Nestled in rolling Borders countryside near Melrose, on the south bank of the River Tweed, 200-year-old Abbotsford House is as stately an example of the Scots Baronial style as you could hope to encounter. For that fact alone it would be notable. But it’s the name attached to the Category A-listed building which makes it that extra bit special – Sir Walter Scott, a superstar of 19th century literature, whose books sold the world over and who exercised considerable political clout in his homeland.

Before Scott, there wasn’t much at Abbotsford. The house was built between 1817 and 1825 on land which had formerly been the site of a farm – its proper name was Cartleyhole though it was known locally as Clarty Hole. Scott bought the land in 1811 and he himself described it as a “bare haugh and bleak bank”. To construct Abbotsford he employed the English architects William Atkinson, son of a Bishop Auckland builder and later the man who remodelled Chequers, and Edward Blore, who would go on to complete Buckingham Palace after original architect John Nash was fired by George IV. Others who lent a hand include builder and stonemason John Smith of Darnick, and Scott’s friends James Skene (an artist), George Bullock (a cabinet maker) and David Ramsay Hay (the 19th century equivalent of an interior designer and makeover guru).

In the estimation of Historic Environment Scotland, Abbotsford is one of the country’s most important 19th century buildings both historically and architecturally, and a pioneer of the Scots Baronial (or Gothic Revival) form. The style’s trademark features are authentic recreations of old Scottish castles and fortified dwellings, which of course sat well with Scott’s love of history and antiques. At Abbotsford you find crow-stepped gables, designs borrowed from some buildings (the porch is copied from the entrance to Linlithgow Palace) and actual stonework taken from others. One example comes from the old Edinburgh Toolbooth: it was demolished in 1817 but not before Scott could grab the door from the old prison cell. He was a skip diver on a mammoth scale.

The interior is as sumptuous and eccentric as the exterior is craggy and castellated. Scott built an armoury in which to hang his vast collection of weapons, a Chinese drawing room decorated with vivid green wallpaper, a library and a “religious corridor” to house his equally large collection of religious stones and statuary. He was already planting trees before he had even taken possession of the land, and the impressive gardens (intended to make three distinct outdoor ‘rooms’) still conform to his original designs and are a fine surviving example of the Regency style.

Sadly Scott didn’t have long to enjoy his eccentric creation. He was financially ruined by the bankruptcy of his publishers in the mid-1820s and died in 1832 aged just 61. In 1833, Abbotsford was opened to the public.