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Visit to Floors and the Scotch Border Country 20 Aug 1867


Tuesday, August 20, 1867

At ten o’clock I left Windsor (those night departures are always sad) with Louise, Leopold, and Baby (Beatrice); Lenchen, Christian, and their little baby boy meeting us at the station. Jane Churchill, Harriet Phipps, the two governesses, Sir Thomas Biddulph, Lord Charles FitzRoy, Colonel G. Gordon, Mr. Duckworth, and Dr. Jenner were in attendance. I had been much annoyed to hear just before dinner that our saloon carriage could not go under some tunnel or arch beyond Carlisle, and that I must get out and change carriages there.

Wednesday, August 21

The railway carriage swung a good deal, and it was very hot, so that I did not get much sleep. At half-past seven I was woke up to dress and hurry out at Carlisle, which we did at a quarter to eight. Here in the station we had some breakfast, and waited an hour till our carriage was taken off and another put on (which they have since found out was quite unnecessary!) The morning, which had been gloomy, cleared and became very fine, and we went on along such a pretty line through a very pretty country, through Eskdale and past Neiherby, as fai as Riddings, and then leaving the Esk entered Liddesdale, the railway running along the Liddd Water to Riccarton station, where we stopped for a moment. We next came along the Slitrig Water to Hawick, where we went slowly, which the people had begged us to do, and where were great crowds. Here we entered Teviotdale and descended it, entering the valley of the Tweed at St. Boswell's. Between St. Boswell's and Kelso at Roxburgh station, we crossed the Teviot again. We passed close under the Eildon Hills, three high points rising from the background. The country is extremely picturesque, valleys with fine trees and streams, intermingled with great cultivation. Only after half-past eleven did we reach Kelso station, which was very prettily decorated, and where were standing the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe, Lord Bowmom, the Duke of Buccleuch, and Lord C. Ker, as well as General Hamilton, commanding the forces in Scotland. We got out at once. I embraced the dear Duchess, and shook hands with the two Dukes, and then at once entered the carriage (mine) with Lenchen, Louise, and the Duchess; Beatrice, Leopold, and Christian going in the second, and the others following in other carriages.

The morning beautiful and very mild. We drove through the small suburb of Maxwell Heugh, down into the town of Kelso, and over the bridge which commands a beautiful view of the broad stream of the Tweed and of the Park of Floors, with the fine house itself. Everywhere decorations, and great and most enthusiastic crowds. The little town of Kelso is very picturesque, and there were triumphal arches, and no end of pretty mottoes, and every house was decorated with flowers and flags. Fifty ladies dressed in white strewred flowers as we passed. Volunteers were out and bands playing. At the Market Place the carriage stopped; an address was presented, not read; and a little girl was held up to give me an enormous bouquet. Immense and most enthusiastic cheering. We then drove on, amidst continued crowds and hearty cheers, up to the very park gates, where the old Sheriff, eighty-five years old, was presented. The park is remarkably fine, with the approach under splendid beech, sycamore, and oak trees. The house very handsome, built originally by Sir John Vanbrugh in 1718, but much improved by the present Duke. You drive under a large porch, and then go up a flight of steps to the hall. The Duke’s band was stationed outside. Mr. and Lady Charlotte Russell, Mr. Suttie, and Lady Charles Ker were in the hall. The Duchess took us into the library, where the Duke of Buccleuch joined us, and, after waiting a little while, we had breakfast (ourselves alone) in the really splendid dining-room adjoining, at ten minutes past twelve. This over, the Duchess showed us to our rooms upstairs. I had three that were very comfortable, opening one into the other; a sitting-room, dressing-room, and the largest of the three, the bedroom, simple, with pretty chintz, but very elegant, nice and comfortable. The children were close at hand. But the feeling of loneliness when I saw no room for my darling, and felt I was indeed alone and a widow, overcame me very sadly! It was the first time I had gone in this way on a visit (like as in former times), and I thought so much of all dearest Albert would have done and said, and how he would have wandered about everywhere, admired everything, looked at everything— and now! Oh! must it ever, ever be so?

