Ellisland in the Bard’s Footsteps

This is more of a short journey of exploration than just a walk. The distances covered are not great and the terrain is easy but this wee expedition is interesting as we take in the scenery and view the places where Rabbie Burns once lived, farmed and composed some of his most famous works.

We begin our journey at Ellisland car park a few hundred yards from the busy A76 road. The hustle and bustle of the main road is soon forgotten as we step into the tranquil surroundings of the farm.

Ellisland is where Burns came in the later part of his short life to try his hand at farming. The farm he chose was the inspirational poet’s choice and not the most productive of the three he was offered. Burn’s struggled here at his farming enterprise and had to take on a demanding job as exciseman to make ends meet. It was here that he also wrote some of his finest poems and songs. A visit to the farm is well worthwhile as it now a museum held in trust and the curator is a great font of Burns lore. There are several displays of Burns memorabilia a short film on how life was in his time and many agricultural exhibits.

Having now seen how life was like in the bard’s time let’s explore some of the places where he wrote some of his finest and best known works. It was by the banks of the Nith here that Rabbie wrote what was to become his most famous poem Tam o’ Shanter. We can imagine him struggling to put the images together of Tam escaping from the witches by crossing the Brig o’ Ayr on his faithful steed Meg. The short ramble through the trees to the south of Ellisland and out to open farmland is now named the Tam o’ Shanter Walk and it is alleged it was here that he finished the poem. It’s a gentle stroll by the Nith where in the back-end the trees are at their most colourful in their autumn tints and the salmon are louping in the river.

Backtracking to Ellisland where a look around the orchard gives us the chance to view old ploughs and other farm implements at close range. We can then head north along the riverbank towards Friar’s Carse where Burns was given the use of a small sandstone shelter, known as the Hermitage, as a retreat for his writing. He etched words on a windowpane here like he did at many places he visited. These short walks are not very demanding and in total will only be a around a couple of miles with very little climbing involved.

OS Landranger Sheet No: 78

Dave McFadzean