Volunteers are being seen as having a key role in developing the future of a major tourist attraction in the central Borders.
Around £12million has been spent on restoring and upgrading facilities at Abbotsford House, where Sir Walter Scott lived, died and did much of his writing. He travelled regularly from Abbotsford to dispense justice in Selkirk as the local sheriff.
The Abbotsford Trust is now boosting its team of volunteer stewards to ensure tourists and locals get the best from their visit.
More than 60,000 have called at the Shirra’s home this year enjoying the house, its grounds and the purpose-built visitor centre.
Jack Scott from Galashiels is a former coach driver and tour guide who has been volunteering at Abbotsford House since it re-opened in July.
He commented: “I learn something new every time I come here and it’s lovely to be able to share that knowledge with people who come to see the home of this globally renowned writer. I visited many of Scotland’s attractions as part of my job and Abbotsford can rival any of them, so it’s great to be a part of the team that is bringing people from all over the world to the Borders.” Retired GP Malcolm Morrison from Bowden started volunteering at Abbotsford 18 months ago when the historic house was still closed to the public – hosting exterior tours of the architecture and gardens, and now acts as a guide and room steward three days a week.
He said: “In the past few weeks I’ve been speaking to visitors from over 20 different countries, including France, Germany, Norway and Russia. It’s great to be involved.”
People can volunteer for a half day or full day a week, or more if they are able. Full training is given and each volunteer receives free entry to a full programme of cultural events.
Abbotsford curator Matthew Withey said: “Abbotsford is run by a charitable trust which has a very small team of full-time staff and this means we rely on volunteers to help us deliver a top-class service for visitors.
“Our volunteers have been crucial to the success of the Abbotsford project so far and will be vital to its future. “As well as contributing to a Borders success story, our volunteers also have the chance to meet people from all over the world and, on a more personal level, to make new friends that share their interests. They tell us that it’s an extremely rewarding experience and we hope to encourage more people to become involved.”