Day Five - Drive to Keswick - Crawick Multiverse and Robert Burns House (Dumfries)  

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The Tarbolton B&B was out in the country, very quiet & luxurious.  We enjoyed interacting with the owners and their guests in the morning. Breakfast was as good as it gets, and the owners gave us a half-dozen fresh eggs from their hens to take south with us to the rental house in Keswick, England, today's destination.   

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Tarbolton sunrise view from bedroom window back yard why the eggs are so good here

Tarbolton has a Burns connection because Robert & his younger brother Gilbert and their parents and siblings had a farm here, an unsuccessful one. More important, Robert & his brother in their early 20s formed the Bachelor's Club in Tarbolton, a kind-of debating club for young men from the farms or local businesses.  Drinking was not allowed until after the meetings were over.  Most of these men were self-taught at home, or had attended some school, in the 1770's. 

Robbie Burns came of age in Tarbolton and while living here had his first volume of ballads & poems published at nearby Kilmarnock, a 350 page book which became a tremendous success.  He knocked out a 2nd similar sized Edinburgh edition a few years later that sealed his fame.    

Poet Robert Burns, the National Bard of Scotland, was first & foremost a farm kid and his entire family struggled year in & out, but they never did well, and lived at the edge of poverty.  His immediate biographers wrote that Burns' health was compromised at an early age, due to back-breaking toil, sometimes in awful conditions.  He was the oldest boy, and Scottish winters can be harsh. 

Present day biographers note that the soil in this part of Ayrshire often has too much clay and tends to drain poorly. 

More on Burns later....

Dumfries & Galloway map

Our drive today took us to Crawick Multiverse at Sanquhar, and, the Burns House is in Dumfries. Also shown at bottom right of this map is Carlisle, England.


It was one of our longest driving days heading SE on 40 or 45 mph roads.  We probably drove two hundred plus miles today.  We enjoyed stopping part-way at Crawick Multiverse, a 55-acre landscape sculpture by Charles Jencks.  We were there for almost two hours, on foot & exploring, an unexpected pleasure.       

The one page handout says that Jencks used stone in the 'megalithic monument tradition'. His "north-south" line is a 400-meter long avenue, flanked by 300 boulders.   

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  'north-south' line    


Our next driving stop was in Dumfries, Scotland, to see a Robert Burns house near the center of this small town.  Burns lived from 1759 to 1796.

This was Robert Burns' last home and he was most content here, at last earning a salary sufficient to avoid having to farm for a living, pretty much a losing proposition given the economy at the time.  Robert Burns' family thrived here and he fathered a bunch of kids with his wife, Jean Armour.

Having published two important books of poems and ballads, Burns was highly read & appreciated, but intellectual property rights were primitive & Burns never profited from his writings, although his publishers certainly did.  

In his 30s, Burns was given a job as a government Excise Agent, in Dumfries, his office a mile from Ellisland Farm, where his family lived. 

Excise men had to patrol & try to thwart smuggling along the Atlantic coast as well as shut down and arrest operators of illegal distilleries some miles south, in Cumbria, England, where the Lake District is.  

It was an unrealistically large territory to be responsible for, and, when two of his older field staff became sick, Robert Burns had to fill in, necessitating long hours on horseback, six days a week, no matter the conditions.  The excessively long & treacherous winter in 1795-96 ruined his health and Robert Burns died at home from Rheumatic Fever in July, 1796, at age 37.  

Hard to believe such a poor, humble, and short-lived poet has, 200+ years later on, had his poems & ballads translated into at least 50 other languages.      

River Nith at Dumfries falls by the old bridge umbrellas downtown where we found a lunch cafe
  Burns House a modest space his faithful wife, Jean Armour   
Burns' weapon as a government man   Burns hand-writing    

Leaving Dumfries, we headed south and crossed into England, stopping in Carlisle at a Tesco grocery, where we loaded up for a few days of groceries to take to our rental house at Keswick, in the Lake District.  We arrived at the rental home in late afternoon. 

Once unpacked & settled in, we drove five minutes to a car park & then walked into Keswick for a 6 pm dinner at the Royal Oak Hotel, where we had a toast to the overall success of our trip, so far. 

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