Following Burns

This itinerary takes you on a journey to discover the man behind his poetry. Discover the real Robert Burns by travelling through Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway. Download the full itinerary PDF from the link on the right of this page. If you would like a copy of the ‘Burns and the South West’ leaflet by post then email your request including your full name and address to info@ayrshire-arran.org

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  • View of the Brig O' Doon at Alloway
    The Brig O' Doon, Alloway

A good base is the famous Brig o’ Doon House Hotel with its views of Alloway Auld Kirk, Burns Monument and the Brig o' Doon itself, the setting for the finale of Burns' most famous poem, ‘Tam o' Shanter’.

Outside the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in AllowayStart your trip with a full morning at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, which has the most significant Burns collection anywhere in the world. Here you can step into Burns' life to see the cottage where he was born and lived in his early years before experiencing a sense of the grown man, his life and work from the main exhibition.  You can spend the entire day at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum but it’s also a good opportunity after lunch to take one of the suggested trips by car. 

Afternoon Option A: Dalrymple

Burns Cottage was the family residence until the family moved inland to Mount Oliphant Farm when Robert was 7 years old. The site of Mount Oliphant Farm is just off to the right of Doonholm Road if you head for Dalrymple on the A77 and the journey takes about 15 minutes from the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. Here, Robert and his brother Gilbert went to the little Dalrymple Parish School. Doing the same journey every day, the brothers would walk from Mount Oliphant and at the same time Burns was also a labourer on the farm. 

Afternoon Option B: Burns Club, Irvine

In 1781 Burns went to work in the industrious sea town of Irvine, approx 17 miles from Alloway, and it was there that an acquaintance, Captain Richard Brown, encouraged Burns to publish his poetry for the first time. In 1826 Irvine Burns Club was founded and this later became a museum. It presents an audio visual on Burns' period in the town. It’s free to visit but has restricted opening times.

Return to Alloway and spend the remainder of the day experiencing Burns with a walk onto the legendary Brig o’ Doon or visit the Auld Alloway Kirk.


Tarbolton

Journey north about 10 miles to Tarbolton on the A77 and explore Burns in his early adult years. The small town is well sign posted and you will quickly locate the quaint, thatched square building of the famous Bachelors’ Club, the place which Burns frequented. 

Mauchline

As you enter Mauchline you will spot the impressive Burns National Memorial which was constructed a century after Burns died and to see inside the tower it’s necessary to make an appointment.  

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum with public art in the foregroundFor lunch, continue into the town and turn right onto Loudoun Street to the Fairburn Hotel. Built in the early 17th century and previously known as McClelland's Inn, the Fairburn Hotel is now home to the Mauchline Burns Club. After lunch, visit the nearby Burns House Museum, which is a combination of interactive and traditional exhibits representing a truly authentic Burns experience. Pick up a Robert Burns Blue Plaque Guide at the museum which will guide you round his time spent in Mauchline, including visits to homes of his friends and places where he spent time.

Dumfries

Now head south on the A76 for about 50 miles following signs to Dumfries to explore the town where the National Bard spent his final years.

Make your way north on the A76 just 6 miles or so to spend a fascinating morning at Ellisland Farm.  At 29, Burns was in the prime of his life and at the peak of his writing, when he came to Ellisland Farm where he lived from 1788 - 1791. At this idyllic setting on the river Burns wrote 130 songs and poems - about a quarter of his total output - it was the most productive writing period of his career.

As a visitor attraction, it provides wonderful insight to the life of Robert Burns on his farm two hundred years ago with a good introductory film and his original writings and possessions on display. Personal guided tours of the farmhouse and museum are available.

Next stop is for lunch back in Dumfries and it’s a complete Burns treat: visit the Globe Inn (lunches served 12-3pm).  Tucked up a little lane off from the High Street, this was one of Robert Burns' favourite haunts and today it is still known as ‘the Bard’s favourite Howff’. Established in 1610, it was here in 1819 that the first Burns supper was held.

After lunch, walk over to Robert Burns House. The 18th century sandstone building is where Burns spent his final years with his family before he died in 1796 at the age of 37. The house has many relics to the poet including letters, manuscripts and the chair where he sat to write his final poems. Nearby is St Michael’s Churchyard, which is the site of the Burns Mausoleum – the final resting place of the National Bard erected by public subscription 18 years after his death.  Robert Burns House offers free escorted tours to the churchyard and to the interior of the Mausoleum.