UNSURPRISINGLY, the story of daft Tam o’ Shanter, the Deil playing the bagpipes, ghouls, corpses, and Nannie the witch capture the imagination of children. What better time to take your kids to Ayrshire to “follow in Tam’s footsteps” than Halloween? Here’s how…

We started at the beginning at the National Trust for Scotland’s Burns Cottage, where the poet was born, and visitors are welcomed by a willow sculpture of Tam on horseback. My children enjoyed seeing how Scots lived in the past, and were particularly amused by Burns’ school report, aged 6 — while his “writing is becoming remarkable for the fluency and correctness of his expression”, his singing “is remarkably dull”.

Next stop, the National Trust for Scotland’s Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. When the kids weren’t busy playing Cut The Haggis at the museum’s play area, they were creating a Tam o’ Shanter online spooky ghost walk. Wooden carvings depicting key scenes from the poem are also intriguing and help tell the story.

The museum playground is based on Tam’s tale: the roundabout is a witch’s cauldron; Brig o’ Doon is a slide; the Kirk is a climbing frame; and the zipline allows children to escape the witches as if they’re on horseback flying over the bridge!

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Once the story of Tam was in our heads, we dropped by the Burns Monument and Memorial Garden to find cheery statues of Tam, drinking with his buddy Souter Johnnie, before the horrors of the night were unleashed. Seeking something spookier, we visited Alloway’s Auld Kirk and peered through the window, just as Tam did.

The kids genuinely found this place eerie, and I don’t blame them. You also come across the burial place of the poet’s father, William Burns. Next, we crossed Brig o’ Doon and imagined it on a dark, dreich night with witches on our heels. I had to remind the kids that it was just a story!

For those who wish to really visualise the poetry, then the 54-strong series of Tam o’ Shanter paintings by Alexander Goudie in Rozelle House Museum and Galleries places you in the thick of it. From Tam “bousin at the nappy”, to the horrors of the “holy table” and its contents – we’re talking a piercing depiction of a murderer’s skeleton, the corpses of two unchristened babies, and a thief freshly cut down from the hangman’s noose with his mouth gaping wide.

It’s certainly vivid, and there are so many creepy details and characters to hone in on. Then onto the chase itself, the paintings reveal an inhuman strength to Nannie the witch, and Tam’s fear is visceral. This is transporting stuff, and it’s free.

Another option is joining the town’s Tamfest which runs until October 31, 2022. Each year a line from the poem is chosen as the subtheme for the festival, offering a new approach to the characters and Tam’s story.

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This year, look out for a self-led tour around the Devil’s Playground in Rozelle Park. Rozelle House itself will be haunted between 10-31 October. And, running until October 31, artist Craig Campbell’s Tam o’ Shanter series of artworks will be exhibited.

Other Burns attractions to consider are the Bachelor’s Club in Tarbolton, and Irvine Burns Club at the Wellwood Burns Museum.

Even when we dropped by the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine, the staff told us that Burns was initially encouraged to become a poet by a mariner called Richard Brown when they worked together flax-dressing in the town. Basically, all roads in Ayrshire lead to Burns!

This Halloween, bring the story of Tam o’ Shanter to life and spook out the kids with a splash of Scottish culture.

After a “horrifying” day, you should take time to enjoy Ayrshire hospitality. We beat a hasty retreat to The Gailes Hotel which recently underwent a £2 million investment in its Si! Spa.

There’s also a fresh new look in its Coast Restaurant, inspired by the coastal setting and ideal for family dining.

The current Fall Into Si! Spa autumn spa break package is remarkably good value, plus a nearby beach and golf club keeps all the family happy!