The first time I read Robert Burns was in my grade 10 English class. I’m sure I’d heard Auld Lang Syne even before that, but at the time had no idea who had written it. To a Mouse was the first poem I read and understood that was Burns’.
Understood might be an exaggeration, but it definitely captured my attention.
Going to his home in Ayr was a huge thrill for me, almost like a pilgrimage.
The new museum was great. Its a big wooden building and walking in the door after passing all the souvenirs and entering the exhibit the first thing you see is Burns’ writing desk.
The exhibit has hundreds of artefacts; headphones along each wall let you listen to his poems. His family, his loves, his friends, his travels and his legacy are all represented and explained. Original poems and letters were everywhere. The writing kit that he took with him on his travels was even on display.
Outside the museum was Brig a Doon and Alloway Kirk from Tam O’Shanter, just down the road from the cottage Burns was born in. Burns’ parents are buried in that same kirk. Not far from the new parish on Auld Nick View is a giant statue of the mouse in honour of his poem.
The town of Ayr is very picturesque, a short train ride from Glasgow, just past the Prestwick airport that serves Glasgow. A long sea walk with birds, parks and small houses, further north is the river which showed a very clear reflection of the buildings and bridges above when I walked along it. The high street is just how you’d imagine it to be. We stopped for dinner at Tam O’Shanter pub where I had some neeps and tatties and Hobgoblin Ale.
It truly is Burns country. The couple at the next table saw my Burns book and had a poem to suggest. More of a cheeky one than a serious one, but its good to know that the locals know their bard.
I look forward to going back in the summer, maybe I’ll rent a bike and go to Burns’ other home in Dumfries and see some more of the castles in the area.