Tonight, (the 25th of January) is Robert Burns Night or Burns Supper, to celebrate Scotland’s favourite son! But you don’t necessarily have to be Scottish to join in the festivities!

What is Burns Night?

Burns Night or a Burns Supper is named after the lyricist and national poet of Scotland, Robert Burns. Known for his work written primarily in the Scots language, he has inspired countless generations of poets, lyricists and writers, including William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge and Percy Shelley. Generally classified as a Romantic era poet (most prominent in the first part of the 19th century), his work has shone a light on Scottish culture.

In 2009, the Scottish publish voted Robbie Burns as the greatest Scot, by a poll conducted by STV.

Portrait of Robert Burns

Portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth – via Wikipedia

Five years after he died, Robert Burns’ friends decided to have a supper in his cottage in memory of him, a tradition that has been carried forward to this day, by several folks in Scotland. Historically there have been several Burns Clubs that have formed to pay homage to Robbie Burns with varying degrees of formality.

Generally speaking, the following activities do apply though, and they are what we would suggest to make a Burns Supper to remember!

1. Go on a Kilt Run

While January might not be the best weather for it, there are fewer more liberating experiences than taking on a run in a kilt! Kilt runs or tartan dashes as some have called them, have become more popular lately, as charitable marathons and also as a leisure activity. Just make sure you don’t stumble! And you don’t have to necessarily be in Scotland for it, kilt runs happen all over the UK, and there’s one in London this year as well!

2. Sample some fine single malts

No Burns Supper is complete without a dram or two of whisky being opened! While it’s an excuse to try any and all scotch whisky, you could make an interesting experience by sampling just those that are in and around regions of Scotland that were key moments in Robert Burns’ life and formative years. Start with a taste of some of the finest malts to come out of Ayrshire, which is where Robert Burns was born. Or you could retrace the steps he took when he got to Edinburgh in 1786.

Scratch Off Whisky Distilleries

Scratch off a whisky when you’ve tried it!


Robert Burns encountered and made a lasting impression on a young 16-year old Walter Scott in Edinburgh, who would go on to write such classics as Ivanhoe and The Lady of the Lake.

3. Pipin’ hot Haggis!

While there is no set pattern to a Burns Night, it’s still typical for bagpipers to play a tune, as haggis is introduced to the guests at the supper. On some occasions the piping can start as early as when the guests first begin to arrive. Typically, the haggis is brought around the room on a silver platter for everyone, as they clap and sometimes sing along with an ‘Address to the Haggis‘.

Picture of Haggis

Picture courtesy BBC Food

4. Poetry readings

Burns Supper is probably the one night outside of New Year’s Eve, where it’s completely permissable and natural to sing Auld Lang Syne, possibly Robbie Burns’ most famous work, although he didn’t write it himself. However, there are some absolutely amazing poems out there that celebrate Scotland. You could arrange to have a reading of some of the favourite poems your guests could bring along with them and make a game of it! Our favourite is ‘Tam o’Shanter‘ that follows the tale of an Ayrshire farmer that will take any excuse to keep drinking and spending time with his mates, instead of getting home to his wife!

A word of warning. Burns’ poetry can almost always confuse a reader, and there’s almost a natural expectation to be flummoxed by his use of the English language. Quite like the word ‘flummoxed’! We like that one! But as you get into it, you gain a new appreciation for it!

However you decide to celebrate Burns Night this year, make sure you pick at least one of these activities and you’ll have an amazing time! We leave you with these wise words from auld Robbie Burns.

Gie me ae spark o’ Nature’s fire,
That’s a’ the learning I desire.