Dryburgh Abbey

Dryburgh Abbey
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Dryburgh Abbey

One of the four great abbeys of the Scottish Borders, Dryburgh Abbey lies on a loop of the River Tweed, 5 miles (8 km) southeast of Melrose and 4 miles (6.5 km) south of Earlston. The picturesque ruins are formed of pink-red sandstone which contrast beautifully with the green of the grass and specimen trees. Although there seems to have been a religious community here much earlier, of which St. Modan was abbot, Dryburgh was founded in 1150 by Hugh de Morville, who invited monks of the Premonstratensian Order from Northumberland to establish an abbey under the patronage of King David I. This abbey was never as wealthy as some of the others. It was badly damaged by King Edward II's troops while returning to England after their failed invasion of 1322 and set alight once again during the 'Rough Wooing' in the 1540s. The abbey fell into terminal decline after the Reformation and became the property of the Erskines but was sold in 1665. It is now in a ruinous condition, though it was restored in the later 18th C. by David Steuart Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan (1742 - 1829) as a romantic ruin within the landscape surrounding his home, the adjacent Dryburgh Abbey House. Aware of its importance to his family, Erskine had purchased the estate in 1786. Erskine, Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832) and Field Marshal Earl Haig (1861 - 1928) are buried here. The ruins have attracted many notable visitors including poet Robert Burns (1759-96) in 1787, William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850) and his sister Dorothy (1771 - 1855) in 1803, the painter J.M.W. Turner (1775 - 1851) in 1832, while the author Charles Dickens (1812-70) visited in 1841. The abbey is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.

The ancient Dryburgh Yew is said to have been planted by monks in 1136, thus predating the foundation of the abbey.

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