Barony House has changed a lot since the days when the great writer lived here, but it's not hard to see how he was inspired by these beautiful surroundings.
Sir Walter Scott is one of the great figures in Scottish literary history — and architectural history, come to that. One of the most successful writers of the 19th century — the creator of Ivanhoe, Heart of Midlothian and dozens more masterpieces — built a house in the Boders called Abbotsford, whose self-consciously whimsical and dramatic design was enormously influential. So much so, in fact, that Queen Victoria remodelled Balmoral in what became known as the Scots Baronial style.
A decade before he began on Abbotsford, and several years before he became a household name for his poetry and historical novels, Scott lead a very different life, settling with his family at a thatched cottage in Lasswade, a few miles south of Edinburgh. And that place, Barony House, is now for sale via Ellisons in Edinburgh. It’s listed as ‘price on application’, and is being sold off-market; its previous appearance for sale was in 2008 at ‘offers over £1.5m’, but a huge amount of work has clearly been done to the house in recent years.
The future writer was still a lawyer in his 20s when he rented Barony House at £30 a year from 1798, spending summers there while also keeping a home in Edinburgh at 39 North Castle Street. It was during his spells in Lasswade that his long-standing desire to live a literary life began to develop alongside his legal work. He invited writers from across Britain to stay, not least William Wordsworth, with whom he is said to have shared an opium pipe or two in the lounge.
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That lounge is still part of the house as it stands today, but there is much else here that Scott would not recognise. What was once called Lasswade Cottage was hugely extended twice in subsequent years, and Barony House in 2022 is a six-bedroom house of 7,862sq ft, sitting in 4.5 acres of beautifully-manicured gardens.
The oldest part of the building, still thatched (on the right in the picture at the top of the page), houses the sitting room and a huge, semi-circular home office which looks out over the formal gardens.
The drawing room and dining room are in the newer wing (on the left of the photo), with the kitchen-dining room and utility in the central section, as well as one of the most beautiful larders we’ve seen in years.
There is also a games room and family room off one corner of the property, and a timber-framed conservatory at the back of the house.
Upstairs, the Sir Walter Scott Bedroom is directly over the home office, while there is also another principal bedroom — with a stunning dressing room — and four more bedrooms.
This is no gloomy old home: there is a light, airy feel about the place, with huge windows and high ceilings, and it’s presented as a largely blank canvas. It’s a place to let your imagination run riot, in other words — just as Scott’s did when he picked up his pen and began his writing career from within these walls. It was here where he began to pen The Lay of the Last Minstrel, his first significant success.
The poem wouldn’t be published until after his 1804 move to Ashiestiel — which, coincidentally, also went on to the market not long ago — but it was at Lasswade that the first seeds were planted.
Barony House at Lasswade, Midlothian, is for sale off market via Ellisons in Edinburgh.
Romantic Ashiestiel House at Clovenfords was inhabited by the novelist in the early 1800s.
Within the splendid walls of Ashiestiel House, Sir Walter Scott enjoyed the happiest years of his life as he wrote
JRR Tolkien moved to 20, Northmoor Road in 1930, six years after the property was built, and it is here