Wondering where to celebrate Burns Night in 2021? We’ve put together a guide to the top places to join a Burns Supper or other type of Burns Night event to celebrate Robert Burns and his poetry. Whether you are a lifelong Burnsian or new to Scotland’s favorite bard, there are hundreds of ways to celebrate Burns Night in Scotland.
We list Burns Night events in Ayrshire, Dumfries, Edinburgh, and Glasgow and information on when, where, and how to join these events. Whether you are looking for a formal Burns Supper, The Big Burns Supper festival, a poetry reading, a casual Burns brunch, or a family-friendly ceilidh, we have you covered.
We also discuss each area’s connection with Robert Burns and Burns related attractions that you may want to visit. We also provide a brief history of Robert Burns and what happens at Burns Suppers for those who are celebrating Burns Night for the first time.
Note, that this article is updated each year with the local events. Dates for many of the 2020 events have been updated, but keep checking back for updates. If you know of a relevant event that is not listed, please let us know and we’ll add it.
NOTE FOR 2021: All in-person events for Burns Night in Scotland have been canceled and people in Scotland are being discouraged from gathering to celebrate Burns Nights outside of their own household.
However, there are a number of virtual events taking place for Burns Night, here are some of them:
- Big Burns Supper (Dumfries) – enjoy freee online video performances and acts online for free on January 25th
- Burns & Beyond (Edinburgh) – enjoy free online performances and events from January 23rd to January 25th
- Celtic Connections (Glasgow) – enjoy virtual traditional music performances as part of this festival that runs from January 15th to February 2nd
- Once Upon a Whiskey Tastings (Glasgow) – special virtual whisky tastings are taking place January 21st, 25th & 28th (5 whiskies are sent to you in advance to drink at home)
- HIT Burns Supper Podcast – Enjoy a podcast and e-booklet from chefs about preparing a Burns Night Supper on January 21st and January 25th
- Many restaurants, pubs, and event spaces around the country are doing takeaway dinners, virtual tastings and toats, and online events. I’d check with your favorite venues.
NOTE: The rest of this post has not been updated for 2021 since so few of the regular events are taking place this year. But I will leave the information up for those planning ahead for what things may be like in 2022.
Table of Contents:
Introduction to Burns Night and Burns Suppers in Scotland
If you new to Burns Night, we’ll help fill you in on all the basics before we get into the best places to celebrate Burns Night in Scotland. We’ll give you some background on Robert Burns, the history of Burns Night, and tell you what happens at a Burns Supper.
Who is Robert Burns?
Robert Burns was an 18th century Scottish poet and lyricist born in Ayrshire. He has a lot of nicknames including Rabbie Burns, Robbie Burns, the National Bard, the Bard of Ayrshire, and the Ploughman Poet. He has become a cultural icon in Scotland and among Scottish people internationally, and he remains one of the most beloved writers in Scotland.
Robert Burns is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated for writing in the Scots language as well as English. His writings have had a great influence on Scottish literature. He is also well known for collecting and helping to preserve a number of old Scots poems and songs, which may not have survived otherwise.
Internationally, his best known song is “Auld Lang Syne” which is often sung on New Year’s Eve, known as Hogmanay in Scotland, around the world. It is based on an old Scots song of much earlier origins and Burns made some edits and added on his own verses. Other well-known poems and songs include “Ae Fond Kiss”, “A Red, Red Rose”, “Tam o’ Shanter”, “Scots Wha Hae”, and “To a Mouse”.
Burns was also a farmer, a great lover of his country, an excise officer, and a man who had many children (he is believed to have fathered at least 12 children to 4 different women). He is also known for dying young as he died at the age of 37.
What is Burns Night?
Burns Night is a celebration of Robert Burns. It is a day when people celebrate his life, his poems and song, and his legacy. It is also a day when people generally celebrate everything associated with Scotland, including tartan, bagpipes, haggis, ceilidh dancing, Scottish literature and music, and whisky.
When is Burns Night?
Burns Night is always on January 25th, the date of Robert Burns’ birth. However, many people in Scotland (and abroad) celebrate on a date near the 25th, especially if the 25th falls on a weekday.
You’ll often find Burns Night events in Scotland starting around January 20th and going until the beginning of February, with the majority of events being held on and around January 25th.
How is Burns Night Celebrated in Scotland?
It really varies greatly. A common way for people to celebrate is to join a community Burns Night event which usually includes a Burns Supper with food, toasts, poetry readings, music, and ceilidh dancing.
But some people celebrate with a meal with family at home and some may simply have a toast at a pub. Some don’t celebrate at all and some may go to several events such as at a Burns festival. So it varies widely!
When was the first Burns Supper?
The first Burns Supper was held at Burns’ birthplace in Alloway (Burns Cottage) by a group of his friends on July 21, 1801. That was held to mark the fifth anniversary of his death. Burns Suppers continued after this and were subsequently held on the date of his birth (January 25th) rather than his death.
The first Burns Club was also founded in 1801 in Greenock, and these clubs grew rapidly in number. Burns Clubs are clubs which seek to preserve the memory and legacy of Robert Burns and his work. Initially, they were almost all men-only clubs, but many now admit women members as well.
Many Burns Clubs still exist in Scotland and aboard. One of the main events held each year at most clubs is the annual Burns Supper.
What do people eat at a Burns Supper?
A traditional Burns Supper dinner varies in Scotland but almost always has haggis, mashed neeps (swedes or rutabagas), and mashed tatties (potatoes). Whisky is, of course, also included at the celebrations.
Here is a typical 3-course menu at a Burns Supper:
- Starter: cock-a-leekie soup, Scotch broth, or Cullen skink
- Main Dish: haggis, neeps, and tatties with whisky sauce
- Dessert: clootie pudding or cranachan
The food most associated with these meals is haggis, but there are also vegetarian versions of Burns Suppers offered in many venues.
What happens at a Burns Supper?
An organized Burns Supper may range from a very formal scripted event to an informal dinner with only a few references to Burns. But even the more informal generally include greetings, a meal (which includes haggis), toasts, some Burns poetry, and some Scottish music. Many also include ceilidh dancing after the meal for guests.
Here are the main components to a more formal Burns Supper:
- Piping in the Guests – A piper plays to welcome guests as they arrive and are seated.
- Welcome by the Host / Hostess / Chairperson – Host welcomes the gathered guests.
- Selkirk Grace – The “Selkirk Grace” by Burns is read
- Soup – Soup Course is served
- Parade of the Haggis – The haggis is carried in (often by the chef or cook) and piped in by a piper.
- Address to the Haggis – The “Address to a Haggis” by Burns is read. During the reading, the person doing the reading cuts into the haggis.
- Toast to the Haggis – Everyone toasts the haggis with a dram of whisky and then the haggis is piped out of the room to be plated.
- Meal – The rest of the meal is served, usually with music in the background.
- Songs, Music, or Poems – Normally a song by Burns is sung now to get guests ready for the rest of the proceedings.
- Immortal Memory – This is the main speech and longest speech given during the evening. It is a tribute to Burns and is normally the most serious part of the evening events. It may be given by the host or hostess or by an invited speaker.
- Toast to the Lassies – A humorous toast is given by a male member about women. This dates back to the time when the events were all-male and the men would thank the women for cooking and serving the food. Today it is used as a lighthearted and funny way to poke fun at women.
- Reply on behalf of the Lassies – A female member replies on behalf of the women, and provides a lighthearted retort and pokes fun back at the men.