At half-past two lunched (as at home) in the fine dining-room. A lovely day. The view from the windows beautiful The distant Cheviot range with a great deal of wood, Kelso embosomed in rich woods, with the bridge, and the Tweed flowing beneath natural grass terraces which go down to it. Very fine. It reminded me a little of the view from the Phoenix Park near Dublin.

At half past five walked out with Lenchen and the kind Duchess to a spot where I planted a tree, [The gardener, Hector Rose, became head gardener at Windsor in the spring of 1865, and died, alas! June 5, 1872, after having filled his situation admirably.] and then we walked on to the flower-garden, where there are a number of very fine hot-houses, and took tea in a pretty little room adjoining them, which is entirely tiled. After this we took a pleasant drive in the fine park, which is full of splendid timber, along the Tweed, and below the ruins of the celebrated old Castle of Roxburgh, of which there is very little remaining. It is on a high eminence; the Tweed and Teviot are on either side of it, so that the position is remarkably strong. It stood many a siege, and was frequently taken by the English and retaken by the Scotch. Scotch and even English kings, amongst them Edward III., held their Court there.

We came home at eight. The Duke and Duchess dined with us, and after dinner we watched the illuminations and many bonfires from the library, and afterwards went for a moment into the drawing-room to see the ladies and gentlemen, after which I went up to my room, where I sat and rested, feeling tired and only able to read the newspapers.

Thursday, August 22

A fine morning, though rather hazy. The night and moonlight had been beautiful. Breakfasted with our family in the breakfast-room. At twenty minutes to eleven went and sat out under some trees on the lawn near the house writing, where I was quite quiet and undisturbed, and remained till half-past twelve, resting, reading, etc. Immediately after luncheon started in two carriages, the Duchess and our two daughters with me; Christian, the Duke, Lady Charlotte Russell, and Lord Charles Fitz-Roy in the second carriage (with post-horses). We had the Duke’s horses as far as Ravenswood. We drove through Kelso, which was full of people, crossed the Tweed and Teviot (where the waters join, and passed below the old Castle of Roxburgh. The country is very pretty, hilly, wooded, and cultivated. Not long after we started, the second carriage disappeared, and we waited for it. It seems that, at the first hill they came to, the wheelers would not hold up. So we stopped (and this delayed us some time), the leaders replaced the wheelers, and they came on with a pair. Then we drove up to St. Boswell's Green, with the three fine Eildon hills before us —which are said to have been divided by Michael Scott, the wizard—seeing Merton, my excellent Lord Polwarth's place, on the other side of the road. Alas! he died only last Friday from a second stroke, the first of which seized him in February; and now, when he had intended to be at the head of the volunteers who received me at Kelso, he is lying dead at his house which we passed so near! It lies low, and quite in among the trees. I lament him deeply and sincerely, having liked him very much, as did my dearest Albert also, ever since we knew him in 1858.

Me changed horses at Ravenswood, or old Melrose (where I had my own), having caught a glimpse of where Dryburgh Abbey is, though the railway almost hides it. The Duke of Buccleuch met us there, and rode the whole way. Everywhere, wherever there were dwellings, there was the kindest welcome, and triumphal arches were erected. We went by the side of the Eildon Hills, past an immense railway viaduct, and nothing could be prettier than the road. The position of Melrose is most picturesque, surrounded by woods and hills. The little village, or rather town, of Newstead, which we passed through just before coming to Melrose, is very narrow and steep. We drove straight up to the Abbey through the grounds of the Duke of Buccleuch’s agent, and got out and walked about the ruins, which are indeed very fine, and some of the architecture and carving in beautiful preservation. David I., who is described as a “sair Saint,” originally built it, but the Abbey, the ruins of which are now standing, was built in the fifteenth century. We saw where, under the high altar, Robert Bruce’s heart is supposed to be buried; also the tomb of Alexander II., and of the celebrated wizard, Michael Scott. Reference is made to the former in some lines of Sir Walter Scott’s in the “Lay of the Last Minstrel,” which describes this Border country :—

They sat them down on a marble stone;
A Scottish monarch slept below.

