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Ayr, Alloway, Robert Burns Cottage

Cottage (18th Century), Museum (19th Century)

Site Name Ayr, Alloway, Robert Burns Cottage

Classification Cottage (18th Century), Museum (19th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Robert Burns' Cottage; Alloway, Burns Museum; Burns Birthplace Museum

Canmore ID 41612

Site Number NS31NW 31

NGR NS 33474 18591

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council South Ayrshire
  • Parish Ayr
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Kyle And Carrick
  • Former County Ayrshire

Archaeology Notes

NS31NW 31 33474 18591

See also NS31NW 83.

(NS 3347 1859). Burns Cottage. Birthplace of Robert Burns, poet. Built 1730. One storey with thatched roof.

SDD List 1958.

As described. Open to the public.

Visited by OS (JRL) 24 September 1980.

Burns Cottage

(Birthplace) [NAT]

OS (GIS) MasterMap, July 2010.

Architecture Notes


NMRS library - catalogue to the collection 1922 - text

(Undated) information in NMRS.


Photographic Survey (1900 - 1930)

Photographs by A Brown & Co of sites across Scotland c1900-1930

Publication Account (1985)

The cottage in which Robert Burns was born (1757) has fortunately been preserved since the 1820s as a shrine to the poet, and consequently it has survived as one of Ayrshire's best remaining examples of early 18th century rural vernacular architecture. Despite considerable alteration over the years and the ravages of fire, the house retains the character of the period and is furnished with contemporary fittings.

The cottage is of a single storey with reed thatch and, if Burns' father's dscription of it as 'an auld clay biggin' is correct, the walls may well be built substantially of clay; the latter are now harled and whitewashed essential precautions if clay walls are to survive. Like many Scottish houses, particularly those in towns, the cottage opens directly on to the road with no front garden (a medieval legacy-front gardens were prohibited in case they were used for dumping rubbish), and the front wall is gently bowed to follow the line of the road. Inside, the accommodation is divided into two sections (the but and ben) with the kitchen and living qualters at one end and the byre at the other. Little of the Burns family furniture remains; the box bed may be an exception, but the interior has been fitted out with 18th and 19th century pieces, which give a good impression of the living conditions of a reasonably well-off fanning family of the period.

While in Alloway the following are also worth visiting: Alloway Kirk (NS 331180); Old Bridge of Doon (NS 332178); Burns Monument (NS 332179); Burns Heritage Centre (NS 334180).

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Clyde Estuary and Central Region’, (1985).

Standing Building Recording (March 2009 - November 2009)

NS 33474 18591 A record of Burns Cottage, which included the exterior elevations, internal sections and a ground plan, incorporating a record of the flooring, was produced between March–November 2009. Detailed drawings were also produced documenting the early features in the kitchen such as the box bed, internal fittings and furniture. The drawn record was then extended following the removal of the 1993 heritage installations.

The appraisal of the standing fabric of Burns Cottage, undertaken in 2006, was reviewed in detail on site and the structure was then subjected to comprehensive context recording. This revealed that although most of the internal fittings and furniture appear to be relatively early, none could be directly confirmed as being of mid- to late 18th-century date and cannot therefore be assumed to be original.

Woodwork, wall linings, plaster, etc. had been extensively stripped in 1993 and much information had clearly been lost at that point. It appears that most alterations were undertaken in the 19th century at the beginning of heritage tourism to the cottage. The building was first re-used as an inn and this required the insertion or enlargement of window openings and fireplaces. When the building was turned into a museum towards the end of the 19th century by the Burns Monument Trust many of these features were blocked, and what was assumed to be the original layout was recreated. Extensive repairs were then undertaken in 1993 in advance

of the installation of the present heritage interpretation. Large parts of the NW and NE wall (front and rear of the barn) were rebuilt and some openings such as vents or doorways were recreated at that time. A photographic record of these works, principally taken by Jim Souness, made it possible to reconstruct some of the features lost in 1993.

Ground-breaking works in the garden and car park area, associated with the ongoing redevelopment of the site for the Burns National Heritage Park, were monitored. This included the excavation of trenches for new dry stone walls, services, temporary facilities and site access. About 10m to the rear of the cottage the remains of a sandstone and lime mortar structure, c3m in width, were encountered and these may relate to an outhouse or privy. The footings of the now demolished southern extension to the cottage (built in the early 1800s) and the perpendicular jamb that had extended from it (built c1847) were also identified and confirmed as a two-phase construction. While the earlier part was founded on brick with lime mortar, the perpendicular building (used as the first museum on site), was built on large red sandstone flags and lime mortar bedding. Both buildings were demolished between 1899–1902 and building debris such as window glass and roofing slates was recovered.

The remaining area around the cottage revealed evidence relating to 19th-century or later remodelling of the garden, but did not yield any further data relating to the early layout or use of the site. A few pieces of 19th-century pottery and bottle glass were recovered from the topsoil, but no earlier or later pottery, and it is likely that some of these finds were imported onto the site during landscaping.

Archive: NTS (intended)

Funder: The National Trust for Scotland

Tom Addyman, Amanda Gow, Kenneth MacFadyen and Tanja Romankiewicz – Addyman Archaeology

Field Visit (16 June 2014)

NS 33475 18593 Single-storey, seven-bay cottage, built in 1737 and extended in 1808. The cottage was the birthplace of Robert Burns and is now part of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, which is run by the National Trust for Scotland. The building is of an almost rectangular plan (though slightly curved) and, subsequent to it’s extension in 1808, it was used as an alehouse until 1880 ‘when it was acquired and restored by the Burns Monument Trustees’. The building has a reed-thatched roof and a five-tiered (per elevation) timber plank ridge. This type of ridge appears to be a tradition for the area, and other buildings in Ayrshire still retain this type of material (e.g Souter Johnnie’s Cottage in Kirkoswold). The thatch has been left entirely uncovered and on the north elevation has a large amount of mossy vegetation growth across the surface of the reed, which has become quite dense in one area. The thatch has been left straight at the eaves along the south elevation, whilst on the north elevation the thatch has been sculpted slightly at the eaves over the top of the central window opening only.

Visited by Zoe Herbert (SPAB) 16 June 2014, survey no.207

Watching Brief (4 November 2015 - 23 November 2015)

Archaeological monitoring works were carried out in respect to the renewal of surface drainage at Burns Cottage, Alloway. The archaeological works were designed to mitigate the impact on the archaeological remains within their development area. The works failed to identify the presence of any significant archaeological features within the excavated areas. Instead the majority of the area surrounding the cottage showed evidence for disturbance during the 19th to 20th centuries, with modern services present in the areas immediately to the northwest and northeast.

Information from OASIS ID: rathmell1-230144 (T Rees) 2015


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