- More Entertainment – More Burns poetry or songs are recited or sung. There may also be music, Highland dancers, or other entertainment. Fundraising dinners may do raffle drawings at this point.
- Closing Remarks & Vote of Thanks – Final short speech from host and thank you to all that made the evening possible.
- Auld Lang Syne – At the end of the evening “Auld Lang Syne” will be sung and people join hands with their neighbors. At the beginning of the final verse (‘And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!’) people usually cross their arms across their bodies so that their left hand is holding the hand of the person on their right, and their right hand holds that of the person on their left.
If you are at a less formal event, many of the above steps will likely be taken out or they may be done in a slightly different order. But if it is your first Burns Supper, don’t worry as you’ll usually have a program or can just watch what everyone else does.
When we moved to Scotland we assumed most Scottish people knew the words for “Auld Lang Syne” and knew when the traditional time was to cross their arms. However, we have been proved wrong on this on many occasions. So we just go with the flow.
“Auld Lang Syne” has often been referred to as the song that everyone sings but nobody knows all the words. Since so few people know the words most places will print out a copy of the song for you, but it is good to read over the words before the event if you are not familiar with the song.
Where is Burns Night Celebrated?
Burns Night is primarily celebrated in Scotland, and you’ll find Burns Night celebrations in most cities, towns, and villages throughout the country. There are also a number of people who celebrate Burns Night throughout the rest of the UK, Ireland, and in countries where a lot of Scottish people emigrated such as Canada and the United States.
But you can find Burns Clubs and Burns Night celebrations around the world. To find out if there are Burns Clubs near you, check with the Robert Burns World Federation which has ties to most existing Burns Clubs worldwide.
Many of the Burns Clubs hold private Burns Suppers that are only for members, but some do also allow the public to join.
If you are thinking of hosting your own Burns Supper, you might check out this book which gives you lots of ideas on how to host a Burns Night dinner and event of your own.
Where Can I find out More Information about Robert Burns?
It is easy to find information about Robert Burns. Note that a few of the recommended books may be difficult to find outside the UK. If you are in Scotland, the Burns related museums generally have very good selections of Robert Burns related books and materials for sale.
- RobertBurns.org – An encyclopedic reference to everything about Robert Burns. It actually includes all the entries from The Robert Burns Encyclopedia written by Maurice Lindsay. This is my go-to online resource for Burns history and his works.
- The Bard: Robert Burns (2009) by Robert Crawford – One of the latest biographies written about Robert Burns, this biography includes some new research material and sources not used in prior biographies. Well-reviewed.
- Robert Burns: A Life (2009) by Ian McIntyre – Originally published in 1996 to mark the bicentenary of his death, an updated edition was published in 2009 to mark the 250th anniversary of Burns’ birth.
The Life Of Robert Burns (1930) by Catherine Carswell – This is an older biography of Robert Burns that portrays him as a man with flaws unlike most previous biographies at the time. The biography includes his genius and talents as a writer but also his flaws and struggles with finances, fitting into society, women, alcohol, and depression. An oldie but a goodie!
The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns (2012) – A volume that lists all of the songs and poems written by Robert Burns in chronological order with a searchable index. We own this one and it is great for just picking a page and reading some of his work and also makes an excellent reference book!
- Robert Burns in Your Pocket (2009) – This more lightweight book provides a brief history of Robert Burns life and his most popular and known poems and songs. A great portable volume that can be taken on your travels.
Best Places to Celebrate Burns Night in Scotland
There are Burns Night celebrations throughout Scotland on and around Burns Night, but here are the four places which we think are the best places to celebrate Burns Night in Scotland.
We’ve celebrated Burns Night in each of these places as well, so if you are planning your own Burns Night celebrations in Scotland and have questions, feel free to ask us any questions in the Comments section at the end of the article.
Ayrshire is a region in southwest Scotland often known as Burns Country given that it is the birthplace of Robert Burns and it has the most Burns related sites of any region in Scotland. The fertile region is an important area of agriculture for Scotland with lots of rural land and small villages.
The area is probably best known for its association with Robert Burns, but it is also known for horse racing, golfing, its historical attractions, and for being the area where Johnnie Walker whisky originated. Along the coast are beaches, world-class golf courses, castles, and coastal walking paths. Trips over to the nearby Isle of Arran are also popular.
Robert Burns Connection
Robert Burns was born in Ayrshire and lived the majority of his short life here from 1759 to 1788. It was here that he would grow up, begin writing, get married, and have his first children. This is the part of Scotland that would have the most influence on Robert Burns and his writings.
Robert Burns was born in Alloway on January 25, 1759 in a small house built by his father. He lived here until he was 7 years old. In 1766, his family moved to a nearby farm, Mount Oliphant farm. Burns’ family were poor and the whole family worked hard doing manual labor on the farm.
In 1777 the family moved again to a larger farm at Lochlea where the Burns family would live until 1784. During this time, Robert Burns briefly moved to Irvine in 1781 to try and learn the tedious art of flax dressing (part of the process to turn flax into linen), but this was not a successful venture. Not only did Burns hate the work, but his partner’s wife accidentally caused their workshop to burn down after getting too drunk at the Hogmanay celebrations and knocking over a candle.
But during his time in Irvine, he met bookseller William Templeton and Captain Richard Brown, both of whom would be influential in encouraging the young poet to write and consider publishing his work.
After Robert Burns’ father’s death in 1784, Robert and his brother took a lease on the 100-acre Mossgiel Farm and the family moved there. Shortly after the death of William Burnes, the family change their name from Burnes (or Burness) to Burns.
In 1788, Robert Burns married Jean Armour (although they were “irregularly” married a couple of years earlier), who was born and lived in nearby Mauchline. The couple would have 4 children (2 sets of twins) together while in Ayrshire, but only one of those, Robert, would survive past age 1.
Burns bought a farm in Dumfrieshire in 1788 and left Ayrshire. Whilst making his new farm ready Burns and his wife Jean Armour lodged in a room in Mauchline.
Burns Night Events in Ayrshire 2020
Every year there are a number of Burns Night events in Ayrshire, generally centered around Robert Burns’ birthplace in Alloway. These usually include Burns Suppers, ceilidhs, special museum tours, children’s events, live music concerts, academic talks, and the burning of John Barleycorn.
This year also features a play, a film viewing, events on Ayr Beach, and even the opportunity to combine rugby and Burns!
In prior years, the festival and events have been under the name Alloway 1759 and Burns Alicht, but the festival in 2020 seems to be promoted as Burns Festival and Burns Hame Toun. The actual event names, even those that seem like the same event, also seem to regularly change names.
To search for Burns Night events in Ayrshire, the two main sources for events are the Burns Hame Toun events website and the Burns Museum events website run by the National Trust for Scotland.
Here are some of the most popular Burns Night events for 2020:
- Centre for Robert Burns Studies Annual Conference on January 11th (website) – A day of academic talks, lectures, and discussions about Robert Burns at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. A good one if you are looking for an academic Burns event.
- Auld Lang Syne Talk on January 15th (website) – An afternoon talk at the Robert Burns Birthplace museum focused on the genesis, origins, history and significance of Auld Lang Syne.
- Rozelle House Tours on January 22nd – 26th (website) – Enjoy viewing Alexander Goudie’s Tam o’ Shanter narrative painting series as part of special afternoon guided tours. Even if you can’t make a tour, we’d highly recommend stopping by and seeing the paintings here if in Ayrshire.