And then when Deloraine takes the book from the dead wizard's hand, it says—

He thought, as he took it, the dead man frowned.
Most truly does Walter Scott say—
If thou wouldst view fair Melrose aright,
Go visit it by the pale moonlight.

It looks very ghostlike, and reminds me a little of Holyrood Chapel. We walked in the churchyard to look at the exterior of the Abbey, and then re-entered our carriages and drove through the densely crowded streets. Great enthusiasm and hearty affectionate loyalty. Many decorations. A number of people from Galashiels, and even from the North of England, had come into the town and swelled the crowd; many also had spread themselves along the outskirts. We took the other side of the valley returning, and saw Galashiels, very prettily situated, a flourishing town famous for its tweeds and shawls; the men are called the “braw lads of Gala Waters".

Another twenty minutes or half-hour brought us to Abbotsford, the well-known residence of Sir Walter Scott. It lies low and looks rather gloomy. Mr. Hope Scott and Lady Victoria [She died in 1870.] (my god-daughter and sister to the present Duke of Norfolk) with their children, the young Duke of Norfolk, and some other relations, received us. Mr. Hope Scott married first Miss Lockhan, the last surviving grandchild of Sir Walter Scott, and she died leaving only one daughter, a pretty girl of eleven, to whom this place will go, and who is the only surviving descendant of Sir Walter. They showed us the part of the house in which Sir Walter lived, and all his rooms— his drawing-room with the same furniture and carpet, the library where we saw his MS. of “Ivanhoe,” and several others of his novels and poems in a beautiful handwriting with hardly any erasures, and other relics which Sir Walter had himself collected. Then his study, a small dark room, with a little turret in which is a bust in bronze, done from a cast taken after death, of Sir Walter. In the study we saw his journal, in which Mr. Hope Scott asked me to write my name (which I felt it to be a presumption in me to do), as also the others.

We went through some passages into two or three rooms where were collected fine specimens of old armour, etc., and where in a glass case are Sir Walter’s last clothes. We ended by going into the dining-room, in which Sir Walter Scott died, where we took tea.

We left at twenty minutes to seven—very late. It rained a little, but soon ceased. We recrossed the Tweed, and went by Gattonside to Leaderfoot Bridge. Here we were met by the Berwickshire Volunteers, commanded by Lord Binning (Lord Haddington’s son), who as Deputy Lieutenant rode a long way with us. Here was a steep hill, and the road surrounded by trees. We passed soon after through Gladswood, the property of Mr. Meiklam, at whose house-door we stopped, and he and Mrs. Meiklam were presented, and their daughter gave me a nosegay. Just after this we entered Berwickshire. Changing horses and leaving this place, going over Gateheugh, we came upon a splendid view, overlooking a great extent of country, with a glen deep below the road, richly wooded, the river at the bottom, and hills in the distance; but unfortunately the “gloaming’’ was already commencing—at least, the sun was gone down, and the evening was grey and dull, though very mild. We passed Bunersyde, which is eventually to belong to Alfred’s Equerry, Mr. IIaig, and through the village of Mertoun, behind the park; and it was striking to see the good feeling shown by the people, who neither displayed any decorations nor cheered, though they were out and bowed, as their excellent master, Lord Polwarth, was lying dead in his house.

It was nearly dark by this time, but we got well and safely home by ten minutes to nine. The Duke of Buccleuch rode with us some way beyond Gladswood. We did not come through Kelso on our way back. In passing Mertoun we left the old tower of Smailhohn to the left, the scene of the “Eve of St. John.” We only sat down to dinner at half-past nine, and I own I was very tired. The Duke of Buccleuch was only able to come when dinner was half over. Besides him the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe, Lord Bowmont, Lady Charles Ker, and Mr. Suttie made the party at dinner. Lady Susan was prevented by indisposition from being there. Nobody could be kinder, or more discreet, or more anxious that I should be undisturbed when at home, than the Duke and Duchess. I only stopped a few minutes downstairs after dinner, and then went up to my room, but it was then nearly eleven. The others went into the drawing-room to meet some of the neighbours.

