Britain at its finest: Explore the pleasures of Ayrshire from its regal Georgian terraces, to Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and the cafes serving haggis or IrnBru

  • Rob Crossan is a Fairfield House Hotel guest in Ayr. 
  • He uses the hotel’s base to visit the birthplace of Robert Burns – Alloway
  • He admires the ‘looming’ monument to the poet and the cobbled Brig O’ Doon

For a man who once wrote ‘Och, git oota ma pus, ya bawbag! Jings!’ (or ‘Get out of my face, you testicle’ in modern English) the monument to Robert Burns feels almost unduly elegant.

The memorial — set amid apple and monkey puzzle trees and red riots of Japanese maple in the landscaped gardens next to the cottage of his birth — is a looming 70ft-high Grecian-style temple.

Built in 1823, nearly three decades after Burns’s death at 37, it has nine pillars representing the muses of Greek mythology.

The memorial and landscaped gardens at Robert Burns' birthplace in Alloway, Scotland

Robert Burns’ Birthplace, Alloway (Scotland), is memorialized and has landscaped gardens 

Local hero: Burns was born in 1759, the eldest son of a tenant farmer named William

Local hero: Burns was born in 1759, the eldest son of a tenant farmer named William

Climb the stone steps to the platform and you’re rewarded with views over the kirks [churches], fields and squat cottages of the Ayrshire village of Alloway on Scotland’s south-western coast.

What would Burns have thought? It’s somewhat at odds with his ‘man of the soil’ image and his bawdy poems that speak of sex, haggis, booze and the occult. Scottish Bard, who was the youngest son of William, a tenant farmer, was born 1759. A ruined kirk is near his gravestone.

It is kept in a state that is close to its original condition, and the cottage, stables, grain storage, and hearth give us an idea of the poor conditions Rabbie lived in.

It’s a miracle that the cottage still survives at all given the many fires that have destroyed the thatched roof, a failed bid by suffragettes to blow it up, and the visit of a drunken John Keats who, after a row with the boozy caretaker, wrote some verses he said were ‘so bad I cannot transcribe them’.

The modern Burns Museum is located in this peaceful village and displays his portraits, first editions and stationery.

There’s also the cobbled Brig O’ Doon, the bridge across which, in his Tam o’Shanter poem, Burns’s protagonist and his horse Meg are chased by fearsome witches after a drinking binge in Ayr goes badly wrong.

Ayr is only ten minutes away and seems too calm for Tam-style binges now. The regal Georgian terraces hark back to the town’s era as a major port, and the promenade is of colossal dimensions. 

Robert Burns' father's gravestone still stands in front of the ruins of the Auld Kirk, pictured

Robert Burns’s father is buried in the Auld Kirk ruins, as seen here 

'The Burns cottage (pictured) is maintained in something approaching its original spartan state,' says Rob

Rob says that the Burns cottage is kept in a state similar to its former spartan condition.

These pale yellow sands can be licked by bone-chilling waters of Firth of Clyde. The Isle of Arran towers over the clouds beyond.

As the winds howl outside, Fairfield House Hotel is a place I feel at home with its tall ceilings, red armchairs and dark wooden fittings.

I then walk to Blue Lagoon in central town, passing the esplanade. Here I can enjoy a Scottish tradition of haggis and chips with an IrnBru.

Burns’s recipe for oats, offal, and pepper is not a common dish. However it can be enjoyed with a hint of spice (nutmeg, or pepper). It has a pleasant tang. Burns provided the most accurate description of haggis. It’s reassuring to know that it’s still possible to eat as much as you want of the meal he described as ‘warm-reekin’, rich!’ on his home turf.