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Best Bard none; New Burns museum is a real gem.

Byline: Craig McQueen

WITH Burns Night almost upon us, many of us will be gearing up for the annual celebration of the national Bard.

It's now 252 years since he was born to a poor farming family in the Ayrshire village of Alloway, receiving a good education at the behest of his father, before turning his hand to writing poetry and song.

Around the world over the next few days, his life and work will be celebrated. And if you're looking to find out more about this Scottish national hero, there's never been a better time to learn.

Today sees the opening of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway. It showcases the world's most important Burns collection in a stunning new setting, with original manuscripts of his greatest works and historic artefacts o ering an insight into the life of Scotland's national poet.

Kate Mavor, chief executive of the National Trust for Scotland, said: "We are extremely proud of what we have achieved with the museum.

"It is a world-class visitor destination that will draw Burns enthusiasts, visitors and locals alike, looking to know more about the life and legacy of Robert Burns.

"It has set the standard for Trust properties for the future."

Museum director Nat Edwards added: "Here you will not just be able to read the manuscript of Tam o' Shanter, you can see the replace round which Burns first heard the stories that he turned into that poem.

"And you can look through the window and see that landscape, places like the Auld Kirk and Brig O'Doon, where the poem takes place.

"It gives you every facet of the man and his work."

There's free entry at the venue today to mark its official opening, along with a host of special attractions to mark the occasion.

Elsewhere in Ayrshire, other Burns landmarks include Dean Castle and Country Park in Kilmarnock, which is home to the International Burns Federation and a number of Burns artefacts, such as a collection of more than 1500 manuscripts.

The town is also home to the Burns Monument Centre.

The village of Mauchline was Burns's home following the death of his father, and is where he met and married Jean Armour.

The house they lived in is now the Burns House Museum - home to a collection of his possessions and restored to how it would have looked.

In Mauchline there is the National Burns Memorial Tower and nearby is Mossgiel Farm, where the poet once lived.

But it's not just in Ayrshire that you can learn about the man and his work. Burns spent the last years of his life in Dumfries.

The Mausoleum in St Michael's Kirk yard is where Burns and Armour are buried. Also in the town is Robert Burns House, with his desk and chair in the study where he wrote some of his best-known works.

And there's Ellisland Farm, where he once lived and which is now home to more artefacts, the Globe Inn, his regular drinking haunt, and the Robert Burns Centre Film theatre.

Travel to Edinburgh and you'll find tributes to Burns throughout the city.

At the National Museum of Scotland, there are letters, songs, memorabilia and a pane of glass scratched with the Bard's signature, while the Writers' Museum celebrates the life of Robert Burns alongside those of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. ere's even a plaster cast of Burns's skull, one of three to be made.

The Scottish government have developed an iPhone app for people keen to learn about the Bard.

You can download and instantly access his poetry from a database of every poem written by Burns, a summary of facts about his life and a guide to hosting a Burns Supper.

To download the app, visit http://bit. ly/BurnsApp

Step back in time

THE Robert Burns Birthplace Museum offers a truly unique encounter with Scotland's favourite son. See the world's most important collection of his life and work in a bright, modern building. And don't miss the shops or attractive cafe before visiting the Burns Cottage and other historic landmarks in Alloway.

Open all year, daily. Call 0844 493 2601 for details or visit www.burnsmuseum.org.uk. Free admission to members of the National Trust for Scotland, so join before your visit at www.nts.org.uk.

Deals..

Burnside Guest House, Ayr - winter Weekend Warmer: three nights for the price of two. Available Friday, Saturday and Sunday until February 11.

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Craig Holm Guest House, Ayr - three nights for price of two. Available various dates through January and February.

The Barn, Brodick , Isle of Arran - three nights for the price of two for couples. Total price pounds 120 for three nights. Available until the end of February.

Willowbank Hotel, Largs - three nights for price of two. Available from January 22 to February 12.

For further info and more offers, visit www.visitscotland.com/soclosetohome Terms and Conditions apply. Please quote Daily Record when booking.

All you need to know..

THE friendly staff in your local VisitScotland Information Centre can tell you about everything you need to know locally and for the rest of Scotland. Why not pop in to find out what's open where? Remember to pick up a What to See & Do guide too. We're not just for tourists.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 22, 2011
Words:908
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