- Ae Fond Kiss film on January 23rd (website) – The movie Ae Fond Kiss, a story about a Pakistani Muslim man in Glasgow who falls in love with a Catholic woman and the clashing of the family’s cultures and personalities, will be shown at the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock. Ticketed event.
- Burns Supper on January 23rd (website) – This formal Burns Supper includes a cocktail reception, meal with wine, live entertainment, and a charity auction. The proceeds will be used to support HITS, a charity for supporting those in the hospitality industry. It takes place at the Brig o’ Doon House Hotel and the dress code is black tie (or formal Highland dress).
- Burns at the Beach on January 24th (website) – This is free celebration event taking place on Ayr Beach in Ayr that will include a light show, illuminated poetry path, a bonfire, and music by Scottish tribal band Clanadonia. There will also be a ticketed ceilidh hosted at the Horizon Hotel.
- The Annual Celebration on January 24th (website) – This is a formal Burns Supper hosted by the Irvine Burns Club. The club is the longest continuously operated Burns Club in the world, established in 1826. We’ve heard this is a really great one to attend if you are looking for a traditional Burns Supper!
- Burns’ Birthday in Mauchline on January 25th (website) – A free family-oriented event at the Burns House Museum & Library with an afternoon of art workshops, walking tours, storytelling, and performances. A great family event.
- Burns Gala Day on January 25th (website) – This free daytime family-friendly celebration takes place in the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and will include live performances, food and drink tastings, and children’s events.
- Blazing Burns Spectacular on January 25th (website) – An evening ticketed event that includes live music, ceilidh, a choreographed fire show, and a meal of haggis, neeps, and tatties. Family friendly and easy to combine with the daytime Burns Gala Day event.
- The Burns Supper in Burns Cottage on January 25th (website) – This is a formal Burns Supper located in the birthplace of Robert Burns. A very special Burns Supper in a special setting as it was also the first place a Burns Supper was ever held in memory of the bard back in 1801. An annual event for some, usually sells out far in advance.
- Watchful Burns on January 25th and 26th (website) – Visitors can enjoy light and sound attractions on Ayr Beach (pierside) in the evenings. This is a free event, and is a relaxed version of Burns on the Beach event.
- Big Burns Brunch on January 26th (website) – Enjoy a traditional Sunday morning brunch at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum accompanied by live music throughout the morning. Ticketed event.
- Tam’s Tech Workshop on Januar 26th (website) – This open workshop explores the work of Robert Burns through modern and digital media. This free event takes place at the Grain Exchange in Ayr.
- Burns & Rugby Event on January 26th (website) – Watch the Ayrshire Bulls take on the Southern Knights while also enjoying a 3-course Burns Supper lunch, talks, family events, and a raffle. This event is ticketed and takes place at the Ayr Rugby Football Club. A perfect event for sports lovers also wanting to celebrate Burns.
- The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns on January 28th (website) – A comedy theatre show about Robert Burns’ loves and relationships compared to those of the modern day. Ticketed event taking place at the Gaiety Theatre in Ayr.
- Annual Burns Supper Fundraiser on February 2nd (website). Hosted as a fundraiser to support The Gaiety Fundraiser in Ayr, it features readings, 3-course dinner, and live music. Takes place at the Enterkine House Hotel. A great one for those who want to keep celebrating into February!
Most of the Burns related events are free to attend. But some do require booking ahead and have fees, so be sure to check the event details in advance.
If you are looking for a more formal and traditional event in Ayrshire to celebrate the Baird’s birthday, then you might consider either the Burns Supper in the Burns Cottage or the Annual Celebration hosted by the Irvine Burns Club. Be sure to book well in advance for these as tickets often sell out.
Most of the events, outside of the more formal Burns Suppers, are very casual and family friendly. If you are looking for a family-friendly Burns Supper, we can definitely recommend heading to the Birthplace Museum on January 25th. The Mauchline Burns Museum also has a family-friendly day of events on the 25th.
We spent Burns Night in Ayrshire in 2018. We were one of the few non-Scottish folks there and the majority of the people we met at the various events were from Ayrshire. Many were surprised that we traveled “all the way from Edinburgh”. We stayed here for three nights and did most of the Burns related events and had a great time and also explored the Burns related sites in the region between events.
Not only is Ayrshire Burns’ birthplace, but it is a great place to head if you are looking for authentic and local celebrations!
Robert Burns Related Places to Visit while in Ayrshire
It seems that just about every village in Ayrshire has some connection to Robert Burns and locals are happy to give you information on the connections (many real, some more mythical).
But to help focus your explorations, we recommend heading to Alloway (a suburb of Ayr), Tarbolton, and Mauchline. If you have more time, you might also add Irvine and Kilmarnock.
Note that some of these places are not open in January, although they sometimes make exceptions for Burns Night events. So be sure to check opening dates and hours in advance and some (like the Wellwood Burns Centre & Museum) accept visits if you pre-booked an appointment.
Here are some of our favorite Robert Burns related sites in Ayrshire:
- Robert Burns Birthplace Museum – This museum in Alloway consists of both the small thatched Burns Cottage where Robert Burns was born as well as a nearby modern museum (linked by a 10 minute walking path or you can drive). The museum tells the story of Robert Burns including his life, his writings, and his lasting legacy with lots of artifacts and exhibits. There is also a café, gift shop, and playground. If you only visit one Robert Burns related site in Ayrshire (or Scotland for that matter) this is the one we’d recommend.
- Burns National Heritage Park – In addition to the Burns Cottage and Museum, there are several other historical sites in Alloway connected to Burns including the Burns Memorial, Brig O’ Doon, and Alloway Auld Kirk. Brig O’Doon and Alloway Auld Kirk are both featured in Burn’s famous poem “Tam O’ Shanter”. Be sure to leave time to explore these sites while in Alloway, all are within walking distance of the museum.
- Rozelle House Galleries – The former mansion and estate are home to art galleries, a museum, and a tea room. These include Alexander Goudie‘s Tam o’Shanter paintings which are on permanent display here.
- Burns House Museum & Library – This museum in Mauchline features Robert Burns information and artifacts as well as local history. The museum features a recreation of the room that Robert Burns and his wife Jean Armour lived in here as lodgers in 1788.
- Bachelors’ Club – This 17th century thatched house in Tarbolton is where Burns took dance lessons and attended meetings for a mens-only debating club that he helped create. The first floor section is a recreated 18th century living area while the upstairs is a recreation of the meeting rooms used by Burns and his friends. Unfortunately, the Bachelors’ Club is normally closed in January.
- National Burns Memorial Tower – A 67 foot Scots Baronial style memorial in Mauchline designed by William Fraser and completed in 1898. It contains a small exhibit display inside about Robert Burns and offers nice views from the top over the area. The interior is usually only open to the public by appointment. Note that this is just one of several Burns monuments and statues in Ayrshire, you’ll find others in Ayr, Alloway, Irvine, and Kilmarnock.
- Souter Johnnie’s Cottage – This is the 18th century cottage of John Davidson and his family. Davidson was a shoemaker and is believed to be the inspiration for Souter Johnnie in Robert Burn’s “Tam o’ Shanter”, who was described as Shanter’s “ancient, trusty, drouthy crony” . The cottage has a few artifacts related to Davidson and shoemaking, and outside in the outbuilding are life-sized sculptures of Tam, Souter Johnnie and Nance Tunnock. The cottage has a rotating collection of local art and crafts, much of it for sale.
