Robert Burns itinerary

Telling the tale of Tam O' Shanter beside the Brig O' Doon at the Burns Storytelling Festival, Alloway
The works of Robert Burns ››

Robert Burns composed some of the world's best loved poetry and songs including Auld Lang Syne and A Red, Red Rose.

A portrait of Robert Burns and exhibits at the Robert Burns House Museum in Dumfries
Who was Robert Burns? ››

Learn about the inspiring life of Robert Burns and how his passion for Scotland and social justice informed his timeless works.

Culzean Castle
History ››

Follow our ideas and itineraries around Scotland and discover the colourful history of the country.

Trace the life of Robert Burns around Scotland from his home town of Alloway to his later life in Dumfries. Visit the city of Edinburgh and the town of Kilmarnock, where he became the famous poet who is now known across the world.

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  • Looking over gravestones to the floodlit ruins of Alloway Auld Kirk
    Alloway Auld Kirk
  • View of the Brig O' Doon at Alloway
    The Brig O' Doon, Alloway
  • Looking down to the buildings of Ellisland Farm
    Ellisland Farm
  • People sit outside on tables and chairs at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum
    Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Alloway
  • Robert Burns Centre, Dumfries
    Robert Burns Centre, Dumfries

Start this Burns trip around Scotland in Alloway, spending the morning at the fantastic Robert Burns Birthplace Museum which houses the biggest and most important Burns collection in the world, including his writing set, pistols and even a cast of his skull. The museum brings together several sites: the Burns Cottage; Poet’s Path; the Alloway Auld Kirk; the Brig o’ Doon; the Burns Monument; and the museum itself.

Burns Cottage was built by Burns’ father only two years before he was born there in 1759. Upstream from the modern bridge carrying the Alloway/Maybole Road, the ancient bridge of the Brig o’ Doon was constructed in the 14th century and became famous after featuring in the Burns verse narrative Tam o’ Shanter.

Travel through to the town of Ayr in the afternoon, which still has features from Burns’ day, notably the Auld Brig – the Old Bridge in his poem the Brigs of Ayr. The present Wallace Tower in the High Street replaced the ancient original in 1834 and is mentioned in the same poem. The town also has a Burns statue in the square named after him.

Ayr is at the centre of the annual Burns an’ a’ that Festival, which is held in May with a number of events covering music, poetry, literature and food and drink.

On your second day, visit Kilmarnock, where the first book of poems by Robert Burns was printed, the famous Kilmarnock Edition of 1786. Burns was farming nearby at Mossgiel, Mauchline at the time which meant Kilmarnock was his market and business town. He was well liked there and local business people helped him by raising funds for the publication. Kilmarnock is still the headquarters of the Robert Burns World Federation today.

Take the road to Mauchline, east of Ayr, a little town where Burns started his married life and also had some of his most creative years. His former home is now the Burns' House Museum, displaying Burns memorabilia and folk artefacts. The striking National Burns Memorial is also in the town.

Mauchline Churchyard was the final resting place of many of Burns’ contemporaries, including the local Mauchline character Willie Fisher, whose religious aspirations were satirised and immortalised in the unforgettable Holy Willie’s Prayer. The present Poosie Nancie’s pub has direct links back to Burns time – Nancie was the landlady in Burns’ day. Burns’ poem The Holy Fair describes the high spirits of Mauchline Holy Fair, a tradition still observed in the town.

In the afternoon, take the main A76 south for Dumfries to Ellisland Farm. Once home to the famous Scots poet, his former home is now a popular museum and you can see his original writing and possessions and take a stroll along the idyllic Burns Walk where he composed Tam o' Shanter. Take a guided tour of the farmhouse to see the rooms where the poet and his wife, Jean Armour, lived and worked.

Finish the day by following Burns from this farm to Dumfries, where he moved in 1791. Enjoy a drink in the Globe Inn, Burns’ favourite pub, which is still open. His favourite seat still survives, and some of his poetry, scratched by the poet on window glass, may still be seen.

Begin the third day at the Robert Burns House, his former home in Dumfries’ Burns Street, which now serves as a dedicated museum. See the desk and chair where he sat to write, more than 200 years ago.

Finish the morning at the Burns’ Mausoleum, which was completed in 1817. The mausoleum was renovated in 2012 with a new copper cupola roof, restoring it to its former condition.

In the afternoon you can take the road northwards for Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, where Burns achieved fame as a ‘ploughman poet’. The Writers Museum exhibits manuscripts and other materials associated with Burns, while the city also has a Burns Monument beside Calton Hill.

The grave of ‘Clarinda’, Mrs Agnes M’Lehose, with whom Burns had a passionate affair by letter, is in the Canongate Churchyard, off the Royal Mile. Burns wrote 'Ae Fond Kiss, and then we sever’, perhaps Scotland’s greatest song of parting, as a result of meeting her.

Literary tours are also on offer, to find out more about Robert Burns and the many other writers who shaped Edinburgh, the first UNESCO City of Literature.