By the Auld Brig o' Doon


The Doonbrae House Hotel



Our room in Alloway was in the charming house at Doonbrae, seen above left from its garden.  Wisteria and other shrubs and flowers graced the exterior of the house, and the garden itself was lovely, even though many of its blooms were spent.  A very short walk downhill from one end of the garden brought us to the river of which Robert Burns wrote in "Ye Banks an' Braes o' Bonnie Doon."  After a wonderful night's sleep, we awoke to a beautiful, clear day and another delicious, full Scottish breakfast.  Thus refreshed and filled, we set out on foot through Alloway.


Auld Kirk Alloway



A block from Doonbrae is the ruin of a church that was built in 1516.  Even that, however, was erected on the site of a much older church, as evidenced by a medieval memorial stone used in its building.  "Alloway's auld haunted kirk" is featured in Burns's poem "Tam O'Shanter".
The grave of Robert Burns's father is in the kirkyard, marked by a memorial to both parents - William and Agnes.  The stone notes that William Burns, a farmer in Lochlie, died on 13 February 1784 in the 63rd year of his age, and Agnes Brown, his wife, died on 14 January 1820 in the 88th year of her age.


Another thing I regret not doing while in Scotland is walking the grounds and ruins of the auld kirk.    Stopping only to take these photos, we then crossed the street and visited ...


The Robert Burns Monument and Gardens


The idea to build a monument to Robert Burns was conceived in 1814.  Sufficient funds were raised by 1819 that construction began on his birthday in 1820, and the monument  was opened to the public in 1823.  It is now surrounded by a lovely park, where we also visited the Statue House.  Inside is a handsome bust of the Bard, as well as life-sized statues of his old friends, Tam o' Shanter and Souter Johnie, who figured prominently in some of his poems, and Nanse Tinnock, proprietress of the alehouse they frequented in Mauchline.  The statues were carved in 1830 by James Thom, a self-taught sculptor who also lived in Ayrshire.  Once outside again, we continued our walking tour of Alloway ...


The Burns Cottage


In four blocks more, we arrived at the cottage where Burns was born in 1757 and even saw the very bed. The thatch roof is new, and there are repairs to one wall and other minor restoration.  Sometime after our visit there, the window shutters for some reason were removed.

Touring the humble "cot" was a unique experience, and do not doubt its genuineness.  The Bard of Scotland was so loved that Alloway began planning its monument to him just a few years after his death.   Photographs  are not permitted inside either the cottage or the museum that stands next door.  In the museum, however, we were privileged to see the original manuscript of Burns's "Auld Lang Syne" and other artifacts of the Bard's life and times.


On the Auld Brig o' Doon


From the museum, we picked up a sandwich and took a walk on the auld brig.  Forget the Hollywood fluff and nonsense called "Brigadoon".   The Brig o' Doon is a real bridge in the very real village of Alloway and spans the River Doon.  Replacing a medieval bridge, it was built in the 15th century and was old even in Burns's lifetime.


John and I stood on the auld brig and thought of the Bard standing on the same spot, gazing down on the bonnie Doon. As we left, an elderly Scottish couple stopped us to chat.  We talked of Scottish music, Highland games in America, and the rising interest of Americans in all things Scottish.  The gentleman was delighted when I told him of a bumper sticker I'd seen at a Highland games in North Carolina: "England forever ... Scotland a wee bit longer!"  We bade each other farewell, and John and I returned to the Doonbrae to relax before dinner.


One Enchanted Evening         


Across the street from the Doonbrae, and also on the banks of the river, is the 19th-century Brig O' Doon House hotel, which replaced the inn that stood there in Burns's day.  Earlier this day, we had watched a wedding party enter the hotel and heard a bagpipe playing during the reception that followed. 



The hotel ballroom, and its lovely patio dining area overlooking the River Doon, provide the perfect setting for many a romantic wedding and reception in Alloway.    We came for dinner.  The food was good and the atmosphere lovely.  As we left, we purchased a bottle of wine and, as invited by our host at the Doonbrae, brought it back with us to enjoy our own romantic evening on the banks of the Doon.



We took a few photos, including the auld and new (modern) brigs, then sat on a bench by the gently flowing waters of the River Doon.  Savoring our wine, we recalled the day's pleasures and sang all the Robert Burns songs we knew - "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose", "Ae Fond Kiss", "Ye Banks and Braes o' Bonnie Doon".  As the shadows lengthened, we pondered tomorrow - the last day of our journey through Scotland.


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Copyright 2018 · Loretta Lynn Layman · The House of Lynn