- Wellwood Burns Centre and Museum – A small Robert Burns museum in Irvine that holds a number of Burns related artifacts, including Kilmarnock Editions of his writings. It is also the meeting place for the Irvine Burns Club, the oldest continuously meeting Burns Club in the world (since 1826). Open limited days each week, but will also open for pre-booked appointments.
Other attractions in the area you may want to explore include Culzean Castle & Country Park (castle grounds open in January), Ayr Racecourse, the Ayrshire Coastal Path (hiking path), Dean Castle (park & grounds open year round), Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine, Dick Institute (includes a museum and gallery) and local golf courses (including several Championship courses).
Where to Stay in Ayrshire for Burns Night
The majority of the Burns Night events, including the larger Burns Suppers, are in Alloway (suburb of Ayr), so that is a great spot to stay. It is also where the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is located, and there are a few lodging options located within walking distance of the museum.
Ayr has the best public transportation connections in Ayrshire if you are planning to get around by public transit. But the villages of Tarbolton, Mauchline, Irvine, Kilmarnock, and Kirkoswald also all have connections to Robert Burns and can be good spots as well. Just note that some places are not well-connected by public transit.
Accommodation is relatively inexpensive in Ayrshire so you can easily find good value lodging for any budget, especially if you book in advance. You should be able to find a B&B, hotel, or apartment within your budget.
If you are looking for 5-star luxury, there are only a few options in Ayrshire as the area is mostly rural. But you can find world-class luxury at both Turnberry Resort (25 minute drive away from the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum) and Glenapp Castle (50 minute drive away from Burns Birthplace Museum).
You can search for available lodging options in Ayrshire online here.
Here are several suggested accommodation options in Ayrshire:
- Brig O’ Doon House – This well-rated 5-room small hotel offers clean guest rooms, a restaurant, fitness facilities, an outdoor swimming pool (seasonal), and free parking. Best of all, the hotel is located within walking distance of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and all the Burns related sites in Alloway.
- 10 Alloway – A comfortable well-appointed 2-bedroom apartment located within walking distance of Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and other Robert Burns related sites in Alloway. Great spot for a family.
- Blackburn Villa B&B – A simple well-reviewed B&B in Ayr that offers good value for money and a cooked full breakfast. Some rooms have shared bathrooms, others are private. A 5 minute walk from Ayr’s beach and a 5 minute drive away from Burns Birthplace Museum.
- Western House Hotel – This 4-star hotel in Ayr offers comfortable rooms, a bar, a well-reviewed restaurant, and free parking. Easy to get to via public transit and has an airport shuttle. A 10 minute drive to Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.
- Crofthead Farm House – This bed-and-breakfast is located outside the village of Tarbolton in a farm house with cozy rooms and an excellent full breakfast. A good place for a peaceful stay and to enjoy a bit of the Ayrshire rural landscape that Burns would have known. A 20 drive from Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.
- Fairburn Hotel – This 3-star hotel in the village of Mauchline offers comfortable rooms and a restaurant and bar. It is a 3 minute walk from the Burns House Museum and is within walking distance of most of the other Burns related sites in Mauchline. A 20 to 25 minute drive from Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.
The Dumfriesshire area, or Dumfries and Galloway council area, is in southwest Scotland. The largest city in the region is Dumfries which is situated along the River Nith. The area is a mix of coast and mountains, and the economy is largely based on farming, forestry, and tourism.
The area is well-known for its association with Robert Burns and Dumfries hosts the largest Burns celebration in the country. But the area is also known for its nature, forests, and dark skies. The Galloway Forest Park is home to the UK’s only designated Dark Sky Park, so is a perfect place for stargazing.
There are also castles, old country houses, ruined abbeys, and small museums to explore in Dumfries. You’ll also find the southernmost point of Scotland and some nice hiking paths at the Mull of Galloway.
Robert Burns Connection with Dumfries
Dumfriesshire is the region of the country where Robert Burns spent the majority of his final years. Soon after Robert Burns’ marriage to Jean Armour was officially recognized by the Church of Scotland, he began looking for a farm of his own in the Dumfries area.
Robert Burns decided to lease a plot of land at Ellisland that was set along the banks of the River Nith. The land had no farm buildings so Burns had to build them himself before he could start farming or bring over his family.
In 1788, Robert Burns also received his commission to become an excise officer. Burns would work as an exciseman until his death. This job would lead to much greater financial security for the family.
The farming at Ellisland Farm was not successful despite his efforts. However, his time at Ellisland was productive in terms of his writing and creativity and he produced some of his most popular works during this period, including “Ae Fond Kiss”, “Tam o’ Shanter”, and “Auld Lang Syne”.
In November 1791, the Burns family left Ellisland Farm and moved to the nearby town of Dumfries. Burns decided to stop farming and concentrate only on his work as an excise officer and his writing. At first the family rented a flat on Bank Street. Then in 1793, they moved to a small sandstone house on Mill Street (since renamed Burns Street).
It was in Dumfries that Burns would earn a decent income and have a comfortable life for the first time. Here he would write and collect songs for Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum and Thomson’s Select Scottish Airs.
In his final year, his spirits and his health began to deteriorate. Burns would die in Dumfries at his home on July 21, 1796, only 37 years old. It is unclear what he died of exactly, but it is believed to be related to his heart. Jean Armour would outlive him by 37 years, dying in Dumfries in March 1834. They are both buried in St Michael’s Kirkyard in Dumfries.
Burns Night Events in Dumfries 2020
The Big Burns Supper in Dumfries is the biggest Burns Night celebration in the world. The 2020 Big Burns Supper festival will run from Friday January 24th to Sunday February 2nd. The festival has a number of different events, including musical acts, traditional dinners, comedy acts, theatre, films, family events, and storytelling. Acts range from the risqué to family friendly.
The Big Burns Supper festival takes place in various venues in and around Dumfries with many taking place in the large Spiegeltent (38-39 Whitesands, Dumfries, DG1 2RS). Other events take place in local bars, art galleries, and museums.
Burns Night events also take place at Ellisland Farm, the farm where the Burns family lived from 1788 to 1791. These events include musical events and traditional dinners to celebrate Robert Burns.
There was also a long running Big Burns Carnival parade to celebrate Robert Burns each year in January, but the last one was in 2017 and I don’t think it is being held again this year.
To search for Burns Night events in Dumfries, the two main sources for events are the Big Burns Supper official website and the Ellisland Farm website. There are multiple events for each day of the festival so do check out the full schedule!
Here are a selection of Burns Night events in Dumfries for 2020:
- Winter Celebrations on January 19th (website) – Enjoy a family-friendly day out in Robert Burn’s orchard at Ellisland Farm, which includes apple wassail, stories, music, and dancing. Ticket includes soup, crusty bread, and other treats, with spiced apple juice. Family friendly.
- Free Music Events from January 24th to February 2nd (website) – There are free music events taking place at the Festival Hub on most days of the festival. The performers change each day and include jazz, soul, rock, traditional, blues, choir performances, disco, and more.
- Elvis Evening on January 24th (website) – Spend the evening listening to music from the King of Rock n’ Roll, featuring Johnny Lee Memphis, the JLM band, and the Memphis Belles. Ticketed event.
- Keb’ Mo on January 24th (website) – Spend the evening listening to blue music performed by Grammy Award winning Keb’ Mo. Ticketed event.
- The Strange Doors on January 24th (website) – Enjoy live music performances by this The Doors tribute band plus ad-libbed poetry. Age 14+. Ticketed event.
- Family Silent Disco on January 25th (website) – A morning silent disco event in the park that is designed to be fun for all ages. Ticketed event.
