In the Footsteps of Robert Burns
Robert Burns is remembered in Scotland in a way shared by no other poet. Today, his words are still read, his songs still sung and his birthday celebrated. Born in a humble cottage, he knew a life of toil as a poor farmer, yet found the inspiration to produce enduring works of love, passion, drama and humour.
This tour explores Ayrshire, the area of his early years, and also around Dumfries where he eventually lived, and then returns to Edinburgh, the city that first feted him as a literary sensation.
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From Glasgow head southwest for Kilmarnock, where his first published book of poems – the famous ‘Kilmarnock Edition’ of 1786 – was printed. Burns was farming at Mossgiel, Mauchline at the time. That meant Kilmarnock was his market and business town. He was well liked there and local business people assisted in raising funds for the publication. Today, Kilmarnock is still the headquarters of the Robert Burns World Federation. Continue to Ayr and overnight.
Explore Ayr, and then travel a short way south to Alloway. The town of Ayr 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, also mentioned in the same poem, replaced the ancient original in 1834.
The town also has a Burns statue, in the square named after him. Ayr is also at the centre of the annual Burns an’ a’ that Festival, which brings the Burns theme into the 21st century. Several more of the sites associated with Burns and his early years are in the Burns National Heritage Park in Alloway and include Burns Cottage, Museum and the Tam o’ Shanter Experience, as well as Auld Alloway Kirk, Burns Monument and the Brig o’ Doon. Overnight in Ayr.
Take the road to Mauchline, east of Ayr, with its many Burns connections. Mauchline Churchyard was the final resting place of many of his 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 Nansie’s pub has direct links back to Burns time – Nansie 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.
Travel south for Dumfries, passing Ellisland Farm on the way. From this farm, Burns moved to Dumfries in 1791. The house in which he eventually lived is now a museum with some Burns artefacts. The Burns Mausoleum, his last resting place, is in St Michael’s Churchyard close by. Overnight Dumfries.
Take the road northwards for Edinburgh. Scotland’s capital is where he 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 – but only 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. Overnight in Edinburgh.
The above package includes:
- 4 nights hotel accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis
- Hire of self-drive car
- VAT at 20%