Start in Mauchline. Get a sense of the man and his social life from a visit to the cemetery of Mauchline Parish Church in the town centre. Here are buried many of the friends and family of Burns, including his brother and four of his children.
For morning coffee, stop at the small Fairburn Hotel within a few minutes’ walk of the Church where Robert Burns attended the Reading Club in 1796. Or take a break at Poosie Nansie’s: the pub looks much as it would have done in Burns’ day from the outside. Named after its owner, the tavern had a poor reputation and its goings-on inspired Burns to write The Jolly Beggars. Locals say Burns was often seen peering in the window at the gable end!
Drive to Failford. Just 100 yards along from the Failford Inn, on the other side of the bridge over the Fail Water Burn, is the Ayr Gorge Woodlands Wildlife Reserve – a beautiful walk following the quiet wooded banks of the River Ayr, which undoubtedly inspired Burns.
Birds, plants, bats and fungi occupy the ancient woodlands which have remained relatively undisturbed for centuries. Oak, ash and larch crowd the ravine but walking has been made easier under the care of the Scottish Wildlife Trust which has created hand-railed footpaths in places. This 5.4km walk (3½ miles) from Failford to the hamlet of Stair is part of the River Ayr Way. Keen walkers may prefer to keep hiking but the length of this walk fits perfectly with enjoying a great lunch in Stair and then walking back to Failford (where you may have left the car!) for drinks or a great pub supper at the 1880s Failford Inn. (Dogs welcome in the bar and there is also a beer garden).
One of the walk’s highlights is Peden’s Cove where covenanters in the mid-17th century congregated to hear the sermons of their outlawed minister, Alexander Peden, from the opposite bank of the river.