Under the thatched roof of this humble-looking, 17th-century house in Tarbolton, Ayrshire, Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns, learned to dance, founded a debating club and became a Freemason. Just a few years later Burns made his name with the publication of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, which soon garnered widespread literary acclaim and established him as ‘the plowman poet’.
A visit to this authentically restored house, now converted into a museum chronicling the formative years of one of Scotland’s greatest literary talents, is a must for any Burns enthusiast.
Burns formed a debating club here in 1780 and drew up the 10 Rules of Membership for the society. One rule stated that to be a member you had to be a bachelor living in the parish of Tarbolton, thus the property earning its name of the Bachelors’ Club. Robert Burns was also initiated into Freemasonry in the upper room in 1781.
Occupied by various families from the early 17th century up until 1928, the Bachelor’s Club has now been restored to show how the building may have looked during the time of Burns. The lower floor, once the living quarters of John Richard and his family, re-creates a small 18th-century domestic interior.
The upper floor is maintained as the meeting room and social space where Burns and his companions gathered to take dancing lessons and to participate in lively debate. This tradition is maintained by Burns Clubs and local people who still use the upper hall for an annual Burns Supper and for discussions and social occasions that continue in the spirit of Scotland’s National Bard.