Four-year Burns heritage plan aims to boost tourism for Dumfries and Galloway

The plan is aiming to to cut the £100m gap between Burns tourism income in Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire. Credit: PA Images

A four year action plan is aiming to boost tourism for Dumfries and Galloway through building on its links to poet Robert Burns.

£21m

Burns-related tourism currently generated for the region

£121m

Estimated Burns-related tourism earned for neighbouring Ayrshire

It's aiming to close the gap with neighbouring Ayrshire, which is estimated to bring in £100m more through Burns-related tourism each year.

The plan places a particular emphasis on the Nithsdale area, which is especially closely associated with Burns.

The work is at the heart of a specially commissioned study, which highlights that the poet wrote over 130 poems and songs after moving to Dumfriesshire with his family in 1788.

These include celebrated works such as Tam O’Shanter and Auld Lang Syne. Others, like The Banks of the Nith and On Seeing a Wounded Hare, refer to places and incidents in the region.

Burns leased Ellisland Farm not far from Dumfries and later moved into the town. He famously declared The Globe Inn to be his “favourite howff”. He died in Dumfries in 1796 and this is where his mausoleum stands.

This is the area that witnessed Burns most mature period of creativity for 1788 onwards. Here Burns was a farmer, exciseman and militiaman. He also found time to involve himself in the local and international politics following the French Revolution, be a patron of the theatre and become one of the great songwriters of European Romanticism.

Professor Gerard Carruthers, University of Glasgow Head of Scottish Literature

The proposed 2021-24 action plan recommends:

  • Burns events and festivals celebrating his local links.

  • A south of Scotland Burns and Books Tourism Trail.

  • A programme of events for the 2022 Year of Scotland’s Stories.

  • An annual Burns Tourism Conference hosted at Ellisland Farm.

  • A Burns Tourism Innovation Fund providing small grants for Burns tourism experiences and products.

  • Supporting the development of around 30 Burns tourism initiatives by early 2024.

A new Burns Tourism Officer is proposed to build partnerships and drive the project.

This report provides a detailed roadmap for our region to enhance our creative reputation and take forward specific projects and actions to help close the £100m economic gap we have with Ayrshire linked to Robert Burns related tourism and business development. It’s vitally important that all public agencies with an interest in the economic future of the South of Scotland take note of this report.

Councillor John Martin, Vice Chair of the Communities Committee of Dumfries and Galloway