Scotland’s winter festivities extend beyond the New Year to Burns Night on 25 January – the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard. There’s no experience quite like a Burns Night celebration; locals and visitors alike can soak up some Scottish culture, indulge in the traditional dish of haggis, neeps and tatties and natter over a warming dram of whisky at one of the many Burns Night celebrations taking place this year. Whether toasting virtually at home or heading out to a local event, anyone can join in the celebrations this Burns Night, anywhere in the world. Robert Burns composed some of the world’s most instantly recognisable lines of poetry and song, so what better way to kick off the year than with a celebration of one of Scotland’s most iconic storytellers?
Follow in Burns’ footsteps
Fans of the Bard can experience the poems and songs that the spectacular Scottish landscapes inspired, explore real-life locations and uncover a wealth of stories connected to Rabbie Burns himself on a trip to Scotland. The romantic ruins and bonnie villages of Ayrshire inspired many of Burns’ masterpieces. A visit to the beautiful village of Alloway will uncover what Burns’ life was like back in the 18th century. There is the thatched cottage where Burns was born and a walk along Poet’s Path leading to a series of weathervanes that tell the story of Tam o’Shanter, as well as the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum where it is possible to take a special behind the scenes tour to see the original first draft of Auld Lang Syne. Other nearby Burns attractions include the Bachelors’ Club in Tarbolton and Burns House Museum in Mauchline.
In fact, connections to Burns scatter the surrounding area. Perched majestically on the Ayrshire cliff, not too far from Maybole where Burns’ parents met, is Culzean Castle. Erected in Burns’ time, visitors can roam the extensive grounds and even stay the night in one of the five impressive suites. South of the castle lies Kirkoswald, home to the “ancient, trusty, drouthy crony” Souter Johnnie who was immortalised in Tam o’Shanter.
Slowing down and taking in the beauty of the sea, rivers and mountains on a Whisky & Burns cycling tour through Dumfries & Galloway is the perfect way for visitors to savour traditional food and drink whilst learning about Scotland’s national poet. Along the route in Dumfries, tour groups can discover the pleasures of whisky once enjoyed by the bard himself in The Globe Inn, one of the country’s oldest hostelries, and draw up a seat at Burns’ very own dining table, surrounded by artefacts and memories. Fans can follow the town’s Burns trail to Robert Burns House where he spent the last years of his life and see original manuscripts and personal belongings.
Named the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, Edinburgh is renowned for its connection to great literary figures, and Robert Burns is no exception. On 28 November 1786 when Burns arrived in Edinburgh its gates were flung open to him. On the Royal Mile, visitors can find a plaque dedicated to Burns near the entrance to Lady Stair’s Close. The close contains Makars’ Court, an evolving national literary monument celebrating Scottish writers from the 14th century up to the present day, where famous words have been inscribed into the flagstones. While in Edinburgh, fans of Burns will be able to see one of the most famous portraits of Robert Burns at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, painted by friend and renowned Scottish artist Alexander Nasmyth.
The perfect Burns Supper
Many places across Scotland will host Burns Suppers this month, but also see our events page for events taking place across the ex-pat world. Or host your own. All that’s needed for the perfect Burns Night is haggis, neeps, tatties, great company…and some Scottish whisky, of course! Follow these instructions to prepare and host the perfect gathering on 25 January. To start everyone gathers, the host says a few words, everyone sits and the Selkirk Grace is said.
The meal- the starter is served, the haggis is piped in (by a piper in a kilt, naturally) the host performs the Address to a Haggis, everyone toasts the haggis and the main meal is served, followed by dessert (cranachan is a great option). After the meal the first Burns recital is performed, the Immortal Memory (the main tribute speech to Burns) is given, the second Burns recital is performed, and then there’s a Toast to the Lassies, followed by a Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, before the final Burns recital is performed.
To end the night the host gives a vote of thanks, everyone stands and sings Auld Lang Syne, crossing their arms and joining hands at the line “And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!”