We were only about 30 minutes from the Scotish border during our stay in Cockermouth, and we began to hear Rabbie Burns, Scotland’s favorite literary son, calling us to come up for a visit. Over a smoked salmon and scrambled eggs breakfast, we made plans to stop at the Robert Burns Center in Dumfries, Scotland and then a swing past the Bladnoch Distillery in Wigtown before heading up to Ayr, Scotland for the night.
Robert Burns (1759-1796) was a Scottish poet and lyricist who is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. He was a pioneer of the Romantic movement, but may be best known to Americans for the folk songs he collected from across Scotland, including his poem (and song) “Auld Lang Syne”.
The Robert Burns Center is situated in an 18th-century watermill by the banks of the River Nith in Dumfries, tells the story of the Bard’s extraordinary time in the market town. We found him waiting for our visit!
We found ourselves at The Globe Inn, Burns favorite local pub, around lunchtime and made ourselves at home for a bowl of soup before heading back out into the rain.
Back in the car to taste some Scotch! Bladnoch Distillery, on the banks of the River Bladnoch, has been producing the “Spirit of the Lowlands” since 1817. Even with Mary Poppins on the GPS, we had some trouble finding the place, but did recognize that Wigtown, Scotland would have been a great place to spend a day. Wigtown is known as Scotland’s Book Town and hosts over 20 book stores. But we kept on to the distillery, only to discover we were the only car in the parking lot and distillery tours were not running that day. We did grab a few tastings, buy a small bottle and watch a bit of an informational video. Even in the rain, the facility was impressive.
Our drive up to Ayr, Scotland would have been even more beautiful without the gray, rainy skies. Ayr is a coastal town which lies on the mouth of the River Ayr which flows into the larger Firth of Clyde estuary. From the coast, the Isle of Arran can be seen, and on a very clear day, the northern tip of Northern Ireland, but we had no such clarity!
Luckily, we had booked a last minute accommodation at the Horizon Hotel and enjoyed a great Scottish dinner at The Waterfront Restaurant. We always try to sample the foods of the region, and decided the we had to give haggis a chance. We were surprisingly pleased with our appetizer of Haggis Fritters served with turnip purée and potato with a side of whiskey sauce.
I was overjoyed to find Mussels with chorizo and cider on the menu, since I fell in love with mussels in Ireland two years ago, and David celebrated the miles of sheep we had passed during our day’s drive by ordering the double loin lamb chop with mint purée and potato fondant.
The next morning, it was off to nearby Alloway to visit the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. We have been to MANY museums and homes associated with authors, and this is one rivaled the John Steinbeck museum in Salinas, CA. State of the art displays – some interactive – allowed for a self guided tour of the museum building.
One showcase was devoted to Burns’ connection to John Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men. The title is borrowed from Burns’ “To a Mouse”, which begins with the epigraph “On turning her up in her nest, with the plough, November, 1785” and ends with the proverbial lines “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, gang aft agley.” Burns’ mouse was everywhere this trip, beginning with the artwork hanging at Langdale Chase, where we attended the wedding.
This larger than life mouse was placed along the Poet’s Path, a walking route connecting the museum to the Burns Cottage where Robert was born and a monument overlooking the late medieval bridge Brig ‘o Doon, made famous in the poem “Tam o’ Shanter”.