House. Today, part of the "victorian wing" is being used as a holiday rental. The main floor of the property is open to the public for viewing of artifacts and architecture. The top floors are private and used by staff for meetings and storage. The grounds and gardens are immaculate with a grand view of the River Tweed. At the entrance of the estate is a modern building housing a small exhibit about Sir Walter Scott, a gift shop, and a restaurant. Luckily, they allowed us to take photos inside the house. So, enjoy just a few shots...

Next, I drove just a few more miles away to the town of Melrose where the famous Melrose Abbey ruins are located. At these ruins lies the heart of King Robert (Robert the Bruce). His body is buried at Dunfermaline Abbey up north (hope to visit that soon!), but his heart is buried here at Melrose. After King Robert died, his men would carry his heart with them into other battles esentially for good luck. If you don't know about Robert the Bruce, just watch Braveheart (although keep in mind that the movie does embellish). He is the king of the Scots who worked with William Wallace (Braveheart) to fight against the English during the late 1200s until his death in 1329. A statue of both he and Braveheart stand on each side of the entrance to Edinburgh Castle.

The abbey sits in the center of a beautiful and picturesque village of Melrose. The abbey was built 1136-1146.

While in this region, I wanted to make sure that I had enough time to catch Dryburgh Abbey where Sir Walter Scott is buried. So, I jetted from Melrose and made it to Dryburgh just before they closed for the day. Dryburgh sits on top of a hillside overlooking the beautiful valley below. It was built in 1150 and disestablished in 1600. Sir Walter Scott requested to be buried here as his family had once owned the abbey.

From here, I drove about 15 minutes deeper into the countryside to Smailholm Tower. Driving through winding country roads and crossing through a private family farm, I finally arrived to the tower. It was closed for the season, but I was able to see it from the bottom of the hill.

Smailholm Tower was built in the 15th century as a home that could also stand as a defense against sporatic English raids. Sir Walter Scott's family owned this tower during its history. He spent much of his childhood visiting his grandfather here and this tower was a source of inspiration for many of his literary creations.

Lastly, I visited the Leaderfoot Viaduct on the way back to the cottage in Peebles. This is a railway viaduct (bridge) that spans over the River Tweed here in near Melrose. It was built in 1863 and was due to be demolished in the 1980s however it was saved and now is maintained by the Historic Scotland organization.

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