Dryburgh is a beautiful peaceful place, on the banks of the River Tweed. It can be accessed easily by car but most people choose to walk from St Boswells or Newtown St Boswells. Along with the spectacular Dryburgh Abbey, and the beautiful Dryburgh Abbey Hotel, Dryburgh has the first statue of William Wallace erected in Scotland, the first chain bridge erected in the UK, and a neo-classical temple dedicated James Thomson (1700-1748). I walked to Dryburgh in early October with these words from Thomson’s poem Autumn, in my mind, to visit the Temple of the Muses.
Hence from the busy joy-resounding fields,
In cheerful error let us tread the maze
Of Autumn unconfined; and taste, revived,
The breath of orchard big with bending fruit.
Obedient to the breeze and beating ray,
From the deep-loaded bough a mellow shower
Incessant melts away. The juicy pear
Lies in a soft profusion scattered round.
A various sweetness swells the gentle race,
By Nature’s all-refining hand prepared,
Of tempered sun, and water, earth, and air,
In ever-changing compositions mixed.
Such, falling frequent through the chiller night,
The fragrant stores, the wide-projected heaps
Of apples, which the lusty-handed year
Innumerous o’er the blushing orchard shakes.
Temple of the Muses
The circular neo-classical ‘temple’ stands on a distinctive natural mound known as Bass Hill. It overlooks the River Tweed and the Dryburgh suspension bridge, at the west end of the village of Dryburgh. The Temple is dedicated to the Ednam born, poet and playwright James Thomson. Thomson is the author of “The Seasons” and the lyrics of Rule Britannia. Thomson though less well known today was very famous in his own time. He is one of the sixteen Scottish poets and writers appearing on the Scott Monument on Princes Street in Edinburgh. Today, like many other Scottish poets he is overshadowed by our most famous poet, Robert Burns. You can read more about Thomson and his life on the Poetry Foundation website.
The Temple features 9 Ionic columns, a shallow domed roof and bronze figures of the Four Seasons, by Siobhan O’Hehir. These were installed in 2002 to replace the original missing centrepiece of statue (Apollo with 9 muses and laurel wreaths) and circular pedestal. A bust of Thomson can be seen on the top of the structure. The Temple (the Dryburgh Bridge and the William Wallace Statue) were erected by David Stuart Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan on his Dryburgh Estate. Erskine was a contemporary of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns and a founder of the Society of Antiquaries (1780) in Scotland. He was determined that the heroes of Scotland and their history should be remembered.
Dryburgh Suspension Bridge
If you follow the walking route from St Boswells/Newtown St Boswells you will cross the Dryburgh Suspension Bridge. The current bridge, built 1872, is a replacement for two earlier, failed bridges on the same site. The first, commissioned and opened by David Erskine in 1818, was the first chain bridge in Britain, constructed in 1817 by John & Thomas Smith. Just stand on the bridge and listen to the sounds of the Tweed. Take in the views of the village and the surrounding landscape. And rejoice in the delights of the Scottish Borders and the ever changing seasons, captured in Thomson’s poem.