A MURAL to Robert Burns in New Cumnock has been whitewashed just days before the Bard's 260th birthday.

The former Castle Hotel adorned the mural on it's gable end – over looking the village's Burns statue and a memorial garden.

New Cumnock Environmental Regeneration Volunteers (NERV) had looked after the mural and statue but the organisation is no longer capable and has tried to find a successor.

However, the owners of the hotel – believed to be based in Australia – have had the mural painted over to help sell the building.

Iain Burgoyne, New Cumnock Burns Club committee member, said the club were disappointed with the development.

"It was nothing to do with us. We weren't very happy about it getting painted over," Iain told the Chronicle.

"NERV approached us to see if we could look after it but we don't have the funds to do that and NERV are no longer operating.

"We tried to get someone to look after it but we were unsuccessful. The problem is, the gable end of the hotel has started to crack and that was coming through on the mural."

New Cumnock Development Trust (NCDT) have had a bid to buy the former Castle Hotel accepted but secretary Eric Bennett wanted the mural to stay.

He said: "We have put in a bid for the old Castle Hotel and it has been accepted.

"I don't know why the mural was painted over but the owners live in Australia so we think it's been done because they didn't want it or they thought it might detract from a sale. It wouldn't have put us off buying it.

"Two brothers owned it and people had been living in it until recently. They just decided to sell it and we were given half a day to decide whether or not we wanted it so we put in a bid to stop it falling into the hands of a speculator like Trotters."

Iain added: "I had heard New Cumnock Development Trust were in the process of buying the old Castle Hotel so their might be a chance that a new mural could be put up. We'd be in favour of it."

The Chronicle understands that rumours the Burns statue next to the Castle Hotel could be sold are unfounded as NCDT have plans for it.

Eric said: "We're waiting on the lease from the council to look after the Burns statue and the garden. NERV have promised to sign it over to us. NERV aren't capable of doing it anymore, the garden hasn't been tended to for a while so it will be replanted. We intend looking into getting funding to look after it."