Sir Walter Scott’s novel ‘The Bride of Lammermoor’ (1819) is set in the Lammermuir Hills and tells of an ill-fated romance between two young lovers from feuding families. The story is believed to have been inspired by real life events and a favourite fireside tale of the young Walter Scott’s mother.
Scott is believed to have stayed for a time in Gifford, riding around the area getting ideas for this novel. Nunraw House – a 19th-century mansion including remnants of a 16th-century tower house – is thought to be the real life ‘Ravenswood’, the castle featured in the novel.
Historian and writer Arthur Granville Bradley (1850-1943) connects this area to Scott’s novel when he describes key scenes of the two tragic lovers:
‘I had made up my mind in youth … that this was the scene of the unhappy loves of Edgar and Lucy; that the woody burn in the grounds was that same one where they broke the coin and plighted their troth … that the village kirk of Garvald, just below, was the scene of those two gruesome and near events, the marriage and the funeral of the bride. ‘
Sir Walter Scott was a popular writer in the 19th century. His romantic novels had a lasting influence on the modern cultural identity of Scotland. Tales of adventure, often inspired by real events, were re-set and re-told against dramatic Scottish landscapes, creating a lasting romantic appeal which can still be felt today in Scotland’s tartan-covered brand identity.
At time of writing this (2020), the Bavarian State Opera Company will be in rehearsal for a run of performances of opera 'Lucia di Lammermoor' based on Scott's 'The Bride of Lammermoor', in Munich. The plot synopsis describes it as 'the Romeo and Juliet of the Scottish Lowlands'.
Sir Walter Scott also collected published songs and tunes collected nearby in the surrounding Borders area. Find out more here http://www.walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk/works/poetry/minstrelsy.html
Other books thought to be inspired by this area include 'Marmion' which features a character called Hugh 'the wizard' Giffard of Yester, thought to be based on Hugo de Gifford, Yester Castle's laird in the 1200s: https://www.geni.com/people/Hugh-the-Wizard-Giffard-of-Yester-Laird-of-Yester/6000000003828125912
Walk or drive the Walter Scott Way to follow in the footsteps of Walter Scott, and see the East Lothian and Borders places and landscapes that inspired him: http://sirwalterscottway.com
Read the full text of 'The Bride of Lammermoor' here: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/471
Read the full text of 'Marmion' here: https://archive.org/stream/marmion05077gut/marmn10a.txt
Walter Scott Digital Archive: http://www.walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk/works/novels/lammermoor.html
Arthur Granville Bradley's book The Gateway of Scotland or East Lothian, Lammermoor and the Merse (1912) can be found online at: https://www.electricscotland.com/history/gateway/chapter6.htm