January is the time of resolutions and self-reflection, a time when we set our intentions for the coming year. It is also the month when we celebrate the birth of Scotland’s National Poet, Robert Burns. January 25th is Robbie Burns Day, a day when people in Scotland and around the world will gather together to celebrate the man and his extensive body of works with poetry, food and drink.
As our journey into 2018 begins, celebrating the beloved bard is the perfect opportunity to start the New Year off on the right note. If your only encounter with Robert Burns is singing Auld Lang Syne at New Years, then this journey to the Scottish countryside will introduce you to the colourful life of the national Bard. A heritage travel experience that will connect you with Burns life and most known works.
Robert Burns – Scotland’s Beloved Bard
Robbie Burns, or Rabbie Burns (as he is affectionately known) is a Scottish cultural icon, who garnered fame as a poet and lyricist. If by chance you are not familiar with the man, then you are probably familiar with his poetry or music. Perhaps you’ve heard of the poems Tam O’Shanter or Tae a Moose? Maybe you would recognise the songs Auld Lang Syne, Red is the Rose, or my personal favourite The Banks O’ Doon.
Burns’ Inspired Travel Through The Scottish Countryside
Robbie Burns was born on January 25, 1759 in the village of Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland. The son of a tenant farmer and the eldest of seven children, Burns’ childhood was dominated by the labours of the family farm. Though despite his modest background, he had a father who insisted upon an education, thus laying the foundations for a future literary life.
Burns wrote his first poem at the age of 15, divining inspiration from a local girl who was helping with the harvest; Handsome Nell would be the first of an extensive repertoire. Writing about the everyday things that inspired him, Burns’ poems had a broad appeal. He wrote not in English, but in the Scots language of his home, which further endeared him to his countrymen. He was known for his liberal leanings and believed in freedom and improvement, taking issue with the strict teachings of the Presbyterian Church. Though branded by some as a radical, the incorporation of his beliefs into his works earned him much admiration.
Explore Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Alloway, Ayr
Situated on the site of Burns’ birthplace, this museum presents an informative narrative of Burns’ life. Exhibits include original manuscripts, artwork and a number of personal items belonging to the poet. Visitors can also visit the three-room thatched cottage where Robert Burns was born, the Brig O’Doon featured in Tam O’Shanter and the Burns Monument and Gardens.
When to Visit:
Visit year round, except Dec. 25-26 Jan 1-2
Address: Murdoch’s Lone, Alloway, Ayr. 61km (38 miles) from Glasgow City Centre. By car: From Glasgow take A77 to Doonholme Road, then to Murdoch’s Lone. By bus from Ayr catch the 361.
Burns’ The Poet
In 1786, Burns published his first book of poems called Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. It was hailed as a success and brought him fame throughout Scotland. Riding the wave of his newly found popularity, Burns travelled to Edinburgh where he mixed with the wellborn and intellectuals of society.
In Edinburgh, Burns had a fortuitous meeting with a music publisher named James Johnson. Both men shared a mutual interest in traditional songs, inspiring Burns to turn his talents to the preservation of Scottish folk music. Collecting old songs, he wrote lyrics to traditional tunes as well as writing his own originals. One of his most well known songs, Auld Lang Syne, was adapted from the tune of Can ye labour lea, and his famous Red is the Rose was written to the tune of Major Graham.
By 1788, Burns had a wife and family and was unable to solely rely on his writings for income. Looking for another way to make money, he trained as an exciseman and supported his family as a travelling tax collector. Although he worked long hours, Burns still maintained his passion for poetry, and wrote his masterpiece Tam O’Shanter at this time. Tragically, Burns’ ability to write was eclipsed by his poor health; he was severely weakened by a heart condition and died in 1796 at just 37 years of age.
Explore Robert Burns House, Dumfries and Galloway
This modest sandstone house is where Robert Burns spent the last years of his life and died in 1796. Visitors can see the study where Burns wrote some of his most famous poems as well as original manuscripts of his works.
When To Visit:
Visit year round, limited hours on Sundays and holidays
Address: Burns St, Dumfries. 90km (56 miles) from Glasgow City Centre. By Car: From GlasgowTake M74 and A74(M) to A701 in Dumfries and Galloway. Take exit 15 from A74(M) Follow A701 to Burns St in Dumfries
Burns’ Last Years
Robbie Burns lived a short but remarkable life, during which he penned over 600 poems and songs. Today, Burns’ memory is alive and well in Scotland and throughout the world. In addition to numerous statues in his likeness, his legacy has been assured with the thousands of Burns Club members worldwide who devotedly celebrate the man and his works. This year, on January 25th, enthusiasts will gather to commemorate Burns and honour the poetry and music that continues to inspire 222 years after his death.
Explore Globe Inn, Dumfries and Galloway
Established in 1610, this historic pub was frequented by Robert Burns in his later years. Visitors can enjoy food and drink while enjoying the cozy ambience of Burns’ former local.
When To Visit?
Visit year round
Address: 56 High St, Dumfries. 122km (76 miles) from Glasgow City Centre. From Glasgow Take M74 and A74(M) to A701 in Dumfries and Galloway. Take exit 15 from A74(M) Follow A701 to your destination in Dumfries.