Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site

Souter Johnnie's Cottage including Ale House, Main Road, KirkoswaldLB7586

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
South Ayrshire
Planning Authority
South Ayrshire
NS 24007 7538
224007, 607538


Built 1785. Single-storey, four-bay, L-plan cottage. Two entrances at the centre of the street elevation. Limewashed, coursed rubble walls. Wheatstraw thatched roof with a cedar roof ridge. Chimneystack on east end gable and straight skews.

Interior, seen in 2017, comprising two rooms with single room in attic and former workshop in rear outshot. Each room has a flag stone floors, a stone hearth with timber fire surrounds.

In the rear garden is a single-storey, square plan ale house, built of rubble stone and with a heather thatched roof. Inside the ale house are a set of four statues believed to have been sculpted around 1830 by the self-taught Ayrshire-born, mason sculptor James Thom

Statement of Special Interest

The cottage was built in 1785 by John Davidson, the village shoemaker. Davidson is believed to be the inspiration for 'Souter Johnnie' immortalised by Robert Burns in his well-known epic poem Tam o' Shanter (Souter was the local Scottish term for a shoemaker). Davidson lived in the cottage with his family, until his death in 1806 and the cottage remained in the family until 1920, when it was handed over to the Souter Johnnie's House Restoration Committee which oversaw its restoration. It was then passed to the National Trust for Scotland in 1932.

These vernacular buildings were once common across Scotland, but are now extremely rare. Souter Johnnie's Cottage is a remarkably unaltered example of a late 18th century cottage, showing distinctive regional building methods and materials. Notable features include the thick, coursed rubble walls and a wheatstraw thatched roof with a cedar roof ridge. These buildings are important in helping us understand traditional skills and an earlier way of life.

It is among a relatively small number of traditional buildings with a surviving thatched roof found across Scotland. A Survey of Thatched Buildings in Scotland, published in 2016 by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), found there were only around 200 buildings of this type remaining, most of which are found in small rural communities. The industrial and agricultural revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries transformed this part of Scotland in a very short period of time. Consequently, thatch was replaced with slate roofs and few buildings with thatched roofs survive. Other thatched buildings nearby are also associated with Burns including Burns Cottage (see LB21476), Burns Bachelors' Club (see LB19689) and Tam O'Shanter Inn (see LB21638).

The interiors of this type of traditional cottage were often simple. Many of them have been refurbished and historic features no longer survive. The building retains its traditional plan form of two large rooms (unusually each with a separate entrance from the street to separate clients from the family) with a single room in the attic. The outshot at the back of the cottage was Davidson's workshop. The interior retains some traditional fixtures and fittings, including stone hearths with timber fire surrounds.

In the rear garden is a single-storey, square plan ale house, built of rubble stone and with a heather thatched roof. This ale house is shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1856) as part of a linear run of buildings attached to the rear of the cottage. These 'backland' buildings tend to be subject to more alterations than the buildings fronting the main street, and those that survive predominantly in an early 19th century form or earlier and retain a significant amount of their historic fabric are increasingly rare and may be listed. The ale house is only a small part of the original run but remains an important ancillary component of the cottage.

Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2021. Previously listed as 'Souter Johnnie's Cottage.'



Canmore: CANMORE ID 40842 and 349887.


Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1856, published 1857) Ayrshire XLIV.10 (Kirkoswald). 1st Edition. 25 inches to one mile. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Printed Sources

Close, R. and Riches, A. (2012) Buildings of Scotland: Ayrshire and Arran. p.485.

New Statistical Account (1845) Kirkoswald, County of Ayrshire, Vol. V, pp.783-4.

The National Trust for Scotland (2013) Souter Johnnie's Cottage: Property Statement.

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings Scotland (2016) A Survey of Thatched Buildings in Scotland. London: SPAB. p.402 and 410.

Online Sources

Historic Environment Scotland (2018) Scotland's Thatched Buildings: Introductory Designations Report at

The National Trust for Scotland. Souter Johnnie: the man behind the legend at (access 12/05/2021).

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Other than the name or address of a listed building, further details are provided for information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland does not accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of inaccuracies in the information provided. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the 1997 Act. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect subsequent legislation.

Listed building consent is required for changes to a listed building which affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. The relevant planning authority is the point of contact for applications for listed building consent.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


Souter Johnnie’s Cottage principal elevation of a single storey cottage with a thatched roof.
Ale House in rear garden of Souter Johnnie’s Cottage, front elevation and south gable, looking northeast, during daytime with flowers in front of this single storey thatched building. 



Printed: 21/05/2024 01:58