About Ellisland Farm
Robert Burns took up the lease of the farm at Whitsun 1788 but did not begin farming till 11th June that year. He brought his wife Jean Armour, and his two year-old son Bobby to Ellisland the following December.
Sons Francis Wallace and William Nicol were born at Ellisland Farm, and their half-sister Betty (fathered by the poet with Helen Anne Park of Dumfries) spent the first months of her life there too.
Burns shot to fame a few years earlier and had been touring the country as “the toast of Scottish society”. In 1788 he “resolves to lead a retired, domestic life” and he had also been in training for the lucrative and respectable post of an Excise Officer. A post had just become vacant in Nithsdale and by coincidence, one of his Edinburgh aquaintances Patrick Miller had just purchased the estate named Dalswinton. Dalswinton was a few miles north of Dumfries and also had three vacant farms. Robert was offered the first choice of the three.
Robert Burns described Ellisland Farm as “the poet’s choice” of the farms he was offered by Patrick Miller, his landlord. What he meant was literally that here he could find inspiration whereas he felt the other farms lacked soul.
At Ellisland Robert built his own house, a splendid six apartment house (described as a “modest mansion” by visitors in 1789) with views over the Nith. Ellisland is a national treasure as it is so unchanged and shows us exactly how Robert and Jean lived during the peak of their wealth and the height of his poetical inspiration.
The farm comprised of 170 acres with an orchard and Burns had 9 or 10 cows, including 3 fine Ayrshire cows; 4 horses and some sheep. The Ayrshire dairying system was introduced and cheese including ewe-milk cheese was made.