Everything you need to know about Burns Night

25 January is the day when Scots everywhere raise a glass to their national poet Robert Burns. Even if you’re not Scottish, it’s a good excuse to unashamedly wear some tartan and maybe have a dram of whisky. Here’s the lowdown on what to expect on Burns Night 2018…


What is Burns Night?

It’s an evening of revelry to celebrate the birth of Scottish bard Robert - or ‘Rabbie’ - Burns. The tradition started a few years after his death in 1796 when a bunch of his pals got together to remember him. Now Burns Night is celebrated every year. Most people mark it with a Burns Supper – think hearty Scottish grub and rousing speeches.

What’s involved?

Whisky, haggis and poetry readings mainly. A traditional Burns Supper starts with a Scotch broth or cock-a-leekie soup. It’s followed by a haggis served with neeps and tatties (turnips, swedes and potatoes). The haggis is ceremonially piped in by the diners with a standing slow handclap. After the meal, the Immortal Memory toast is made in tribute to the great man.

The evening ends with the singing of one of Burns’ most popular works, Auld Lang Syne.  Try remembering the rest of the verse when you’ve had a few drams. “Should auld acquaintance be forgot…”

What to wear...

Anything tartan basically. From kilts, waistcoats and tartan trousers to ties, socks, sashes and tights. A more formal Burns Night supper ceremony may require the full Highland get-up for men and a posh frock for the ladies. If you’re strutting your stuff on the dancefloor, wear something comfy – and preferably something under your kilt.

Where to celebrate


Burns Unbound

Where: National Museum of Scotland

When: 21 January

How much: Free, just drop in

Unleash your poetic side with a day of Burns-themed free fun, workshops and entertainment for families. There’ll be foot-tapping live music with performances by Scotland’s finest folk ensembles, as well as ceilidh dancing, bagpipe classics and crafting – all in celebration of the life and work of the Scottish bard.

Red, Red Rose Street

Where: Rose Street

When: 25-27 January

How much: From free to £60 for The Burns Supper

Enjoy spoken word, a traditional Burns supper, Rabbie the musical, family ceilidh and stand-up comedy at various locations along Rose Street. There’ll be some free treats alongside ticketed events across all three days of the festivities, plus a Bairns Trail for wee ones who have to try to find six hidden Burns-inspired pics.

Annasach’s Burns Night Ceilidh

Where: The Counting House

When: 25-27 January

How much: £20 per ticket

Get your dancing shoes on for an informal celebration of the bard of Ayrshire’s birthday in Edinburgh’s Old Town. Annasach Ceilidh Band will have you tapping your feet long into the night.  A buffet supper of haggis, neeps and tatties will be served with a dram of The Famous Grouse.


Burns Night London 2018

When: 19, 20, 26, 27 January, 3 February

How much: £36.50 per ticket

Banish those winter blues with three hours of dancing, poetry, drinking and stuffing your face with haggis. The Ceilidh Club’s live band promises to keep you on your toes. In between the dancing, the haggis will be addressed (if you’re puzzled, Burns wrote a poem about it). At the end of the night everyone will link arms to belt out Auld Lang Syne.

Whisky tasting

Several Scottish bars in the capital will be hosting Burns events. Head to Soho whisky specialist Milroy’s for a wee dram or tasting flight (£35 per person). There’ll be tons of scotch (obvs) from the Highlands, Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown. Boisdale will be going tartan crazy at its London restaurants (£47.50pp for a special Burns set menu), while Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar in Devonshire Square will be serving up a traditional Burns Supper (£42 per ticket). 

Scottish street food

If you want to dip your toe in the Burns celebrations without going the whole hog, why not try some Scottish delicacies this January? Deeney’s in east London is serving up haggis, Cullen skink and more. Try the Hamish Macbeth - hot haggis, smoked bacon, cheddar, caramelised onion, mustard and rocket (£5-£7 per toastie).

Thanks to Visit Scotland for the images.


Plan your Burns Night now