Robert Burns Museum

Written by Chris Thornton | 12th of August 2023
Robert Burns Museum

My family and I were down in Ayr for a wee mini tour of the area - 232 miles away from our home in Northeast Scotland. At the top of the agenda was Robert Burns's Birthplace Museum, a short distance from our lodgings at Craig Tara holiday park.

The museum was only a 5-minute drive away and was well signposted with the familiar brown tourist signs. This museum has two separate areas: the main building, which houses many amazing Burns Artefacts and informational displays, and the cottage where he was born, a short walk away via the "Poet's Path".

We decided to visit the main museum first and then walk to the cottage afterwards.

Who was Robert Burns?

Robert Burns, often known as "Rabbie Burns," was a Scottish poet and lyricist widely regarded as Scotland's national poet. He was born into a farming family on January 25, 1759, in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland. Despite his rural upbringing and limited formal education, Burns developed a keen interest in literature and poetry at a young age, which was encouraged by his father.

Burns is best known for his pioneering role in the Romantic Movement. His work is characterised by a raw honesty about love, life, and politics, and his use of vernacular Scots language alongside English made his work accessible and beloved by both common folk and the literati.

His works range from political commentary and social observations to romantic and bawdy songs. Some of his most well-known poems and songs include "Auld Lang Syne," often sung at New Year's celebrations around the world; "Scots Wha Hae," which served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country; and "A Red, Red Rose," a timeless love poem.

Burns died at the age of 37 on July 21, 1796. However, his work has lived on, and he is celebrated worldwide. Every year on his birthday, people around the globe participate in traditional Burns Night Suppers, which involve recitations of Burns' poetry, traditional Scottish food, music, and toasts.

Today, Burns is remembered as a significant literary figure and a symbol of Scottish national pride and identity. His life and works are commemorated in many ways, including the Robert Burns Museum in his birthplace of Alloway.

Scotland's National Bard

Burns is Scotland's National Bard and is often referred to as the "Bard of Ayrshire" or simply "The Bard." His work has become an integral part of Scottish culture and heritage, and he is celebrated both in Scotland and around the world for his contributions to literature, especially poetry and songwriting.

His influence on Scottish literature has been so profound that he is widely considered the national poet of Scotland.

Our visit to the Robert Burns Museum

We pulled into the car park at around 10 am on a Sunday morning; it was already very busy, and we struggled to find a parking space but got one eventually. I would arrive earlier if you plan on visiting the museum.

Burns Museum car park.
The Burns Museum car park was very busy when we visited.

Walking to the museum building, many details are to be spotted; for example, even the benches at the front have Burn's poetry excerpts on them. The building itself is a lovely modern building made from stone and wood.

Scotland's literary heritage.
Burns mural at the left of the entrance.
Entrance sign. Scotland's favourite son. An enduring hero of Scottish literature.
Entrance signage.

The staff at reception were pleasant, and we got a bit of a hard sell on joining the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) as members, which I was a bit sceptical about to begin with. Still, considering all the places we visited for free afterwards, the membership was worth it.

After getting our tickets, we entered the main museum area.

Museum entrance.
The reception to access the museum entrance to the right.

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

The first thing I noticed about this museum was how dark it was! Due to the delicate nature of the many original manuscripts within the museum, the lights are dimmed to preserve these precious documents.

A short repeating video welcomes you to the museum and gives an overview of Burns and the museum facilities.

The first actual burns artefact we arrived at was Robert Burns's writing desk, it's not even behind a pane of glass, so it's possible to have a close look at the desk, but you cannot touch it.

The flagship museum starts with a video then Burns writing desk.
The actual writing desk owned by Burns.

Passing by the writing desk, we arrived at the central area of the museum, a large open area with many different exhibits you can visit at your leisure in any order. There is an unbelievable wealth of information and original artefacts here; it boggles the mind.

Exhibits include:

  • Individual exhibits dedicated to Burn's most famous work, including telephones where you can listen to the poetry.

  • Many original manuscripts, written by Burns himself, from poems to everyday letters to friends and colleagues.

  • Many physical items owned by Burns, including his shaving razor, diaries and other personal items.

  • Interactive multimedia displays.

  • Information on Burn's family tree.

  • A 3D model of how Burns looked.

  • Dedicated displays for Burn's most famous work, including Auld Lang Syne, Tam o Shanter and Scots Wha Hae.

We slowly made our way around the museum, I had expected the kids to be a little bored, not realising the cultural significance of the exhibits before them, but they were really interested. Even our youngest daughter Lauren at seven years old, took the time to listen to the poems via the telephone handset. Her favourite was "To a Mouse".

The museum offers a truly unique encounter with everything Burns.
Lauren was listening to "To a Mouse", she was really engrossed.

The kids particularly loved the interactive displays, one of which you make a face by choosing different facial features - they found it hilarious. They also loved the side profile photographs.

