The parish of Tarbolton is a relatively small area in central Ayrshire, lying north-east of Ayr and east of Prestwick. The parish includes the villages of Tarbolton and Failford. Tarbolton is a small country village with strong connections with Robert Burns, it lies in a farming community. To the north of the village is the remains of a motte and bailey, whose presumed wooden castle has long gone. The motte was surrounded by the Tarbolton Loch, now reclaimed.
An 1837 description of Torbolton (as it was then spelt), Failford, Stair and Joppa, including a listing of the key personalities, is given in this extract from Pigot's Directory for Ayrshire. The transcript was provided by Keith Muirhead from Queensland.
Burn's famous Bachelors Club is located in the village, the only survival of pre-18th century Tarbolton. The house on Sandgate has been acquired and restored by the National Trust for Scotland and is open to the public.
"Burns, who frequented the village when. residing at Lochlea, has rendered it for ever famous. 'Willie's Mill' the scene of the grimly humorous conversation between 'Death and Dr. Hornbook', is situated on the banks of the Fail stream, a few hundred yards from the village."
"The Tarbolton Lodge of Freemasons (St. James'), to which he addressed the well-known farewell, beginning, 'Ye brethren of the mystic tie' still exists, and has in its keeping some interesting relics of the poet. The chair used by Burns when he, was Deputy Master of the Lodge is still preserved, and used at the meetings. The old minute book with the poet's signature, and the Deputy Master's apron, worn by Burns, are also carefully treasured by the brethren of the Mystic tie. Near Hood's Hill, adjacent to the village, is a well-worn seat, said to have been that on which Burns sat when composing 'Death and Dr. Hornbook'. The castle o' Montgomery, too, where Burns wooed his Highland Mary, is within half an hour's walk of the town."