Monday, August 19, 2013

Border Abbeys — Dryburgh Abbey

Set along the River Tweed (more like a stream) in the Scottish Borders amidst farmland, Dryburgh Abbey has the most romantic setting of the various Border Abbeys. Sir Walter Scott author of historical romances like Ivanhoe and The Bride of Lammermoor chose the abbey as his burial place. Old trees surround the ruins, a grass floor has replaced the stone in the destroyed nave, and numerous park benches are provided for a rest or picnic.

The abbey was founded in 1150; burned by the English in 1322; rebuilt; burned again in 1385; and then rebuilt and flowered until its final destruction by the English in 1544.

Upon entry, you first encounter part of the abbey grounds that have been converted into a small and haphazard cemetery.

Grammar and Jack gambol through the grounds. Well, Jack gambols and Grammar shuffles.
Through the trees and gravestones you catch glimpses of the abbey. Eventually the trees part and you have a wonderful unofficial entry view of the ruins.

Dryburgh Abbey ruins
The cemetery trickles away into the ruins.
The follow-the-paved-path official entry view of the ruins looks down the nave with its grassy floor and stumpy pillars.

Nave of Dryburgh Abbey
Looking down the nave toward the north transept.
Sir Walter Scott is buried within the remains of the north transept.

Sir Walter Scott's tomb at Dryburgh Abbey
Jack makes good use of the running space while his mother takes a photo. Sir Walter Scott's tomb lies behind the red placard.
As with Kelso and Jedburgh Abbeys, the ruins of Dryburgh Abbey are a great place for a little one to run and climb and explore. The Dryburgh Abbey ruins function less as a historical landmark and more as a public park with beautiful scenery and stone playgrounds.

Jackson exploring, never still, never at rest.
Having conquered the remains of a pillar, he must now wildly swing mommy's camera.
These ruins are also a great place for older folks (ahem) to climb and explore:

View of the Dryburgh Abbey ruins from a tower
Sometimes you have to ignore the metal grates blocking your access up a crumbling staircase so you can catch a glimpse of your lovely wife down below in the ruins.
Dryburgh Abbey also allows your dogs to come romp and play. Isn't this a very picturesque dog park?

Back of Dryburgh Abbey
A view of the back of the abbey. Mattie waited patiently only because she had already exhausted herself playing.
As the day faded into late afternoon, Mattie and I sat and watched the shadow slowly proceed across the cloister:

Cloister of Dryburgh Abbey
The monks here enjoyed a cloister quite large in comparison to the size of the abbey overall.
Like our visits to the other Border Abbeys, we encountered few tourists. And given the size of the site, everyone had plenty of space for solitude and contemplation.

Dryburgh was our last stop of the day. We ran out of time to visit Melrose Abbey, which I understand is the most complete of the ruined Border Abbeys. It is definitely on my list to visit this fall.

Two out of four looking at the camera? That's above our usual average.
Tourist books don't seem to emphasize these Border Abbeys, which I think is a mistake. To my mind, they are among the best sites in southern Scotland. Moreover, the scenic drive connecting the abbeys is a nonstop series of beautiful vistas and charming villages. They make a great day trip from Edinburgh or Glasgow, providing a respite from the urban centers and heavily touristed sites in the cities.

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