Should one find themselves along the coastal walk of Prestonpans, a quaint seaside village a few miles southeast of Edinburgh, they may encounter a small stone structure consisting of two windows and a door, all of which are barred.
On closer inspection, they will be treated to a colorful painting consisting of all manner of fantastical and bizarre imagery. This coastal town is known for its murals, and this work was authorized by a unique society blending together the town’s reputation and one of the country’s most revered writers.
To celebrate Burns Night in 2005, The Prestoungrange Arts Festival commissioned artist Kate Hunter to create a Burns mural illustrating the tale of Tam O’Shanter. The poem, at 288 lines, is one of the bard’s longest and tells the story of a man and his misadventures involving alcohol and a chance encounter with the devil and his minions. Burns Night is a worldwide celebration around January 25, the birthday of Burns. Over the doorway to the shelter bears the Burns line: “Better a wee bush than a nae bield.” “Nae bield” is a Scottish expression for “no sanctuary”. This saying is from the Coat of Arms designed by the sonneteer himself.
The shelter, using public subscription, was built by The Airts Burns Club members in 1959 to commemorate the bicentenary of the country’s National Bard’s death. The group was formed as a way to promote Scottish literature and Scottish life among its members.
Know Before You Go
The Robert Burns Memorial Shelter is situated nearby to Hepburn Rocks and Prestongrange Parish Church. There is no access to the interior, except for special occasions. The mural can be viewed through the bars and is illuminated at night.