FROM the cottage where he was born to the museum containing his life’s works and the Auld Kirk and bridge where one of his most famous characters ran for his life, Alloway is at the heart of Robert Burns territory. These four locations bind together the story of the bard, telling of his formative years in Ayrshire and showing the places which inspired his most celebrated stories.

Over 200 years on from his death, Burns continues to hold a prominent place in Scottish life, his poems still resonating with people of all ages. That influence extends far beyond his native shores as every New Year a global chorus holds their loved ones near and joins in Auld Lang Syne. It’s understandable then that the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and the little cottage where he grew up and was taught to read and write has become a gathering place for fans of his work from all over the world.

The properties are cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, as are the recently restored Burns Monument, the surrounding gardens and playpark and Alloway Auld Kirk and Brig o’ Doon, which both feature in one of his best-known works, Tam o Shanter. All are linked by the Poet’s Path, which connects visitors with every aspect of Burns’ life.

“For a lot of people, it’s a pilgrimage,” said Stuart Maxwell, the National Trust for Scotland’s General Manager for Edinburgh and East and Ayrshire and Arran. “Some make the trip of a lifetime to see where Burns was born. He has an international appeal. He is huge in Russia, for example, and we get a lot of people visiting from there.

“Burns is everywhere,” he added. “Everyone knows Auld Lang’s Syne, but he has such a diverse range of work and some of it, like Tam o Shanter and To a Mouse, are very funny or poignant and I think that’s what makes his work so appealing to children.”

Those works have inspired the National Trust for Scotland staff and feature everywhere across the Alloway properties, including the popular playpark, which has the Bard’s words and imagery throughout.

Here are some of the other highlights and events to look forward to on your trip into Burns country.

A priceless collection

There are over 5000 artefacts at the museum, all of which have a direct connection to Burns. That collection is rotated and protected by a climate-controlled museum and carefully controlled lighting. “It is the largest collection of Burns artefacts and manuscripts in the world,” said Stuart. “We even have a fragment of the original Auld Lang’s Syne and you can see that people are physically moved, just being near it – which is quite a thing to witness.” And listen for some familiar voices. You’ll hear Brian Cox reading Tam o Shanter and Eddi Reader sing My Love is like a Red Red Rose, among the many recordings of Burns’ work.

A paradise for not so tim'rous beasties

Younger visitors will enjoy the bespoke, Burns-inspired playpark that includes a mini Burns cottage and a host of little nods to his works. The team are all geared towards making Burns bairn friendly, running tours for children that tie in with what they will learn in school.

Rab and Roald

Burns steps out of the limelight and gives the stage over to another author in September – one who just happens to be one of the world’s greatest children’s storytellers. The museum will host a big after-school party on Roald Dahl Day, starting at 3pm on Friday September 13. There will be a Dahl-themed bug hunt, arts & crafts, a writing exercise, party games and competitions. Expect to bump into a few Twits, a Giant Peach and make sure you book your tickets in advance.

"Catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk"

There could hardly be a better place to spend Halloween than Alloway, where the bold Tam o Shanter madly dashed across the bridge with hellish fiends hot on his heels. You can take part in a Ghostly Guided Walk, from the Bard’s birthplace to Alloway’s Auld (and haunted) Kirk and hear tales of suspicious deaths, grave robbers and other ghastly goings on. What’s more Alloween (October 31) is suitable for children aged 8 and up, so will be the perfect treat for Horrible History fans. Book in advance as places are at a premium.

Burns for all

Scotland’s Bard is for everyone and the museum aims to be welcoming. Staff run Accessible Openings on the first Tuesday of every month, where the sound is switched off to help create a more relaxed environment for visitors. There are other events throughout the month, including autism-friendly relaxed crafts and outdoor learning. The museum, shop and café are all on one level. The latter serves up the best baking in Ayrshire (the menu has included Irn Bru scones) with homemade options for different dietary requirements.

The museum is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, the charity that protects Scotland’s national and natural treasures. See For your local event visit: or