Discover the essential ingredients for a barnstorming Burns Night as the time comes round again to raise a glass to Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns.
"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great Chieftain o' the Puddin-race!"
Yes, on 25th January every year (Burns' birthday), Scots celebrate two of their national treasures: the poet Robert Burns and Scotland's national dish; the haggis. The line above opens Burns' poem "Address to a Haggis" which is recited at gatherings across Scotland, the UK, and the world (there are no greater patriots than those who have left the country!).
These dark days of late January are the ideal time for a knees-up to revive our flagging spirits, and Burns Night gives us the perfect excuse. So, how do you organise your own Burns Night bash?
The Classic Burns Night Supper
Here's your shopping list - the shortest for a dinner party you will ever see:
Haggis - free range is best. Ask your butcher which particular hill the haggis was caught on; the further north, the better the flavour.
Neeps - what the Scots call neeps (or turnips) the English call swede. Don't worry about what the Scots call turnips, it gets complicated. Just accept this truth.
Tatties - or potatoes, for those not familiar with the Scots dialect.
Whisky - preferably a single malt, or at least a good blended, decanted into the single malt bottle….
Note: Your neeps should be bashed and your tatties champit. For this you will need a basher and a champer. Failing that, a masher will suffice.
And that's it! Unless you feel pud is in order; in which case, bring in the Tipsy Laird. Don't panic, it's a trifle.
Five things you should know about Robert Burns
1) Born on 25 January 1759 in Ayrshire, Robert Burns is renowned for his revelry, hard drinking, and womanising. Oh, and his poetry!
2) He was involved with many women but his true love was the appropriately named Jean Armour, who bore nine of his 12 children, the last being born on the day of his funeral.
3) Initially known as the Ploughman Poet, Burns later became an excise man, collecting excise duty in his locality - not the most popular of professions.
4) Burns most successful poem is Auld Lang Syne. He never claimed it as an original work but he rewrote it with the words the world knows (or to be honest, doesn't know) today. If only he could have collected those royalties!
5) He died in 1796 at the tender age of 37. In a few short years, he lived, loved, and left a legacy that has endured for centuries.
The Burns Night running order
The food sorted, now to the speeches: willing volunteers are not likely to come forward, so allocate the speeches to your guests and brook no arguments. Here is the running order:
The Selkirk Grace: A short prayer, easily learnt. If you want to be part of the action without too much work, keep this one for yourself. It goes:
"Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit."
The Immortal Memory - a short history of Robert Burns, capturing the essence of what makes him special. This is a tough one but there are plenty of earthy details if you want to play it for laughs.
Address to a Haggis - one of Rabbie's impenetrable poems, which basically holds up the haggis as a symbol of all that's good about Scotland. This is when the haggis is presented to the table.
Toast to the Lasses - a short speech from one of the gents present which honours the fairer sex in general, and the ladies present in particular.
Reply from the Lasses - right back atcha lads!
All that remains is to laugh, sing, and rejoice. There is no doubt that Rabbie would approve!
Burns Night in Scotland
If you are staying with Forest Holidays in Scotland over Burns Night, perfect! If you go offsite from Strathyre, the best (and by great good fortune, the closest) haggis, neeps, and tatties can be found at The Lade Inn. Over in Ardgartan Argyll, head to the Village Inn, where the haggis is highly praised. Eating in? The Forest Retreat at both locations has haggis in stock, so you don't need to go haggis hunting!
If you can't join us on for Burns Night, remember, it's just one night. Come in February or March instead; haggis will still be on every menu and, of course, Roberts Burns' poetry is not bound by time. As the great bard himself said "Nae man can tether time or tide".
So we'll see you soon, and in the meantime, catch yourself a haggis and enjoy your Burns Night! How do you celebrate it? Let us know in the comments below!