the heir to the throne was in the Selkirk area this week, writes Mark Entwistle.
Prince Charles visited Abbotsford House to hear first hand about plans to turn novelist Sir Walter Scott’s home on the banks of the Tweed into a world-class visitor attraction.
Prince Charles – who goes by the title Duke of Rothesay when in Scotland – was also in the Borders to reopen Greenlaw Town Hall after its £2million refurbishment.
At Abbotsford, the duke was welcomed by staff and trustees and was taken on a tour of the house and gardens.
He listened intently as he was told about the major development work, due to start this month, which will include the creation of a visitor centre, car park and tourist accommodation.
As well as historical items collected by Scott, including a notebook and pen owned by Napoleon and a lock of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s hair, the duke viewed the writer’s collection of 9,000 books.
Abbotsford was first opened to the public just five months after Scott’s death in 1832. His fame is mainly built on his success as a novelist and poet, but in Selkirk he is also remembered as Sheriff of Selkirkshire from 1799 to 1832.
Trust chief executive Jason Dyer told The Wee Paper: “It was absolutely wonderful to see the prince here at Abbotsford.
“I think that is an indicator that Abbotsford is important not only nationally, but internationally.”
Mr Dyer went on: “He was very interested in what everyone had to say and seemed really taken with Scott’s collections.”
Mr Dyer said Abbotsford’s popularity, which had declined for a number of years after the first Gulf War in the early 1990s and then the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001, was on the rise again with 30,000 visitors last year.
Among those meeting the duke was Abbotsford’s longest-serving member of staff, senior guide Jeanette McWhinnie, from Darnick, who has been at Abbotsford since 1977.
“Basically we just chatted about visitor numbers and why they had declined for a while,” she said. “The prince was very interested in what he was told. We had to be on our toes because among the guests was the duke’s old English teacher, Sir Eric Anderson, a noted authority on Scott.”
Head gardener Bill Hughes showed the duke round Abbotsford’s extensive gardens. Mr Hughes, from Earlston, has been head gardener for eight years.
“No question the prince knows his stuff when it comes to gardening,” he said. “I was very nervous – worrying that he was going to ask me the Latin name of some plant that I wouldn’t be able to remember!
“He was interested in how Scott had laid out the gardens. He also mentioned that the box hedging was looking very well and asked when I was planning to start clipping it this year!”