Everything for the die hard burnsian.
One of the many books written and owned by Burns.
Robert Burns book selection.
A selection of Burns books.
Fiddle owned by Robert Burns dance teacher.
The fiddle/violin of Burns's dance teacher.
Poetry art installation.
One of the many art installations.
Burns last supper!
A fun mock-up of the last supper with Burns surrounded by many famous people.
Robert Burns art peice.
One of the many art pieces to be found within the museum.
Burns artefacts.
Many Burns artefacts.
Tam o' Shanter
A copy of Tam o' Shanter with additional lines criticising lawyers and priests.
Burns mockup
A slightly nightmarish mock-up of how Burns looked!
The shaving razor and mirror owned by Robert Burns.
Burns shaving razor.
Burns exhibits.
The central exhibit of the museum.
Burns family.
Burns family and descendants.
Burns museum profile camera.
The girls had great fun with his profile camera.
Interactive Multimedia
My daughters spent a lot of time making up faces on this interactive display.
Robert Burns family tree.
The Burns family tree.
Burns Museum portraits.
Portraits area.

Leaving the main area, there is another smaller room with Burn's writings mounted on frames. The information above the door mentions that these particular items haven't been displayed for 100 years, so we felt blessed to have seen them.

Rare manuscripts area.
The additional display area with rare manuscripts.
Framed Burns manuscripts.
The framed rare manuscripts.

Robert Burns Museum Café

There is a lovely cafe at the museum with seating looking out onto the playpark outside. The coffee and food smelt good, but we didn't try the cafe on his occasion - the kids were keen to get outside and check out the fantastic-looking playpark.

Cafe at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.
The lovely cafe at the Robert Burns Museum.
Burns poetry.
Burns's poetry is well placed throughout the museum with this excerpt at the cafe.


The playpark here is brilliant and keeps up Burn's theming with the little cottage and references to his poetry. My kids enjoyed the large spinning cauldron the most, but there were also slides, climbing nets, a sand pit and a zip line.

Burns Museum playpark.
The great playpark to the rear of the museum.
Playpark and the rear of the main museum.
Playpark and museum.
The rear of Robert Burns Museum.
Additional seating at the rear of the museum.

Gift shop

As with all touristy places all over Scotland, there are many fine gifts to be purchased at the museum gift shop. Tote bags, scarves, jams and a lovely selection of heather gems.

Museum gift shop.
The lovely gift shop.

Burns Cottage and Burns Monument and Gardens

This wasn't the end of our visit to the Burns Museum, we decided to walk to check out the nearby gardens and monument, Brig O' Doon and finally, the Burns Cottage, but I will add these as separate articles to follow this one!

Visitor Information

Open daily between 10 am and 5 pm.

Entry prices: £11.50 for adults, family tickets for £27, single adult families £20, concessions £8.50. National Trust members are free.

The museum has an excellent cafe, toilets with baby changing facilities and is entirely accessible for wheelchair users.

Telephone: 01292 443700
Email address:


Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

Google maps location
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FAQs on Robert Burns Museum

Here are a few frequently asked questions about the Burns Museum.

Is Burns Cottage National Trust?

Yes, we were asked to join the NTS when we arrived, and it was worth it as we saved over £50 visiting Culzean Castle a couple of days later.

Are the museum and cottage in separate locations?

Yes, the main museum is a 15-minute walk away from the cottage, but your entrance fee to the main museum also gives access to the cottage.

What else can be seen before or after the museum?

There are so many historical buildings to be seen in Ayr, but directly next to the museum, you can see Alloway Parish Church, Brig o Doon and the Burns Memorial Gardens. The short walk to the Burns Cottage is also worthwhile and included in your main museum ticket.

Alloway itself is a beautiful village and worth exploring in its own right.

Is the museum suitable for younger visitors?

It really is; my kids were not bored at all and had great fun listening to the poetry and playing with the interactive multimedia displays. My kids were 13, 10 and 7 at the time, and there were no complaints.

Is the Burns Museum accessible to people with disabilities?

Yes, the museum is completely accessible for wheelchairs; the entire museum is on one floor, with no stairs. At the main entrance, a side door can be used instead of the revolving door.

Can I visit just the café or the playpark without buying a ticket for the museum?

Yes, the only paid area is the main museum and cottage; you can access all of the other facilities for free.

Is photography allowed in the museum?

Photography is allowed, but strictly with no flash to protect the documents on display. It is very dark so you will need a good camera with a fast lens. Most of my interior photos in this article were taken on my mobile phone with the flash off.

Key information on Robert Burns Museum

  • The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is located in Alloway, Ayrshire.

  • The museum consists of two areas: the main building, housing artefacts and informational displays, and the nearby cottage where Burns was born.

  • Robert Burns (1759-1796), often known as "Rabbie Burns," is Scotland's National Bard. His works have played a significant role in the Romantic Movement, and he has made considerable contributions to literature.

  • The museum hosts a variety of exhibits, including original manuscripts, personal items owned by Burns, and interactive multimedia displays.

  • There are also dedicated exhibits for Burns's most famous works where visitors can listen to his poetry.

  • The museum includes a café with a view of the outdoor playpark, which features a Burns-themed playground.

  • Aside from the main museum, visitors can also visit the Burns Cottage, Burns Monument and Gardens, and the Brig o Doon.

  • The museum is accessible for wheelchair users and has toilets with baby changing facilities.

  • The main museum and cottage are in separate locations, but the entrance fee covers both sites.

Thornton family at Robert Burns Museum.
We had a great time at this fantastic museum.


Our visit to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum was both educational and entertaining, blending history, literature, and fun activities in a way that appealed to the whole family. Walking in the footsteps of Scotland's National Bard, we were able to immerse ourselves in his world and appreciate his enduring influence on Scottish culture.

Please check the follow-up articles on Burns Cottage, Burns Memorial Gardens and Brig o' Doon.

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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