Dryburgh Abbey
Dryburgh Abbey
Substantial ruins off a 12th century Premonstratensian abbey stands in a beautiful secluded setting on the River Tweed. See the grave of Sir Walter Scott in the north transept.
Dryburgh was founded in 1150 by Hugh de Morville for Premonstratensian canons from Alnwick Priory in Northumberland. De Morville was the Constable of Scotland and Lord of Lauderdale, but despite his Scottish titles he was a Norman lord, with his roots in England, so it is not too surprising that he invited English canons to populate his new abbey.

Dryburgh became the mother house for the Premonstratensian order in Scotland, establishing daughter houses at Whithorn, in Dumfries-shire, and Fearn, in Ross-shire, among other locations. Dryburgh was never as prestigious nor as wealthy as the three major Borders abbeys at Melrose, Kelso, and Jedburgh, but it lasted for 400 years in this peaceful spot by the Tweed.

One one famous occasion the peaceful life of the canons at Dryburgh was disturbed. In 1322 the armies of Edward II, retreating from a reverse against the Scots, heard the abbey's bells ringing in the distance. According to legend, the army turned aside from the route of its march and sacked the abbey, setting fire to the monastic buildings and carrying off whatever loot they could grab.

The Scottish Reformation had a more long-lasting effect, however, and the numbers of monks dwindled until there were only 2 remaining in 1584. Eventually the last of the monks died or left, and the abbey was left to crumble into ruin.

Then the 11th Earl of Buchan stepped in. The Earl was a keen antiquarian, responsible for founding the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland in 1780. Buchan bought the Dryburgh site, and turned it into a peaceful landscape garden, where flowers bloomed amid ancient ruins. When the Earl died in 1829 he was buried in the sacristy. His close friend, the novelist Sir Walter Scott, died just 3 years later and was buried in the north aisle. He was joined in 1928 by Field-Marshal Earl Haig.

What a wonderful location! Dryburgh's setting beside the Rive Tweed is a delight; it seems like such a peaceful enclave, a place to escape from the world. It is no wonder that Sir Walter Scott and his ancestors chose to be buried here. What is also remarkable at Dryburgh is just how much of the monastic site is relatively intact. This really helps give a good idea of how the abbey was laid out and how the monks who lived here worked and worshipped.

Dryburgh provides a wonderful glimpse into the medieval world. Perhaps the highlight is the elegant architecture of the abbey church transepts. Historic Scotland describe the transepts as 'some of the best Gothic church architecture in Scotland', and they're right. In the north transept, sheltered from the weather, stand the tombs of Sir Walter Scott and Field Marshall Earl Haig, while the Earl of Buchan lies in the nearby sacristy.

Another part of the abbey which is in remarkably good condition is the 13th century chapter house, where you can still see medieval painted wall plaster. Nearby is the warming house and the east dormitory range.

Our family loved visiting Dryburgh, and I can't wait to return.