Burns Night

Mark the life and death of Scotland’s most famous literary son – Robert Burns – on 25 January. Centred around the staunchly traditional Burns Supper, this annual celebration has occupied a place in Scottish culture for 200 years.

If it’s your turn to host this year or you simply want to find out what all the fuss is about, we’ve put together a quick guide to Burns Night celebrations.

The running order

Arguably more important than the food itself, the Burns Night Supper is steeped in tradition. Whether you’re celebrating at a large formal dinner or with a gathering of friends, you’ll usually find the evening structured around the following order:

  1. Piping in the guests – perhaps best avoided at home for fear of upsetting the neighbours (a CD will do), tradition dictates that guests are welcomed by musical accompaniment.
  2. Chairman’s welcome – the evening’s host extends a warm invite to the assembled.
  3. The Selkirk Grace – a traditional Scottish prayer reading.
  4. Piping in the Haggis – see point 1. above. Guests should be upstanding and are expected to clap.
  5. Haggis address – a chosen speaker gives a stirring rendition of the famous 1786 Burns poem ‘Address to a Haggis’. Also incorporates the cutting of the Haggis and a toast.
  6. The meal – see below for some great traditional recipes.
  7. First entertainment – whomever has volunteered (or more likely been selected!) now performs either a traditional Burns song or recites one of his poems (see below for a selection).
  8. The immortal memory – the main speech of the night, celebrating the memory of Burns himself.
  9. Second entertainment – as above.
  10. Toast to the Lassies - a humorous ode to the ladies, in the context of Burns’ work of course.
  11. Final entertainment – as above.
  12. Reply to toast to the Lassies – a chance for the ladies to get their revenge on the gathered men.
  13. Vote of thanks – a likely inebriated host gives thanks to the evening’s entertainers, guests and, of course, Mr. Burns.
  14. Auld Lang Syne – a rousing and no doubt drunken sing-along to the traditional Scottish hymn.

The menu

Of course, no Burns Night menu would be complete without Haggis in some form or another. If you’re struggling for inspiration, here are a few traditional recipes to whet your appetite:

  • Cock a leekie soup – a delicious chicken and leek soup with thyme and barley
  • Scotch broth – a little of everything thrown into a pot and simmered over time for a full flavour
  • Haggis, tatties and neeps – a traditional combination of the revered haggis, with a serving of potatoes and turnips
  • Baked chicken with haggis – an alternative to straight haggis, a chicken is stuffed with haggis, baked and served wrapped in Parma ham
  • Selkirk Bannock – a traditional Scottish fruit loaf. Best served drenched in whisky
  • Cranachan – a deliciously sweet dessrt served with raspberries. Also known as Cream Cowdie

Essential entertainment

Confused about which Burns poems or songs to include in your evening’s entertainment? Perhaps you’ve been nominated one of the entertainers...either way, here’s a selection of essential titles to aid your research:

Visiting Scotland?

Find and book a hotel, choose a restaurant, and remember to check out our travel offers and celebrate for less.

Check out our other inspirational ideas for days out and weekend breaks.