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Robert Burns : Scotland

Burns' Scotland

Kincardinshire is a county enclosed by Aberdeenshire to the north and Angus to the south. The lands between the rivers Dee and Esk are known as the Mearns, and area of green growth and rich soil. This is where the tenant farmers named Burness worked in the 17th century.

Dumfries is seven miles from the estuary of the river Nith, and the farm at Ellisland was six and a half miles away on the same river. Burns was made an honorary Burgess in 1787, went to live there in November 1791, and died there in July 1796.

Irvine is an ancient royal burgh of Scotland, with a charter since the 13th century. In Burns' day it was the country's third most important port and was guarded by the Seagate castle.

Edinburgh was one of the most important centres of learning and new ideas in Europe. The city attracted artists, scientists, doctors, writers, engineers, architects and great thinkers. Due to its fine buildings and great minds it was compared to Athens in its Golden Age. The building of the Edinburgh New Town began in 1767 and is an early example of town planning, with streets and squares laid out in neat regular patterns.

Burns' Tours started in 1787 when his book launched and he had money to spend. Burns undertook a series of journeys beginning on May 5th. The first tour through the Border country was accompanied by the law student Robert Ainslie, and his next journey took in the most accessible region of the Highlands, the mountains of Argyll. On 25th June in a letter to Robert Ainslie he said: 'I write this on my tour through a country where savage streams tumble over savage mountains, thinly spread with savage flocks, which starvingly support its savage inhabitants'. For his third tour he was accompanied by William Nicol, and started through Bannockburn, which Burns celebrated in his song 'Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace Bled'. His journey north through Perthshire, eastwards from Inverness by way of Moray, and then down the broad peninsula where his Burness ancestors had lived, he listened to folk-songs in a language he could understand and they caught his imagination. He dined with the Duke and Duchess of Atholl at Blair castle, and the Duke and Duchess of Gordon invited him to stay at Gordon castle. Burns then went to Stonehaven where his grandfather had worked as a gardener, and he spent time among his relations and found his aunts, Jean and Isabel still alive.

Burns' tours broadened his understanding of Scotland and its people, and also made him and his work more accessible to others. His fame was growing.