Page last updated at 12:38 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 13:38 UK

Tam o'Shanter graveyard reopens

Alloway Auld Kirk
Nearly 70 headstones in the graveyard have been repaired or stabilised

The Ayrshire graveyard immortalised in the Robert Burns poem, Tam o'Shanter, has been officially reopened.

Alloway Auld Kirk and Graveyard has undergone extensive renovation costing 250,000 ahead of the 250th anniversary of the writer's birth, in January 2009.

The ruins of Alloway Auld Kirk is the famous setting for Burns's ghost tale. Burns' father is buried in its graveyard.

First Minister Alex Salmond officially reopened the site.

The church, which can be dated to 1516, had fallen into a state of disrepair.

Conservation work started last year to make the building structurally secure and slow further deterioration.

The overgrown graveyard was then restored with gates, masonry was overhauled and paths constructed.

Information boards were also put in place to help visitors understand the historic features of the site.

Mr Salmond recites the first lines of Burns' poem Tam o' Shanter

Mr Salmond said: "Robert Burns is an integral part of our cultural heritage, the nation's Bard, and loved across the world.

"Burns' poetry has breathed eternal life into these attractions.

"The Alloway Auld Kirk and graveyard are just one example of Scotland's pulling power, acting as a literary touchstone among the tombstones."

The restoration was carried out by South Ayrshire Council - with funding from the local authority, Historic Scotland, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire.

South Ayrshire Provost, Winifred Sloan, said: "The work has been carried out in a very sympathetic manner, with 68 headstones being stabilised or repaired and vegetation that was damaging or covering headstones removed.

"During excavation a considerable number of bones were uncovered which had obviously been disturbed over the centuries.

"These were catalogued by archaeologists and reinterred at the end of the project."

New centre to study Burns' work
19 Jul 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Robert Burns's records go online
25 Jan 07 |  Scotland
Burns museum wins 11.3m funding
24 Jan 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West

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