Later this week we celebrate one of Scotland’s most influential artists, our national poet Robert Burns.

Many of us will raise a wee dram and enjoy a plate of haggis, neeps and tatties to mark the birthday of a most celebrated Scot on Thursday, January 25.

Born in Ayrshire and having spent most of his life there as well as a period in Edinburgh, you might think Burns had little to no affiliation with Glasgow in his short life.

Glasgow Times:

However, he in fact stayed here numerous times, used to drink at some of our local pubs, and even fell in love with a Glaswegian woman.

The Saracen Head, or ‘Sarry Heid’ as it is affectionately known by locals, is one of the city’s oldest pubs, in competition with the likes of the Scotia Bar and Old College Bar in terms of how long it has been operating.

Glasgow Times:

Originally dating back to 1755, the pub was on a piece of land bought by Robert Tennent who opened the Saracen Head Inn.

As the name suggests, Tennent also established the brewery alongside his brother Hugh in 1740, so it is thought that the old Sarry Heid Inn was one of the first in Glasgow – and indeed, the world – to serve its beer.

Of course, back then, even Tennent’s produced ale, rather than its now-iconic lager, as it was the most popular choice.

At this time, the inn took in guests who were stopping in Glasgow on their travels, including our national bard.

It is thought that Burns stayed at the inn several times in the late 1780s, and one of his poems, written by hand, was even displayed behind the bar for years.

Glasgow Times:

Despite the inn closing and being turned into shops and tenement homes, the Gallowgate pub remains open today. One of Burns’ favourite Glasgow haunts which is sadly no longer around is the Black Bull Inn.

He stayed there many times around the same period when he would frequent the Saracen Head, particularly in 1787 and 1788. A plaque now mounts the wall to commemorate Burns' time at the former pub, and it was here that many of his love letters and poems for a certain Glasgow woman would be written.

Glasgow Times:

Agnes ‘Nancy’ Maclehose was born in the city’s Saltmarket to a respected surgeon and minister’s daughter. When she met Burns, she was separated from her husband, a Glasgow lawyer, and she attended a tea party in the hopes of meeting him.

While their love affair never came to fruition as Agnes was still legally married, they began to exchange love letters under pseudonyms, with Agnes being addressed as ‘Clarinda’ and Burns as ‘Sylvander’.

Glasgow Times: Agnes MclehoseAgnes Mclehose (Image: Newsquest)

But not all their correspondence remained between the two of them, as a book of the letters was published in the 1840s, and Burns’ love for Agnes inspired one of his most famous songs.

Glasgow Times: Original manuscript of Ae Fond Kiss, now on display in the National Library of Scotland. Photo by Colin Mearns.Original manuscript of Ae Fond Kiss, now on display in the National Library of Scotland. Photo by Colin Mearns. (Image: Newsquest)

Ae Fond Kiss was originally written in a letter sent to Agnes after they met for the last time before she went back to her estranged husband.

In his short 37 years, Robert Burns was moved to continue visiting Glasgow many times to enjoy the city’s hospitality, welcoming nature – and, of course, a cold glass of Tennent’s ale.