There’s something about Robert Burns. More statues have been erected to Scotland’s national poet around the world than any other literary figure, and he penned arguably the world’s best-known song – the global New Year’s anthem and ringing earworm Auld Lang Syne. Not bad for someone born into poverty in Ayr in 1759.
But maybe that’s because Burns was a dreamer who fought for everything that was never given to him. She was also a prolific prostitute (she fathered at least a dozen children), a dedicated drinker, and a passionate advocate of Scottish independence. But most of all, he was an idealistic internationalist whose belief that he was “A Man’s a Man for A’ That” shone through in his work, whether English or native Scottish.
There is only one place to begin a deeper dive into the bard’s life: the simple thatched cottage, now a museum, where he was born on January 25, 1759, in the small Ayrshire village of Alloway. Most of the village is dedicated to Burns; a kind of literary timeline carved in stone. The National Trust for Scotland umbrella website brings together all the attractions; all are easily accessible on foot.
Animated with sculptures and characters from Burns’ poems, ‘The Poet’s Way’ leads from the Burns Cottage to the brilliantly modern Burns Museum.
The main screens are all written in Scottish and English translations are available; The predominance of Scots makes visitors think of Scots as a distinct language, and in a way Burns would no doubt be excited about. Don’t miss the cafe, where visitors can attend a Burns dinner, and young poets can play outside in the replica of the Burns Cottage playhouse.
Nearby is the 21 m high Burns Monument, which overlooks a manicured rose garden (Burns’ favorite flower). Designed by Sir Thomas Hamilton Junior in the 1820s, the monument’s nine columns represent muses from Greek mythology; A nod to the fact that Burns was inspired by the Classics as well as Mother Nature.
Following in the footsteps of Tam o’ Shanter (the protagonist of one of his greatest poems) takes visitors to the dilapidated Alloway Auld Kirk and from there to the original Brig o’Doon. This stone arch bridge has been saved from destruction several times and has changed little since Burns drove over it daily with his father on his way to work. Walking on the cobblestones is literally walking in the footsteps of the poet.
For Burns fans looking for more local landmarks, there’s Souter Johnnie’s home in Kirkoswald, an 18th-century shoemaker’s workshop immortalized in Tam o’Shanter.
Other Burns attractions in Ayrshire include the Singles Club in Tarbolton, where Burns is said to have learned to ‘dance and argue’ – the ’10 Rules of Membership’ was crafted by Burns. Then there’s the Burns House Museum in Mauchline, where Robert Burns lived and worked between 1784 and 1788.
With her legacy written all over the south of Scotland, putting together an itinerary can be as difficult as translating her Scottish language to English while keeping her fun romance alive.
Fortunately, a new 187-mile Burns Trail has been announced, taking travelers on a six-day adventure from Eyemouth on the east coast to the Dumfries Borders on the west. This driving route was inspired by Burns’ 1787 tour of Southern Scotland and sparked his imagination, stopping by the romantically devastated trio of abbeys in Kelso, Jedburgh and Melrose before heading west towards Dumfries and Galloway.
Ayrshire will always be Burns’ country, but the historic market town of Dumfries was where he spent his later years. After years of struggling to become the self-taught tenant farmer he dreamed of at Ellisland Farm (open to the public as a modest museum just north of Dumfries) and praising it in his writings, he was drawn to Dumfries and the town is now just as important a place. Stand Alloway for Burns devotees.
Burns House, where he lived from 1791 until his death in 1796, is a must see. In this simple sandstone townhouse you can admire the famous Kilmarnock and Edinburgh prints of his work, as well as see the simple work in which he wrote some of his most beloved poems.
Another highlight is The Globe Inn – it may have been recently renovated, but Burns’ verses are still etched into the windows, and the tradition continues that a visitor pays for the round if they can’t read Burns in his old chair. Either way, there is no better place to raise a little drama for the man himself.
From the Globe Inn, the Robert Burns Trail winds its way around the market town of Dumfries, crisscrossing the River Nith, as Burns would have done while working as an excise officer. The trail passes his statue in the town’s pedestrianized hearth, then dives back into his story at the Robert Burns Centre, a popular cinema with a Burns exhibit.
A scenic end of the walk is St Michael’s Kirkyard, where the poet was buried after he died of rheumatic fever at the age of 37. children. It wasn’t always like this: Before it was moved in 1817, it was actually buried under a simple, inconspicuous stone—an inappropriate tribute that Burns fans and pilgrims William and Dorothy Wordsworth were horrified to see when they visited.
An Edinburgh pilgrimage inspired by Burns is also possible. It’s not that the Scottish capital is always welcoming: the city’s high world Those who were often horrified by his radical nationalism and debauchery methods would not be able to fully acknowledge his talent during his lifetime. But it sure has made its mark on the city – settle in for a drink at the White Hart Inn in the cobblestone Grassmarket, where Burns used to appear in court before the city’s gallows, or head to Deacon Brodie’s Tavern, one of his haunts. On the Royal Mile. Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour weaves Burns’ stories with a stop at some of the city’s most storied bars.
The Writers’ Museum houses a respected collection of Robert Burns’ works, manuscripts and personal belongings, as well as portraits from his Dumfries home and a writing desk. But perhaps the most famous of all their similarities hangs in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, brilliantly captured by his friend and radical friend Alexander Nasmyth. This is an exciting, dramatic portrait that Burns will no doubt toast to Auld Lang Syne.