A walk with Robert

With Scotland’s famous national event, Burns Night, less than two weeks away, Visitor Assistant Cara Fraser takes a wee walk through the bonnie city of Edinburgh, featuring historical landmarks of the Scottish Bard.

“Although born and raised on a farm in Ayrshire, Robert Burns (b.1759)  was a frequent visitor to Edinburgh and soon lost his heart to his dear ‘Edina’!

This blog is a little journey through the Edinburgh of Burns’ time, his works and his influences; finishing off with a little of our Bard’s favourite tipple to warm the soul and soothe those tired feet!

Start – Burns Monument, Regent Terrace

From here you gaze over Edinburgh’s Old Town, though a lot of new buildings are appearing, many remain from Burns’ time. The oldest buildings on the Royal Mile are believed to date back to the 15th century, so even to Burns this city was ancient and enchanting.

Edina! Scotia’s darling seat,
All hail thy palaces and tow’rs,

I shelter in thy honour’d shade.

Next we will continue east along Regent Road until the first major turning right, follow this road down toward Holyrood, one of the palaces mentioned in the above ‘Address to Edinburgh’ and then turn right again up the Royal Mile. Our next stop is Canongait Kirk.

You’ll notice a gentleman strolling outside, book in hand. This is not Burns but instead a different Robert, the fellow poet Robert Fergusson: not as well-known today as the Scottish Bard but equally as important. Although the two never met, Burns was deeply moved by Fergusson’s works and many argue that perhaps without Fergusson our Burns may never have become the poet he did. Whether or not this last statement is true, you cannot deny Burn’s devotion as, after an untimely and tragic death at the age of just 23* the then penniless Fergusson was buried without a headstone. Burns contributed to the erection of the headstone you can now find inside and wrote the everlasting inscription.

This simple stone directs pale Scotia’s way
To pour her sorrows o’er her Poet’s Dust.

This humble tribute with a tear he gives,
A brother Bard, who can no more bestow

We will walk now, a good bit further up the Royal Mile, keep an eye out on the right hand side amongst the little twists and turns of alleys for Lady Stair’s Close. It was here Burns spent a few nights in 1786, do you see the plaque?

And if you head down this little alley you will find yourself surrounded by poetry and faced with The Writer’s Museum. Pop inside and warm up, you’ll find plenty of information on our beloved poet!

Now you’re a little better acquainted with Robert Burns it seems only right to toast this literary legend. Just a little further up the mile is our final stop!

Finish – The Scotch Whisky Experience

The Scotch Whisky Experience, which sits at the top of Edinburgh's Royal Mile, next door to Edinburgh Castle.
The Scotch Whisky Experience, which sits at the top of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, next door to Edinburgh Castle.

Robert Burns most likely found his love of the Scottish Drink through his works as a Tax and Excise man, if you’d like to know a little more of the history and production of Scotch Whisky why not take a whisky tour here in Edinburgh? Or if you’re a little worn out you can instead head downstairs to the Amber Restaurant and Whisky Bar where the staff can assist you on choosing a dram to enjoy. Whilst you do I shall leave you with the wonderful works of our beloved Bard on the subject of our beloved drink!

O thou, my Muse! guid auld Scotch Drink,

richly brown, ream owre the brink,
in glorious faem,
Inspire me, till I lisp an’ wink,
To sing thy name!

The quotes included come from the following Burns poems; ‘Address To Edinburgh’, ‘Inscription on the Tombstone’ and ‘Scotch Drink’. All were found in The Penguin Popular Classics Edition of Robert Burns Selected Poems.

Further reading of interest may include:

  • The Bard by Robert Crawford
  • The Life of Robert Burns by Catherine Carswell
  • Robert Fergusson Selected Poems, Collected by James Robertson
  • Robert Fergusson and the Scottish Periodical Press by Rhona Brown
  • The Companion Guide to Edinburgh and the Borders by A.J. Youngson

Editor’s note
*The grave of Robert Fergusson states that he was born in September 1751 and died in October 1774. However, all sites on the poet allege that he was born in 1750. We would love to hear from anyone who knows the correct dates! Please feel free to comment below.

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