- Happy Birthday Celebration at Ellison Farm on January 25th (website) – Come out and explore the home and farm where Burns and his family lived. There will be special walks, tours, family craft activities, and refreshments. Small admission fee.
- 1610 Burns Night Dinner on January 25th (website) – The Globe Inn in Dumfries, a place where Burns himself was known to drink, is doing a special 5-course Burns Night dinner with live traditional entertainment. A special private 7-course dinner with wine pairing is also available for a group who wants to splurge. Bookings essential.
- The Kingdom Choir on January 25th (website) – Enjoy gospel music by this popular British gospel choir. They sung “Stand by Me” at the 2018 Royal Wedding. Ticketed event.
- Burns Night Live on January 25th (website) – This is the headline musical show and party at the Big Burns Supper with 8 hours of live entertainment. The night features performances by Newton Faulkner, Band of Burns, Rura, Turbyne, and Kate Kyle. Age 14+ only. Ticketed event.
- Salsa Dancing Workshop & Lunch on January 26th (website) – A morning and afternoon that includes salsa dancing instruction, a buffet lunch, and dacning to a 7-piece salsa band. Ticketed event.
- High Tea with LOKA on January 26th (website) – A fun afternoon of tea, music, and dancing at this tea dance event featuring the all-female band LOKA. Ticketed event.
- Moulin Rouge Immersive Cabaret on January 26th (website) – A cabaret and musical show set in the Paris of 1899 where an Englishman falls in love with a Moulin Rouge singer. Ticketed event.
- Lindy Hop Dance Workshop & Dinner on January 27th (website) – Spend an evening learning how to do Lindy hop (an American dance from the 1920’s) and then dance to a live band and enjoy a dinner. Ticketed event.
- Morcheeba on January 30th (website) – Spend an evening listening to English electronic band Morcheeba. Their music mix influences from trip hop, rock, folk rock, and downtempo. Ticketed event.
- ONR and Hardwicke Circus on January 30th (website) – This two local bands will play indie-electronica and blues-rock music. Ticketed event.
- Le Haggis Cabaret from January 31st & Feburary 1st (website) – A modern risqué cabaret show that was developed for the Big Burns Supper several years ago and is a popular event. Includes dancing, comedy, music, and performance art. Partial nudity and mature language; age 18+ only. Ticketed event.
- Glenn Miller Orchestra on February 1st (website) Enjoy music from the 1940s Glenn Miller Orchestra UK. Can also add afternoon tea to the experience. Ticketed event.
- Burns Anniversary Dinner on February 1st (website) – Head to Robert Burns’ former farm to have a traditional Burns Night dinner in a special setting with a 3-course dinner, traditional toasts, and live music. Ticketed event, limited seats available.
- Doonhame and Dirty on February 2nd (website) – A cabaret featuring a drag queen and music by the Big Brass Smoke Band. 18+ only. Ticketed event.
- FamiLe Haggis on February 2nd (website) – A family-friendly version of the popular Le Haggis show, featuring music, dancing, comedy, and cabaret tailored to children and families. Ticketed event.
All these events are casual. Many require booking ahead and fees, but some events are free. Many are family friendly but a few are not and are adults-only so do check when booking with kids. Most of the venues are in central Dumfries and are a short walking distance apart, but do check. Ellisland Farm is located about 6 miles from Dumfries.
We have attended the Big Burns Supper in Dumfries we had a lot of fun. You can read about our experience here.
Many of the events here are less traditional than those in Ayrshire although you can find a traditional Burns Supper experience here (the one at Ellisland Farm for instance!).
Some of the events are also more disconnected from Robert Burns. The Big Burns Supper festival has a more upbeat vibe, a lot more events, and more of a festival feel, especially on the weekends at the Spiegeltent.
This is the largest Burns related festival in Scotland so a good place to consider if you are looking for a festival!
Robert Burns Related Places to Visit while in Dumfries
Robert Burns lived near or in Dumfries from 1788 to 1796 so there are lots of places that have strong connections to the poet. These include places he lived and visited as well as statues and memorials. We definitely recommend trying to visit some of these places if you are in town for the Big Burns Supper.
Here are some of our favorite Robert Burns related sites in Dumfries:
- Robert Burns House – The house where Robert Burns and his family lived from 1793 to his death in 1796. Now a small house museum with artifacts and 18th century furniture.
- Robert Burns statue – A marble statue of Robert Burns that was carved in Italy and designed by Amelia Robertson Hill. It was unveiled in 1882. It sits in the center of a square near the Burgh Church of Dumfries.
- Jean Armour Statue – A statue of Jean Armour holding a Bible with a young child was erected in 2004 by the Burns Howff Club. It sits across the street from St. Michael’s Church along Broom Street.
- Robert Burns Mausoleum – Robert Burns was buried in a regular grave with a simple gravestone in 1796 in St. Michael’s Kirkyard, but his remains were moved to a mausoleum in 1817. His wife Jean was buried here after her death as well, and a few of the Burns children are also buried here.
- The Globe Inn – A pub dating back to 1610 that was frequented by Robert Burns during his time living at Ellisland Farm and Dumfries. Still open and serving food and drinks with Burns related memorabilia on display. The pub has recently undergone some changes with new menus, and is now serving much more upscale food options.
- Ellisland Farm – The farm that Robert Burns purchased in 1788 and where his family lived until 1791. Now the farm is a museum and you can tour the farm and watch a film, see rooms filled with original furniture and artifacts, and learn more about Burns’ time at Ellisland. The on-site curator was very friendly and informative.
Other attractions in the Dumfries and Galloway area you may want to explore include Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura, Sweetheart Abbey, Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright Galleries, Galloway Forest Park, Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, and the Mull of Galloway Trail.
Note that there are also several castles and gardens in the area, but most are closed to the public during January.
Where to Stay in Dumfries for Burns Night
The majority of the Big Burns Supper events takes place in the Dumfries city center so we’d recommend trying to stay within walking distance of those venues if you plan to attend some of the festival events. But we also recommend a country house hotel near Ellisland Farm that was visited by Robert Burns.
If planning to travel by public transit, Dumfries has a train station so it is possible to get there by train or bus from most parts of the country. The train station is located within walking distance of the city center. You can get from the train station to the Spiegeltent and most of the venues within a 15 minute walk or less.
Accommodation is relatively inexpensive in Dumfries so you can easily find good value lodging for any budget, especially if you book in advance. We recommend booking in advance, particularly if you plan to visit over a weekend during the festival, as hotels will be busier than usual.
You can search for available lodging options in Dumfries online here.
Here are a several suggested accommodation options:
- Lindean Guest House – A well-rated guest house near city center that offers a good breakfast and free parking. A 10 minute walk from the Spiegeltent.
- Cairndale Hotel and Leisure Club – A 3 star hotel located near the city center that offers a restaurant, bar, regular weekend entertainment, and free parking. The leisure facilities include a sauna, heated indoor pool, steam room, and fitness center. A 10 minute walk from the Spiegeltent.
- Dumfries Central Apartment – A comfortable well-rated 2-bedroom apartment located near Robert Burns House that includes free WiFi and free parking. A 10 minute walk from the Spiegeltent and 2 minute walk from Robert Burns House.
- Rivendell – A 4-star hotel in an Arts and Crafts Mansion featuring antique furnishings in guest rooms and free on-site parking. Located about a 25 minute walk or short drive away from the Spiegeltent.
