Celebrate Burns Night on 25 January
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Scotch, Haggis and Bagpipes: Celebrating the Spirit of Burns Night

If you thought Scots stopped celebrating after Hogmanay then think again – Burns Night is just around the corner, paying tribute to tradition, camaraderie and a profound appreciation for the arts.

Naomi Chadderton
Naomi Chadderton
An experienced editor and journalist specialising in news and lifestyle.

On January 25th, in the heart of winter, as chilly winds sweep across the moors, you’ll find plenty of warm glows emanating from homes and halls throughout Scotland and beyond. The night is Burns Night, a lively occasion that pays tribute to the life and works of the national bard of Scotland Robert Burns, one of the country’s greatest literary treasures.

So what is it about this impressive man that calls for a night of revelry?

What is Burns Night?

Born on January 25, 1759, Robert Burns’ impact on Scottish culture is immeasurable. Burns Night was established to commemorate the poet's birthday – some say the first Burns supper was held in Alloway, the poet's birthplace in July 1801, when nine guests sat down to a meal of haggis and sheeps' head, while others argue it was initiated a year later by the Burns Club - and since then it has evolved into a vibrant celebration of his life and legacy, embracing the essence of Scottish identity.

The main attraction of Burns Night is the Burns Supper. This traditionally involves guests donning tartan, listening to bagpipes, singing Auld Lang Syne, derived from a poem penned by Burns in 1788, and reciting the great writer’s songs and poems while indulging in a feast of haggis (a savoury pudding traditionally bound in the animal’s stomach and containing minced sheep’s heart, liver and lungs bound with onion, oatmeal, suet, stock and a selection of spices) mashed neeps and tatties (swedes and potatoes), all washed down with plenty of whisky.

Burns Night celebrations also commonly incorporate the Saltire, the national flag of Scotland, as well as the ceilidh, a traditional Scottish dance.

A Scottish piper performs


Robert Burns statue


What makes Robert Burns so special?

While we all love a reason to celebrate with plenty of food and booze, the history of the Burns Night festivities – and the man behind them - is often forgotten.

Penning more than 550 poems and songs before his death in 1796 at the age of just 37 (the same day his son Maxwell was born), the 18th-century writer was a huge source of inspiration to the founders of Liberalism and Socialism.

Often thought of as the ‘greatest Scot of all time’, the fact that he was a farmer's son who could speak to the common man also contributes to his popularity. Growing up among the ordinary people of Scotland meant he could write about nature and hardship, as well as love and family.

Where can I celebrate Burns Night?

Scotland, as well and London and beyond, is host to many events to mark the occasion, from music as well as a traditional ceilidh, and here’s exactly where you can find the best of them:

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

Part of Celtic Connection’s magnificent annual celebrations that also see over 2,100 musicians from around the world bringing the city to life for 18 days plus concerts, talks, art exhibitions, workshops and free events, its lavish Burns Supper is the perfect excuse to don those glad rags and toast Scotland’s bard in style alongside the likes of Fiona Hunter and Sean Gray. Tickets also include a traditional supper of haggis, neeps and tatties followed by cranachan, with a glass of wine and a dram from the home of Burns himself, Lochlea.

Burns&Beyond, Edinburgh

Taking place from 25th to 28th January at the capital’s Assembly Rooms, the sixth edition of the popular Burns&Beyond festival will once more see a plethora of live concerts celebrating the life and legacy of Robert Burns, with traditional and contemporary art and culture from all over Scotland and beyond. Add to that live music, poetry and ceilidh dancing as well as, on Burns Night itself, The Callum Easter TV Special – Live at Burns&Beyond, it’s time to dust off your dancing shoes.

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The lavish Celtic Connections Burns Night supper at Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow


The giant heart installation by German artist Michael Pendry at this year's Burns&Beyond event


Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Alloway, Ayrshire

One to take both the kids and grandchildren to, there’s nothing quite like celebrating Burns Night in the Bard’s Birthplace with a family-friendly ceilidh. Held on 27th January, the Blazing Burns Spectacular promises a fabulous evening of dancing, drinking, food and fire with plenty of bagpipe performances plus music from Siobhan McAuley. Tickets include haggis, neeps and tatties.

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Cecil Sharp House, Ceilidh Club, Marylebone, London

By far London’s biggest Burns’ Night celebrations, The Ceilidh Club - which runs Ceilidhs in London all year long and has been doing so since 1998 – is the place to head for a proper authentic celebration. Not one for the half-hearted, it’s all about jigs, reels, poetry, haggis and proper Scottish trad, plus a good old rendition of Auld Lang Syne at the end. Just how Burns would have liked it.

Cadogan Arms and The George, London

For Scots looking for a taste of home, or anyone simply looking to join in the festivities, these posh London pubs - the Cadogan Arms in Chelsea and The George in Fitzrovia make for the perfect spots for a more mature crowd. Teaming up with Aberfeldy Whisky for a three-course Burns Night menu, the sister pubs are laying on a live bagpiper and a traditional recitation of Burns’ most popular poem, 'Address to a Haggis', as you tuck into whisky cured smoked Scottish salmon followed by venison and haggis wellington, all topped off with Scottish raspberry and whisky cranachan.

The Cadogan Arms at twilight


A musician performs at the CeilIdh Club, London