TWO buildings erected by the poet Robert Burns have been identified for the first time in a £12,000 investigation funded by Historic Environment Scotland (HES).

The Conservation Study into Ellisland Farm, Dumfriesshire, where Auld Lang Syne and Tam o’ Shanter were written, found that a barn, byre and stable previously believed to pre- and post-date Burns, were in fact erected for the poet, by local masons working to his instruction.

However, the report also found the buildings are at risk without £500,000 worth of repairs. This includes the farmhouse housing a collection of Burns’ items, including the poet’s flute and fishing rod.

The study was conducted by Dr William Napier of Adams Napier Partnership, Chartered Building Surveyors & Heritage Consultants, with support from Dr Gerry McKeever of Stirling University.

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McKeever’s research into previously unseen 18th century maps cast new light on Burns at Ellisland – as did tenancy documents signed by Burns. The research shows the bard was a modernising farmer at the cutting edge of the 18th century agricultural revolution – the fields he created are identical to those cultivated today.

The report says Ellisland should be categorised as of “exceptional” historical and cultural interest and its setting should be protected. The woodland around Ellisland was planted as part of Burns’s tenancy.

The National: Burns’s barn, byre and stable found

Napier said it is the least changed and most authentic of all the poet’s homes. He commented: “If Burns walked through the gate today he would recognise the farm that he established. We think we can be confident that Ellisland Farm is probably the most authentic site associated with Burns’ lifetime and I think that that makes it a really important place.”

Napier and McKeever will discuss their findings tomorrow during an online event being hosted by The Robert Burns Ellisland Trust, which took over the museum and farm in 2020.

The Trust has been working hard to raise awareness of Ellisland – an early success was securing funds from HES to commission the detailed Conservation Study to increase understanding of the site.

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Burns moved to Ellisland to begin married life with Jean Armour. Despite his success and popularity in Edinburgh, he was determined to return to his farming roots. He was offered the choice of three farms by the improving land owner Patrick Miller of Dalswinton. The one he selected is often described as “the poet’s choice” because the ground was as poor as the location was idyllic. Burns designed the farmhouse with a “spence” (parlour), so he could write overlooking the River Nith.

His time there was exceptionally creative, and he produced one third of his musical output, despite also taking on the arduous role of an excise officer.

Joan McAlpine, business development manager at Ellisland said: “This is an incredible piece of historical detective work which underlines Ellisland’s national and international importance. As well as being the most authentic site, it’s the best place to fall in love with Burns and see nature through his eyes – it needs to be better known and better supported.”

“The Secrets of Ellisland” is the first talk in a Burns lecture series. Tickets can be purchased at