- Friars Carse Country House Hotel – A 3-star beautiful old country house turned hotel sitting on a 45 acre estate. Offers a restaurant, bar, free parking, and the chance for private trout and salmon fishing. Robert Burns visited this house and knew the Riddell family during his time at nearby Ellisland Farm and they are mentioned in some of his writings. If you don’t mind staying outside the city, this is a great place for any Burns fan. Located about a 12 minute drive from the Dumfries city center and about a 4 minute drive from Ellisland Farm.
“Edina! Scotia’s darling seat!’ as Robert Burns would write in his “Address to Edinburgh” is the capital of Scotland. It is a compact and hilly city with the medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town forming its center, both of which are UNESCO designated sites. Edinburgh is generally considered the financial, cultural, and political capital of Scotland, and it is here that most international visitors first arrive into Scotland.
The city offers a number of attractions for visitors, including a castle, a palace, museums, art galleries, royal attractions, gardens, a zoo, and a royal yacht. You can climb an extinct volcano, visit the world’s largest monument to a writer, see Scotland’s crown jewels at Edinburgh Castle, learn about whisky, view world-class art, and sip coffee in the same cafes as J.K. Rowling.
Edinburgh is also well known for its many festivals, as it hosts 11 major festivals each year including Edinburgh Fringe, Hogmanay, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Robert Burns spent some time here and the city has a long history of great writers and poets and was named the first UNESCO City of Literature in 2004.
Robert Burns Connection with Edinburgh
Robert Burns made his first trip to Edinburgh in November 1786. He had just published his first edition of poems in Kilmarnock and wanted to see about getting a second edition published in Edinburgh. Like today, Edinburgh was Scotland’s most cosmopolitan city and Burns knew that making connections in the capital would be useful to his career.
Robert Burns would spend a lot of time in Edinburgh from 1786 to 1788. During this time he would also do a lot of traveling, making tours around Scotland to collect songs around the Scottish Highlands, Stirling area, and Scottish Borders.
He would take rooms in Baxter’s Close (now Lady Stair’s Close) on his first stay in Edinburgh. A second edition of his poems would be published in Edinburgh by William Creech in 1787.
Robert Burns would meet many important and influential people during his time in Edinburgh such as Sir Walter Scott, Frances Dunlop, and James Johnson. He was much celebrated in the city as the “Ploughman Poet” and these connections would serve him well. However, because of his background and class he was never fully accepted into Edinburgh’s higher social circles.
Edinburgh was where he met Agnes “Nancy” Maclehose (“Clarinda”) and many other ladies in Edinburgh. He fathered children by Edinburgh servant women Margaret “May” Cameron and Jenny Clow.
Robert Burns’ final visit to Edinburgh would be in November 1791 where he visited Agnes “Nancy” Maclehose for the last time and stayed at the White Hart Inn.
Burns Night Events in Edinburgh 2020
There are many opportunities to celebrate Scotland’s famous bard in the country’s capital. There are lots of opportunities to have Burns Suppers and there are dozens of pubs and restaurants that have special Burns Night menus in January. So finding some place to go to celebrate Burns Night is easy, but be sure to book a table in advance.
Edinburgh doesn’t have an enduring well-organized Burns Festival yet, but this is beginning to change. But in 2019 they introduced Burns & Beyond, which is a series of celebrations that include a Burns Supper, a ceilidh, comedy, musical events, a cultural trail, and other activities.
In 2020, the number of Burns & Beyond events have grown and the festival will run from January 21st to February 9th. Most of the events take place in the Edinburgh city center.
The Scottish Storytelling Centre is also a great place to check for events as they also usually run several Burns related events in January. if you are looking for events that are more focused on Robert Burns and his works, this is a great place to look. They also do Burns Suppers and a family ceilidh event.
The National Museum for Scotland also often hosts Burns related events in January, but they don’t seem to be doing so in 2020, but instead appear to be celebrating Chinese New Year on Burns Night.
Here are a selection of Burns Night events in Edinburgh for 2020:
- Burns Versus Event on January 16th (website) – A four-course meal at Innis & Gunn Brewery taproom including 4 half pints of Innis & Gunn beer, 4 courses of food featuring MacSween haggis, and 4 different Highland Park whiskies or whisky cocktails. Reservations required.
- Robert Burns Dinner from January 17th to 26th (website) – A 4-course dinner with dram of whisky and live music and dancing at the Ghillie Dhu. More informal dinners are also available in the bar during the same dates. A popular and great place to celebrate Burns Night in Edinburgh. Reservations needed.
- Tam o’ Shanter: Telling the Big Tale on January 18th (website) – Learn more about one of Robert Burns’ most famous tales and how to tell it properly at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Ticketed event.
- Opening Concert on January 23rd (website) – The opening musical event for the Burns & Beyond festival will feature music by Rachael Sermanni, Chris Stout, and Catriona McKay. At the Assembly Rooms ballroom; ticketed event.
- Edwyn Collins on January 23rd (website) – Enjoy music performed live by Edwyn Collins as part of the opening music evening for the Burns & Beyond Festival. At the Assembly Rooms music hall; ticketed event.
- Café Ceilidh: Burns Celebration on January 21st (website) – A casual gathering of readings, music, and poems by Robert Burns at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Free event.
- Burns Night Charity Dinner on January 23rd (website) – A more formal 3-course Burns Supper with champagne, toasts, speakers, and music at Prestonfield House. This is a fundraiser dinner so there is a raffle and prize draw, and money goes to support Prostate Scotland.
- Wee Selection of Music & Poetry by Rabbie Burns on January 24th (website) – An afternoon event featuring poetry and music with local violin maker Steve Burnet at The Writer’s Museum. Free event.
- Supper with Burns from January 23rd to January 24th (website) – A casual 3 course meal, toasts, poetry, and music at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Ticketed.
- The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns on January 24th (website) – A comedy theatre show about Robert Burns’ loves and relationships compared to those of the modern day. Ticketed event taking place at the Rose Theatre basement.
- Ceilidh with Fergie MacDonald on January 24th (website) – Enjoy a late afternoon/early evening traditional ceilidh with music from Fergie MacDonald.
- Burns Supper on January 24th & 25th (website) – A 4-course meal, toasts, and live music in the State Dining Room aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. A unique place to celebrate Burns Night!
- Burns for Beginners from January 25th to 31st (website) – There will be walks and readings of Robert Burns’ works with guides offered at Edinburgh Castle. These are meant to give visitors an introduction to the poet. Included with the price of entry to the Castle.
- Family Ceilidh on January 25th (website) – A family-friendly afternoon ceilidh with live music and called dancings suitable for adults and children at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Ticketed.
- Paper Poets Portraits on January 25th (website) – Drop-in art sessions at The Writer’s Museum with artist to create your own portrait of Robert Burns and collage versions of some of his inspirations. Free event.
- Bairns’ Burns Supper on January 25th (website) – An afternoon family-friendly Burns Supper event with music, dancing, children’s activities, and haggis. Free event taking place at the Freemason’s Hall.
- Ceilidh House: Tam o’Shanter on January 25th (website) – A night of singing, dancing, and music at the Scottish Storytelling Center with a special improvised ceilidh telling of Tam O’ Shanter.
- Burns & Beyond Cultural Trail on January 25th (website) – A 4-hour event where you can enjoy a number of cultural performances across 8 different venues within the Old Town and New Town. Each performance is 30 minutes long and the evening will feature over 50 performers including KT Turnstall & Friends, Blue Rose Code, a silent disco, and whisky tasting with Johnnie Walker. Age 18+ only; ticketed event.
