By a loop of the Tweed sits Dryburgh Abbey, another of the twelfth century Borders abbeys. Like the others it was prey to cross-border and Reformation fighting and burning. Like the others its impressive ruins still draws visitors. Established in 1150 by white-clad Premonstratensian canons, an order hailing from Prémontré in north-east France, Dryburgh became the order’s premier house in Scotland.
The grounds around the abbey were laid out in the 18th century by the eleventh Earl of Buchan, and the sculptural trees now provide an appropriate backdrop to the sculptural abbey.
We went on a day of sun and wind when daffodils were in bloom and long shadows spilled across the grass. The arched doorways, the great windows, the remains of fluted pillars and mighty carved bosses, vaulted ceilings and last resting places, all are worthy of exclamation though not dissimilar to the other abbeys. Apart from the Chapter House with plaster and paintwork that dates back to its inception (a rarity in Scotland’s climate), it’s the little things that give the place its own character.
A glimpse of medieval fashion is apparent in this head.
According to Historic Scotland, which has responsibility for the care of the abbey, this large niche was the book cupboard, complete with slots in the stone for wooden shelves.
A carving of Adam and Eve beneath an apple tree.
A lamb on a mound covered in ivy.
Lots of basins are in evidence.
In the grounds beside the abbey stands a pillar in memory of its founder Hugh de Moreville. This was erected by David Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan who was attracted to Dryburgh’s ivy clad ruin, purchasing it in 1786 along with Dryburgh House. Images of James 1st and 2nd of Scotland are carved into opposite sides of the pillar.
Buchan was also responsible for the erection, near the abbey, of the 21.5 feet high red sandstone statue of William Wallace whom most people now associate with the film Braveheart. He doesn’t look much like Mel Gilson, does he?
When Buchan died in 1829, he was buried within the abbey. Three years later, Buchan’s friend, the novelist Sir Walter Scott, was buried in the north transept.
Its days of being pillaged and destroyed far in the past, Dryburgh is now a place of peace and tranquillity where the only sounds are the wind swishing the branches of trees, the chirping of visitors’ voices and the haunting rhythm of monastic chanting that seeps from the Chapter House.