national bard Robert Burns is renowned the world over and as people
toast his work on Burns Night, Lorraine Wakefield visits his birthplace
and the Burns National Heritage Park.
since the time of his death in 1796 the birthplace of Robert Burns
in the leafy village of Alloway, Ayr has been a place of pilgrimage
for thousands of visitors each year.
Burns National Heritage Park was established five years ago to bring
the Burns cottage and museum, the ruined Kirk Alloway, Burns monument
and the Brig O’Doon, which are all situated within a small area,
under one umbrella.
the same time the visitor centre was revamped to create the Tam
O’Shanter Experience which uses the latest audio visual technology
to bring Burns to life for today’s visitors.
of thousands of visitors make the trip to Burns National Heritage
Park each year and January is one of the busiest times as people
across the country and around the world prepare to celebrate the
national bard on Burns Night.
have been coming here since the 18th and 19th
century as obviously the cottage has always been there although
it was changed into a pub then bought back again", explained
Carol Turner administration and marketing manager of the Burns National
have had between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors annually over the
past five years and it is very much a mixture with Scottish, English
and foreign visitors."
January we also hold living history events, with actors playing
Burns himself and his youngest sister Annabella in Burns cottage
talking about their lives when they were children, which is designed
for school groups."
"We get Robert Burns in as an actor because he can interact
with the children and talks to them in everyday language. I think
the children sometimes don’t realise that Burns was a child too
who had to live in a house and do all the normal things children
had to and more as he had to work in the fields. It
is much more down to earth for the children so they can connect
with him more," she added.
Burns cottage visitors are met by the man himself who welcomes you
into the tiny auld clay biggen and takes you through the different
parts of the cottage talking about his life and how working in the
Ayrshire countryside inspired his works.
half way through the tour by his sister Annabella the two then reminisce
about their lives in days gone by and regale visitors with excerpts
from Burns’ famed poems.
actors captivated their young audience and older visitors alike
with their tales and period costumes but even when they are not
at the cottage visitors can enjoy an audio tour through the byre,
parlour and kitchen.
to the cottage is the Burns Museum which houses an important collection
of original Burns manuscripts and other artefacts, sculptures, books
and paintings which provide further knowledge and appreciation of
John Manson has looked after the cottage and museum for nearly 20
years and he is still amazed at the worldwide interest in Burns
with orders for haggis and other Burns Night provisions coming from
as far away as Malaysia.
leaving Burns cottage visitors can take a short walk to the ruined
Kirk Alloway and graveyard, the setting for perhaps his best known
poem Tam O’Shanter where the witches and warlocks danced and the
nearby Brig O’Doon where he made good his escape on his trusty mare
the Brig O’Doon a walk through the beautiful gardens, past the Grecian
style Burns Monument opened in 1823, leads to the Tam O’Shanter
Experience for the final part of the heritage park visit.
first theatre at the Tam O’Shanter Experience gives an introduction
to Burns with a short film narrating the story of his life and a
brief overview of some of his poems and ballads before visitors
move through to the second theatre.
the poem Tam O’Shanter is shown in a filmed dramatisation complete
with lightning and thunderclaps and the sight of Tam heading off
into the dark night alone on his horse really sends a shiver down
Tam O’Shanter Experience also houses the Taste of Scotland restaurant
which every January 25 hosts a traditional Burns Supper that is
always a full house with people keen to celebrate the bard.
January is one of the busiest times for the Burns National Heritage
Park it is open all year round, attracting most of its overseas
visitors during the summer months, and even more than 200 years
after his death the popularity of Burns and his work shows no signs
information about Burns National Heritage Park is on the website