In the Footsteps of Rabbie Burns

by Sara Barton, 9th September 2021
Robert Burns | Dumfries
In the Footsteps of Rabbie Burns

Did you know that famous Scot’s poet Robert, or Rabbie, Burns produced about a quarter of his life’s work while living in and around the town of Dumfries? While his birth and early life are associated with Ayrshire, from 1788 the great poet lived on a farm north of Dumfries, later moving into the town itself.

Many of the buildings he lived and worked in still exist and are dedicated to his memory and Burns enthusiasts can now easily follow in his footsteps! Would you like to see where he created some of his most famous works or where he drank and talked politics with friends? His homes, favourite haunts and his final resting place are all within a small geographical area and easy to follow In the Footsteps of Burns.

Here’s a quick preview of the National Bard in Dumfries!

Where: Mill Road, Dumfries

For a great overview of Rabbie Burn’s life in and around Dumfries the Robert Burns Centre offers free admission and is an ideal place to start your tour! On the west bank of the River Nith in the town’s 18th century watermill, you’ll find the story of Burn’s last years. You can see a 3D mock up of what Dumfries would have looked like in his time. There’s a variety of artefacts displayed and you can listen to contemporary recordings of his works in an audio booth. Children will enjoy learning about Scotland’s bard with colouring sheets, a gallery trail and puzzles.

Robert Burns Centre, Dumfries, SSDA
The scale model of 18th century Dumfries at the Robert Burns Centre., Dumfries Museum
Where: Tourist Office, 64 Whitesands, Dumfries

If you like the idea of following a set route with insights into the poet’s life in Dumfries, there is a handy In the Footsteps of Burns town trail map with downloadable information! It starts from the Tourist information point and takes about an hour but to extend this, try to schedule your walk during the opening hours of the Robert Burns Centre and Robert Burns House. You may want to include some stops on the tour for refreshments too!

The Town Trail will take you past the statue of Rabbie Burns, set up by public subscription in 1882
Where: Auldgirth

Robert Burns and his family lived at Ellisland Farm, just a few miles north of Dumfries, for three years and it was here he wrote perhaps his most famous work, Auld Lang Syne. Today’s visitors can see the farmhouse he built and gain insight into what living in the late 1700s would have been like for his family. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the countryside, Burns was inspired while walking along a path on the farm and wrote Tam o’Shanter in just one day.

Robert Burns' Ellisland Museum and Farm, Robert Burns Ellisland Trust
See where Robert Burns wrote Auld Lang Syne and Tam o’Shanter at Ellisland Farm, just outside of Dumfries

Friars Carse Country House Hotel

Where: Auldgirth

Key to Burns’ prolific writing while at Ellisland was almost certainly the use of a ‘cottage’ set within the grounds of what is now Friars Carse Country House Hotel. In the late 1780s however it was known as Glenriddell and home to a great friend of Burns, Captain Robert Riddell. In a precursor to the garden shed that modern day writers retreat to, Riddell gave his friend the keys of an architectural folly known as The Hermitage, so the great poet could retreat (possibly from the noise of his 12 children) and put pen to paper.

Walk at Ellisland Farm, Robert Burns Ellisland Trust
Visit the Hermitage from Ellisland Farm, walking along the bank of the River Nith
Where: High St, Dumfries

To see where and what Rabbie Burns ate and drank, you need to head to central Dumfries, to the Globe Inn. Affectionately referred to by Burns as his Howff, the Globe Inn still offers food and drink and also private tours into the spaces used by Burns. You can even sit in the great man’s chair – but be sure to have one of his poems lined up to recite or its drinks all round on you!

Globe Inn Entrance, Annandale Distillery Co LTD
Visit Robert Burns’ Howff or tavern, The Globe Inn, Dumfries

Where: Burns St, Dumfries

After three years at Ellisland, Robert Burns decided that farming wasn’t for him – or perhaps it was his wife who decided as her husband was often away on his duties as an exciseman! The family moved to a simple sandstone house in 1793 and here that the poet died just three years later at the young age of 37. There are artefacts and items from his time in the house on display and enthusiasts from around the world come to see where he spent his last days.

If you are interested in visiting his Mausoleum in nearby St Michael’s graveyard, notify the staff in advance and they can arrange to unlock the gates.

Robert Burns House, Dumfries, SSDA
Robert Burns’ final home in Dumfries.