The Robert Burns Centre stands on the west bank of the River Nith directly opposite the heart of the town of Dumfries. It is most easily reached on foot by crossing Devorgilla Bridge, the stone bridge named after Lady Devorgilla, the mother of King John Balliol, and built in 1432. Now used only by pedestrians, it is one of Scotland's oldest standing bridges. For those wishing to drive, parking is available close to the centre.
Robert Burns lived from 25 January 1759 to 21 July 1796. He is regarded as Scotland's national poet: an icon who has loomed large in Scottish culture and consciousness ever since his death at the early age of 37. Robert Burns' birthday, 25 January, is celebrated across the globe as Burns' Clubs gather at Burns' Suppers on Burns' Night and proclaim his Address to a Haggis before eating haggis.
As a result, 25 January is generally regarded to be the second most celebrated birthday worldwide. Now that's fame!
In 1789 Burns moved to Dumfries to take up a post as an Excise Officer. He died of rheumatic fever seven years later, at the same time as his wife was giving birth to their ninth child. The Robert Burns Centre celebrates the time he spent in Dumfries. It is one of a number of places associated with Burn in the town: others incude Robert Burns House and Robert Burns Mausoleum.
As well as an excellent audio-visual presentation, the Robert Burns Centre gives visitors a chance to view a fascinating range of objects associated with Burns and his time in Dumfries. These include some of his original manuscripts and the books in which his works were collected; a number of his possessions; and a taste of the huge variety of objects that have come to be associated with the commemoration of Robert Burns over the years. Coupled with clear and well presented interpretation and information panels about particular aspects of his life or places he lived, a visit really is a must for anyone with even a passing interest in Robert Burns.
The centre also very successfully evokes a sense of the Dumfries in which Burns lived. A large display case houses a scale model of the whole town of Dumfries as it was in 1790. This has been beautifully put together and is worth the walk from the town centre on its own.
Also on view is information about the Old Town Mill in which the centre is housed. This was built in 1781 by Andrew Meikle to replace an earlier mill which burned down on the night of 30 October 1780. It is very fitting that the centre should be housed in a building that would have been seen across the river, and doubtless visited, by Robert Burns.
Admission to the centre itself is free. There is a small charge for the audio-visual presentation. This takes place in the centre's cinema, which when the centre is closed moonlights as the Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre, an arthouse cinema serving Dumfries.