Wander around this remarkably complete medieval ruin by the River Tweed to grasp the appeal of monastic life. You can still see plaster and paintwork inside the chapter house dating from when it was built.
The graceful ruins of Dryburgh Abbey nestle secluded in woodland by the River Tweed. Even now, it’s easy for visitors to get a sense of the contemplative life of a medieval monk.
The abbey was established by Premonstratensian canons in 1150. Hugh de Moreville, Constable of Scotland and Lord of Lauderdale, had invited them to this idyllic spot from Alnwick Priory, Northumberland. (Moreville was himself an incomer from England.)
Dryburgh became the premier house in Scotland of the French order, which was established by St Norbert of Xanten in 1121 at Prémontré. Its six Scottish houses also included Whithorn Priory.
The abbey did suffer four savage attacks, however – the most famous in 1322. Edward II’s soldiers turned back to set fire to Dryburgh having heard its bells ringing out as the English army retreated.
The Protestant Reformation of 1560 effectively ended monastic life at Dryburgh Abbey. By 1584, just two brethren remained alive.
In the 1700s, the ivy-clad ruin attracted the attention of David Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan and chief founder of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
Buchan bought Dryburgh House and set about creating a charming landscape in which the ancient abbey figured prominently. When he died in 1829, he was laid to rest in its sacristy.
Sir Walter Scott, antiquarian and novelist, and Buchan’s close friend, was buried here three years later, on 26 September 1832. His tomb is in the north transept (which he called ‘St Mary’s Aisle’).
A third great Scot, Field-Marshal Earl Haig, was interred beside Scott in 1928.
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