- Not-so-Traditional Burns Supper on January 25th (website) – A three course meal, cocktail, toasts, comedy, and live music at the Freemasons’ Hall. A raucous and more comedic take on a traditional Burns Supper experience. Age 18+ only. Ticketed.
- Grassmarket Burns Night Dinner & Dance on January 31st (website) – A charity dinner gala with 5-course fundraiser dinner with wine, toasts, music, storytelling, magic, and ceilidh dancing.
- Red, Red Rose Street from January 20th to 26th (website) – A series of both free and ticketed events that will be on or near Rose Street in Edinburgh. These will include music events, theatre, workshops, cultural trails, and family events. Actual event schedule will be announced in early January.
- Burns for Brunch on January 26th (website) – Listen to poems, music, and writings of Burns plus a Bursian view of contemporary Scotland at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Ticketed event.
- Burns Night Comedy Special on January 26th (website) – The Stand is hosting a 2-hour comedy show special with Jamie MacDonald, Gus Lymburn, Marjolein Robertson, Wayne Mazadza and hosted by Jay Lafferty. Special haggis, neeps, and tatties buffet available. Ticketed; age 18+ only.
The events in Edinburgh are spread out all of the city, but many are in the city center. The Burns Supper dinners almost all require pre-booking as do many of the other events. However, there are a few free drop-in events as well.
Edinburgh has less of a direct connection to Burns than Ayrshire or Dumfries, but because of its size you’ll find the largest number of Burns Night events. They are just more spread out across dozens of venues.
Most of the events are pretty casual. Some are family-friendly whereas others are adults only. So do check before booking.
If you are looking for more Robert Burns focused events, we recommend checking out the Scottish Storytelling Centre event calendar. For more formal events where you can get a bit dressed up, we recommend taking a look at the Prestonfield House charity dinner, Burns Suppers on the Royal Yacht Britannia, and other charity dinners taking place in Edinburgh.
If you are looking for something to do for Burns Night in Edinburgh, you should not have any problems. Just be sure to book in advance if the event requires tickets.
Robert Burns Related Places to Visit while in Edinburgh
There are a number of places associated with Robert Burns in Edinburgh, and you’ll probably find an artifact or mention in most of the city’s museums. There are also a number of plaques and memorials to Burns in Edinburgh.
Here are some of our favorite Robert Burns related sites in Edinburgh:
- Burns Monument – There is a circular monument to Burns on Regent Road by architect Thomas Hamilton. It was completed in 1832 and originally contained a marble statue of Robert Burns but this has since been moved to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The monument is not normally open to the public but you can view it from the outside.
- Canongate Kirkyard – This is the place where Agnes “Nancy” Mclehose is buried and you can find a memorial plaque to her marked as “Clarinda”. There is also a statue to Robert Fergusson, a fellow Scots writer, here and in the kirkyard the gravestone for Fergusson was purchased by Burns after learning that he was buried in an unmarked grave.
- The Writers’ Museum – This is a great museum dedicated to three of Scotland’s most famous writers: Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns. Museum collection includes a number of personal objects, manuscripts, and works by Burns.
- Lady Stair’s Close – There is a plaque here that marks the location of where Burns stayed during his first trip to Edinburgh in 1786.
- National Portrait Gallery – The National Portrait Gallery holds portraits of many famous people of Scotland. Notable things to look out for are the marble statue of Robert Burns by John Flaxman (originally in the Burns Monument) and the painted portrait by Alexander Nasmyth based on a sitting with Burns in 1787.
- National Museum of Scotland – The National Museum of Scotland holds a number of objects related to Robert Burns and some of these are always on display. The collection includes a pair of flintlock pistols he owned as well as documents signed by Burns. There are also engravings, ceramics, and other items depicting his image.
- The White Hart Inn – Robert Burns stayed here during his final visit to Edinburgh in November 1791. The historical Grassmarket pub still serves food and drinks, but no longer offers lodging.
- Robert Burns Leith statue – A bronze statue of Robert Burns designed by David Watson Stevenson that was unveiled in 1898. Located near the junction of Constitution Street and Bernard Street in Leith.
There are lots of things to do and see in Edinburgh, and you can check out our travel guide for things to do in Edinburgh for a list of the city’s most popular attractions. If you are looking for lesser known attractions, check out our hidden attractions guide to Edinburgh. Also, if you are exploring the wider area, we recommend checking our these ideas for day trips from Edinburgh.
Where to Stay in Edinburgh for Burns Night
Burns Night related events are spread out over the city, but the majority take place in Edinburgh Old Town or New Town. So unless you are planning to attend something outside the city center, we’d recommend basing yourself in the city center to take advantage of main Edinburgh attractions.
Edinburgh is well connected to the rest of the UK by train and coach, and also has an international airport. The main train station in the city is Waverley station which is located in central Edinburgh.
The cost of accommodation in Edinburgh is among the highest in Scotland, but the city offers everything from hostels to 5-star luxury hotels. We recommend booking lodging in advance to find the best place for you.
You can search for available lodging options in Edinburgh online here.
Here are several suggested accommodation options across a variety of budgets:
- The Principal Edinburgh – This 5-star hotel consists of seven inter-connecting townhouses and sits in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town on George Street. Robert Burns would have visited here as one of the townhouses was that of his friend James Ferrier.
- Motel One – A popular good value design hotel centrally located in Edinburgh’s Old Town. Located only a few minutes walk from the Royal Mile.
- The Balmoral – This hotel opened in 1902 as a traditional railway hotel and has long been a landmark hotel in Edinburgh. This hotel is a mix of traditional and modern decor and has some beautiful suites. Located next to the Waverley train station.
- The Witchery – This popular boutique luxury hotel & restaurant has 9 different themed suites which are lavishly decorated with Gothic touches, large 4-poster oak beds, antiques, and flamboyant decorations. Great for those looking for a historical atmosphere! Sits just below Edinburgh Castle along the Royal Mile.
- Holiday Inn Express – This 3-star chain hotel offers well-priced rooms in the Old Town. Located near the Royal Mile.
- Canongate Luxury Apartment – Dubbed the “Harry Potter apartment”, this 2-bedroom apartment is decorated with a witchery and Harry Potter theme. Great for those planning to hunt for Harry Potter in Edinburgh. Located just off the Royal Mile.
- Royal Mile Backpackers – Located along the Royal Mile, this centrally located hostel offers dormitory rooms in a central spot. Great central option for those on a tight budget!
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and it is located in the western Central Lowlands of Scotland on the banks of the River Clyde. The city is well-known for its mix of Victorian and Art Nouveau architecture and was a major industrial city in the 19th and early 20th century, particularly known for its shipbuilding.
Today the city is home to fantastic museums and art galleries, historical National Trust properties, amazing street art, a thriving live music scene, breweries and distilleries, and beautiful parks. It is also where you’ll find a number of building designed by the famous Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Glasgow is also known for its sports and is also home to three professional football clubs and Scotland’s national stadium.
Robert Burns Connection With Glasgow
Robert Burns connection with Glasgow is much less strong than with the other places discussed. He never lived in Glasgow, but he did visit Glasgow several times. It is known that he stayed at least a couple of times at a former inn called Black Bull Inn, and there is a plaque at the location on Argyle Street (now a Mark & Spencers) commemorating his stays there.
One of the many women in his life, Agnes “Nancy” Mclehose, known as “Clarinda” in his letters, was from Glasgow. She inspired a number of poems and songs by the bard, the best known being the love song “Ae Fond Kiss” which he wrote to her following their last meeting.