Friday, August 23.

A dull morning, very close, with a little inclination to rain, though only for a short time. Breakfast as yesterday. At twenty minutes to eleven we started: I with our daughters and the Duchess; Christian with dear Beatrice, the Duke of Marlborough (the Minister in attendance), and Lady Susan Melville, in the second carriage; and the Duke of Roxburghe, Lord Charles Fitz-Roy, Sir Thomas Riddulph, in the third, with Colonel Gordon and Dr. Jentier on the box. [Brown and the sergeant footman, Collins, were (as usual) on the seal behind my carriage.] We proceeded through Kelso, which was very full, and the people most loyal; by the village of Heiton, prettily decorated with an arch (two young girls dressed in white. threw nosegays), and up the rivers Teviot and Jed, which flow through charming valleys. The town of Jedburgh is very prettily situated, and is about the same size as Kelso, only without its large shops. It is, however, the capital of the county. It was very crowded, and very prettily-decorated. The town is full of historical recollections.

King Malcolm IV. died there; William the Lion and Alexander II. resided there; Alexander III. married his second wife, Joletta, daughter of the Comte de Dreux, there; and Queen Mary was the last sovereign who came to administer severe justice. The Duchess pointed out to me a house up a side street in the town where Queen Mary had lived and been ill with fever. In the square an address was presented, just as at Kelso, and then we went on down a steep hill, having a very good view of the old Abbey, as curious in its way as Melrose, and also founded by David I. There is a very fine ruined abbey in Kelso also.

There were four pretty triumphal arches; one with two very well chosen inscriptions, viz., on one side “Freedom makes all men to have lyking,” and on the other side “The love of all thy people comfort thee.”

We went on through a beautiful wooded valley up the Jed, in the bank of which, in the red stone, are caves in which the Covenanters were hid. We passed Lord Cranstoun’s place, Crailing, and then turned, and close before the town we turned into Jed Forest—up an interminable hill, which was very trying to the horses and the postilions—and returning through the grounds of Hartigger the late Lord Campbell’s, now occupied by a Mr. Gordon.

We then returned by the same road we came, passing Kirkbank, belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch, where his late brother, Lord John Scott, used to live. Here the horses were watered. We stopped for a few minutes, and the Duke of Buccleuch, who had ridden with us the greater part of the way, into Jedburgh, and back to this place, took leave.

We only got home near three o’clock. We lunched at once, and then I rested. Only at half-past six did I go out with Lenchen and the good Duchess, and walked with them to the flower-garden, where, as it began to rain, we took tea in the small room there. Lenchen walked back with the Duchess, who returned to me, and I sat out a little while with her, and then walked back to the house. It was a very oppressive evening.

At half-past eight we dined. The Duke and Duchess, Mr. and Lady Charlotte Russell, and Lord Charles Ker dined. Went upstairs and wrote. At ten minutes to eleven we left Floors, where I had been most kindly received, and had been very comfortable and enjoyed all I saw, and felt much all the kindness of high and low. The carriages were open, and the night very warm and starlight. There were lamps all along the drive in the Park; the bridge was illuminated, and so was the whole town, through which we went at a foot’s pace. It was densely crowded, the square especially, and the people very enthusiastic. The dear Duchess went with us to the station, whither the Duke and his sons had preceded us with the others. It was a very pretty sight. The Free Kirk, a pretty building, was lit up with red light, which almost gave it the appearance of being on fire. We took leave of the dear Duchess and the Duke, got into out railway carriage, and started at once.

Saturday, August 24

We passed through Edinburgh. At eight a.m. we were at Ballater. Some coffee and tea were handed in to us before we left the train and got into our carriages.

A fine and very mild morning, the heather hardly out, but all very green; and at ten minutes to nine we were at our dear Balmoral.


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