A Reet Guid Burns Feast in the Scottish Borders

Published on 23 Jan
7 min read

The traditional Burns Night which occurs every 25th January lifts the spirits of folk across Scotland and the border regions. The day celebrates the life of Scottish poet Robert Burns who was born 260 years ago in Alloway, Ayrshire.

The first Burns Night was held in 1801 and was a ritual held by his family and friends who gathered to remember Burns and the legacy he left after his early death in 1796[1]. Burns is a highly celebrated figure in Scotland, and many people still resonate with his works which covered love, life and politics but also his love for his country.

Burns Night is a unique celebration which is held across the globe. His work has reached all corners of the world and has inspired famous literary heroes such as Steinbeck as well as authors closer to home like Irvine Welsh. His rhetoric of love, life and politics in the late 19th century, and shrewd, witty insight into the human psyche, have kept Burns as one of the most recognised names in the artistic world. Read some of his works before the big day to see how Burns is still inspiring folk today.

What Happens at a Burns Night Feast?

Traditional Scottish food and drink are served throughout the evening. Ranging from Scotch Broth to Shortbread, all tastes and diets can be easily catered for.

A night of delight. Whisky is commonly drunk during the Burns Feast.
A night of delight. Whisky is commonly drunk during the Burns Feast.

Before the food arrives, the evening begins with the Selkirk Grace.

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.
Attributed to Robert Burns

For starters, soup is usually served. Traditional Scottish soups include Cullen Skink, Scotch broth or cock-a-leekie.

Get smoked haddock from D.R. Collin in Eyemouth who also has vans placed around the Scottish Borders for a delicious Cullen Skink. Alternatively, try chicken from Linda Dick Chickens and leeks from Julian’s Veg in Kelso to create a warming pot of cock-a-leekie.

The haggis is traditionally piped in.
The haggis is traditionally piped in.

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak yer place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my airm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dicht,
An cut you up wi ready slicht,
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like onie ditch;
And then, Oh what a glorious sicht,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmaist, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit’ hums.

Is there that ower his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit:
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
Oh how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his wallie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if Ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

Robert Burns

Sourcing a haggis from a Scottish Border butcher this week will be easy. Try Lindsay Grieve‘s award-winning haggis made from a traditional family recipe. Border mutton is used. You can also buy tasty haggis from R.G. Foreman in Norham, Peter Walker Butchers in Coldingham and Robert Pringle Family Butchers in Hawick.

The haggis is served traditionally with neeps and tatties which are easily available from farm shops and greengrocers in your town.

Turnips, or neeps, are a hardy winter vegetable and match well with the peppery flavours of the haggis
Turnips, or neeps, are a hardy winter vegetable and match well with the peppery flavours of the haggis

For dessert, a light but sweet ending and very traditional is Cranachan. It is a simple pud which contains raspberries, oatmeal, cream and honey.

Get your cream from Stichill Jerseys near Kelso, source heather honey from Chain Bridge Honey Farm to mix into your cream. Find raspberries in your local greengrocers or farm shop, unless you are prepared with raspberries frozen from the summer crop at Border Berries. You can buy oats from Heatherslaw Mill which can be found in many local shops or online.

Use Scottish raspberries to add to your cranachan

Alternatively, serve up a clootie dumpling from Alex Dalgetty & Sons in Selkirk with some custard or a whisky cream.

Traditionally, Scotland’s national drink whisky is served in copious amounts at a Burns supper. However, wine and ales are acceptable offerings too. The Scottish Borders is home to some fantastic ales including Traquair House’s Jacobite Ale. A full-bodied ruby ale will go fantastically well with the peppery flavours of the haggis and creamy whisky sauce.

Traquair Ale: An ale steeped in history just like Burns Night.
Traquair Ale: An ale steeped in history just like Burns Night.

An interesting lighter approach, which is great to drink with the starters and/or desserts, is Little White Cloud or Long White Cloud by Tempest Brewing Co which both have citrus flavours which match fish or veggie courses.

Long White Cloud Pale Ale by Tempest Brewing Co
Pale Ale flavours match lighter dishes will the meal such as Cranachan

You can also take your night to the next level by being one of the first in the world to try haggis gin! Deliquescent, the innovative gin company, based in Rutherfords Micropub, have once again come up with a ‘worlds-first gin experience’. The gin will be released on the 25th of January. It is flavoured with haggis-inspired spices and is a great alternative to whisky and can be enjoyed throughout the night neat, or topped up with tonic.

Haggis Gin
The World’s First Haggis Gin by Deliquescent will be an excellent addition to any Burns Supper

If you’re doing Dry January, we recommend Laprig Valley‘s apple juice of Left Field Kombucha’s kombucha selection, the first of its kind in Scotland, both of which are produced in the Scottish Borders.

Winter Spice apple juice
Try Winter Spiced Apple Juice to keep out the cold on Burns Night.

Burns Night Around the Borders

There are many places holding Burns-inspired events across North Northumberland and Scottish Borders.

Here are our top picks:

Burns Supper at Loaf B&B

A full Burns feast which is all completely vegan. 3 courses complete with renditions of Burns popular poems. You are encouraged to bring along your own favourite poem or song by Burns. BYOB. £20pp

Burns Lite at Rutherfords Micropub

A Burns supper with a twist. Releasing the world’s first haggis gin which will be piped in by a local piper and addressed by Jesse Rae in Scottish finery. It will start approximately about 4 pm and you buy the haggis gin from Rutherfords or online at £24 for a 50cl bottle.

Burns Supper @ Pier Red

A traditional 3 course Burns dinner at Pier Red complete with addressing the haggis before the main event. £15pp

Burns Weekend at Oblo Bar & Bistro

A fine-dining experience with a Scottish flair. All main courses are matched with a whiskey nip. Available for dinner on 25th & 26th January or lunch on the 27th.

Burns-Themed Quiz Night at Ebba Centre

Teams of 2-6 people  BYOB and the option of a traditional supper of haggis, neeps and tatties or mac and cheese.

Burns Supper at Abbotsford

Held on January 26th at the home of another celebrated Scot, Sir Walter Scott, including traditional music, chairman Alasdair Hutton from Edinburgh Military Tattoo and a customary Burns supper

Enjoy an atmospheric Burns Supper in Abbotsford; the house of Sir Walter Scott
Enjoy an atmospheric Burns Supper in Abbotsford; the house of Sir Walter Scott

Celebrate in Style

Shake off the January Blues by celebrating Burns Night. No matter what your plans are for Burns Night, make time to appreciate the unfussy, warming of the Scots and enjoy and reflect on some of the poems from Robert Burn’s impressive opus. Where and what will you be eating for Burns Night? Join the conversation on social media. Follow Foodful on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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