It is no surprise that the region that produced Robert Burns is home to some of the most fascinating museums and collections. Whether you are interested in the arts, natural history or the rich cultural heritage of Ayrshire and Arran, there is something here for everyone.
The museum in Alloway is the world centre for Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet and is run by the National Trust for Scotland. Spread across a number of sites, it consists of the distinctive Burns Cottage, his birthplace and a modern museum which holds artefacts of his life and works. Visitors have the chance to experience Burns' life and that of the real people and places he wrote about. The world famous Brig O'Doon and Burns Monument are also part of the attraction.
The museum is located in the thatched cottage where Burns and his wife, Jean Armour, lived between 1784 and 1788 and Burns worked. It is suitable for all ages and features some rare exhibits and a room depicting how Robert and Jean lived. The period Burns lived here is believed to be when he produced most of his greatest works and local characters, such as Holy Willie, were written about. Mauchline is also world famous for the manufacture of Mauchline Ware, souvenir boxes and curling stones and examples of both of these can be seen here.
Stunning 18th century grand stately home and 2,000 acre estate near Cumnock, which was saved for the nation in 2007 by a group led by Prince Charles. The house, its contents and the grounds have been lovingly restored to their original condition. The house contains a very rare collection of Chippendale furniture and other beautiful antiques. Restoration continues in the grounds with the recently opened 5 acre walled garden, one of the largest in Scotland
The Dick Institute is the largest gallery space in Ayrshire and features a unique and diverse collection of contemporary art and natural history artefacts. The grand building is named after the benefactor who founded it, James Dick, a son of Kilmarnock who found his fortune in Australia. The institute has gained a reputation for having one of the finest contemporary collections in the West of Scotland and has hosted Scotland’s leading contemporary artists including Kenny Hunter, Simon Ward and Christine Borland.
Dean Castle is part of the Museums and Galleries of Scotland and combines a beautifully restored 14th century castle with several impressive collections. The castle houses a huge display of Howard de Walden armour and historic weapons as well as the Charles Van Raalte collection of musical instruments ... many of which are associated with Robert Burns. The castle is set within a Country Park and also offers an Urban Farm which includes Llamas, Deer and Clydesdale Horses.
The Museum of Ayrshire Country Life and Costume at Dalgarven Mill is a superb exhibition of life 100 years ago and more. Something for all the family from the working water wheel and machinery of the grain mill to the clothes that used to be worn and household and farm equipment used.
This museum is actually split between two sites, one in Dumbarton and this one that we are featuring here in Irvine. This part of the museum is based in Irvine Port and has a collection of ships and yachts. You can also take a glimpse into the life of a shipworker by visiting the Ship Workers' Tenement Flat
The museum is located just north of Brodick and is housed in a number of traditional Arran buildings including a croft, a smiddy and a coach house. The many 'hands on' exhibits keep youngsters occupied and older visitors will enjoy all that is on offer. Displays show life in a cottage and on a working farm of 100 years and more ago. There is an archaeology room, which tells of the Mesolithic people who settled on Arran 8,000 years ago. The museum is also the venue for annual events such as a Craft Day, Tractor Show, Childrens' Day and Motorcycle Show.
The thatched cottage dates from the 1700s and was the home of Souter Johnnie, real name John Davidson, one of the characters in Robert Burns' epic poem, Tam O'Shanter. The word "souter" means cobbler or shoemaker and there is a display of his original tools in his shoemaking workshop. You can also view how the Davidson family lived as the cottage contains some period pieces and Burns' relics. There is a thatched tavern in the garden behind the cottage featuring beautiful life-size sandstone statues of Souter Johnnie, Tam O'Shanter, the innkeeper and the innkeeper's wife - main characters in, Tam O'Shanter. The museum is suitable for all ages and often takes parties of school children and other groups. Opening times are limited so best to check the National Trust for Scotland website when planning a visit.
This 17th century house owned by the National Trust was where Robert Burns formed a debating club at the age of 24, took dancing lessons and became a Freemason. One of the rules of membership for the debating club was that members had to be a bachelor (unmarried) and residing in the parish of Tarbolton. Hence, the building gained the name of the Bachelors' Club. The property was restored in 1928 to depict how it would have looked at the time Burns visited it. It consists of 2 floors, the ground floor shows how the family would have lived in that part of it in the 1700s and the first floor has been retained as a meeting room to show how it was when Burns and his friends gathered there, to dance and debate. The meeting room is still used by Burns Clubs for their annual Burns Suppers commemorating the life of Scotland's most famous poet. The property is family friendly and welcomes individual and group visits. Check the opening days and times on the National Trust for Scotland website.
This property is now owned and run by East Ayrshire Council and features a statue of Robert Burns erected in 1879. The monument and statue are at the heart of a new centre opened in 2009. The centre holds a state-of-the-art archive facility for the area and has a first class family history section giving the public access to Scotland's People records not normally available. It also offers a genealogy service where family history experts will construct family trees for individuals. It has important collections of books, newspapers, maps and photographs of Robert Burns and Ayrshire. For family history research it is best to contact the centre in advance.