Burns Night Events in Glasgow 2020
Every year, there are a number of events in Glasgow which usually include live music events, stand-up comedy, storytelling, poetry reading, ceilidhs, and Burns Suppers.
There is no organized festival in Glasgow, but as Scotland’s largest city, you’ll have no trouble finding a Burns Supper or Burns Night event.
Here are a selection of Burns Night events in Glasgow in 2020:
- Celebration of Burns 2019 on January 17th (website) – A Burns Supper, whisky, music, and ceilidh at the Doubletree by Hilton hotel. A fundraiser for the Prince and Princess of Wales Charity. Ticketed.
- Bum’s Night on January 23rd (website) – A life drawing event at The Buff Club that includes all your drawing materials, snacks, music, a drink, and a raffle. Attendees can stay after the event for dancing at Buff Club. Proceeds help support St.Margaret of Scotland Hospice. Ticketed.
- A Question of Burns Supper on January 23rd (website) – Evening includes a drinks reception, 4-course dinner, and entertainment and performances. Charity event run to support Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland at the Hilton Glasgow. Ticketed.
- Beyond Burns Supper on January 23rd (website) – Evening includes 4-course dinner, entertainment, and ceilidh dancing in the outdoor courtyard at Ubiquitous Chip.
- Burns Night at the Museum on January 24th (website) – A family-friendly evening event at The Hunterian Museum that will or the evening with including singing, poetry, crafts, and music. This year’s theme is Burns on Water. Free to attend, but booking required.
- Oran Mor Burns Night Ceilidh on January 24th (website) – Enjoy a night of music and ceilidh dancing at Òran Mór. Ticketed; 18+ only.
- CINE[STHESIA – Burns on Film on January 25th (website) – Enjoy a series of archive and film clips related to Robert Burns at Kelvin Hall, The National Liberary of Scotland. The film lasts 1 hour and plays on loop all afternoon. Free event, can book a seat ahead or drop in.
- Burns Night Hike on January 25th (website) – An overnight hiking trip that includes driver/guide, camping equipment, transport, performances, dinner, and breakfast with the Mountain Men. If you are looking for an outdoor experiential Burns Night, this is a good one! Book in advance.
- Burns Supper on January 25th (website) – A 3 course dinner at Mharsanta with whisky, toasts, and piper. Reservations needed.
- Auld Lang Syne on January 25th (website) – Enjoy a night of orchestra featuring Robert Burns’ iconic song canon at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Features the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with singers Eddi Reader, Karen Matheson, Jarlath Henderson, and Shona Donaldson. Part of the much larger Celtic Connections festival being held in Glasgow from January 16th to February 2nd.
- Traditional Burns Supper on January 25th (website) – A traditional Burns Supper event at the DoubleTree by Hilton Glasgow Strathclyde which will include music, poetry, delicious food, and dancing. Ticketed.
- Annual Burns Supper Night on January 25th (website) – A traditional Burns supper at the Hyndland Bowling Club and open to members and non-members of the club. Event will include readings, music, poetry, toasts, dancing, and a meal. Ticketed.
- Burns Night at the Panopticon on January 25th (website) – A night of comedy, raffles, poetry, whisky, and music at the Britannia Panopticon, one of the world’s oldest surviving music halls. You can also add dinner which will take place at the next door Avante Garde restaurant.
- Stravaig Burns Supper & Ceilidh on January 25th (website) – Event includes a drinks reception, two-course meal, bagpiper, guest speakers, guest singer, and a ceilidh with the band Stravaig. Taking place at West Brewery. Ticketed event.
- Burns for Bairns on January 26th (website) – This family-friendly afternoon event will include poetry readings by local children, music, and tastes of haggis, neeps, and tatties at Òran Mór auditorium. Free event.
- Oran Mor Burns Supper on January 26th (website) – A 3-course meal, dram of whisky, music, and entertainment at Òran Mór. Hosted by BAFTA award-winning Iain Robertson. Ticketed.
- Burns Night Comedy Special on January 26th (website) – The Stand is hosting a 2-hour comedy show special with Raymond Mearns, Gareth Waugh, Cubby, Susan Riddell and host Joe Heenan. Ticketed; age 18+ only.
- Burns Versus Event on January 30th (website) – A four-course meal including 4 half pints of Innis & Gunn beer, 4 courses of food featuring MacSween haggis, and 4 different Highland Park whiskies or whisky cocktails. Reservations required.
- Burns Brunch on February 1st and 2nd (website) – Enjoy an afternoon 3-course brunch, music, poetry, and performances at Stravaigin.
- Erskine Burns Night on February 7th (website) – A 3 course Burns Supper meal followed by a ceilidh led by the Scottish band Stravaig at the beautiful at Oran Mor. Charity event for veteran charity Erskine.
- The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns on February 14th (website) – A comedy theatre show at the Oran Mor about Robert Burns’ loves and relationships. More for Valentine’s Day than Burns Night but thought I’d share this one as well.
Robert Burns Related Places to Visit while in Glasgow
There aren’t any must-see Burns related sites in Glasgow, but here are a few places of interest with connections to Robert Burns:
- There is a plaque commemorating Burns visits to Glasgow and stays at the Black Bull Inn on Argyle Street (now a Mark & Spencers store).
- Robert Burns Statue in George Square – A bronze statue was erected to Robert Burns in 1877 and it was made by sculptor George Edwin Ewing. There are four bronze reliefs around the base that depict scenes from different poems by Burns.
- Glasgow Cathedral – Cathedral chairs were made for Glasgow Cathedral in 1996 to commemorate the bicentenary of Burn’s death. The chairs are engraved with a mouse, a sheaf of corn, a sheep, and a rose, all symbols associated with Burns and some of his most popular works. Free to visit but donations greatly appreciated.
- Kinemat of Tam o’ Shanter – Russian artist Eduard Bersudsky who lives in Glasgow made a kinemat of Robert Burns’ “Tam o’ Shanter”. Most of his works can be seen at the Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre. However, the Tam o’ Shanter kinemat is part of the traveling collection and is often not on display in Glasgow. We actually saw it while it was in Alloway. If you want to see the show, be sure to book in advance.
- Tam o’Shanter painting series – One of the newest Robert Burns related art pieces is a series of 10 paintings illustrating the story of Tam o’ Shanter. Painted by Nicholas Wheatley and installed in the auditorium of the Òran Mór restaurant and theatre.
There are lots of things to do and see in Glasgow, and you can check out our travel guide and things to do in Glasgow post for lots of suggestions! Also, if you are exploring the wider area, we recommend checking our these ideas for day trips from Glasgow and our guide to exploring nearby Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park.
Where to Stay in Glasgow for Burns Night
The Burns Night events in Glasgow are spread across the city but most are in or near the city center. So unless you are planning to attend something outside the city center, we’d recommend basing yourself in the center so you are close to the city’s main attractions and restaurants.
Glasgow is well connected to the rest of the UK by train and coach, and also has an airport. The main train station is Glasgow Central station and it is located in central Glasgow.
Glasgow offers a wide variety of accommodation options to suit any budget. You can search for available lodging options in Glasgow online here.
Here are several suggested accommodation options in Glasgow for a variety of budgets:
- Grand Central Hotel – A 4-star historic hotel located next to Glasgow Central Station. The historic hotel features stylish rooms, bars, and restaurants.
- Jurys Inn – A 4-star hotel offering good value rates with a restaurant, bar, and 24-hour reception. near Glasgow Central Station.
- Native Glasgow – A central elegant apartment hotel in an Edwardian building with a 24-hour reception, concierge and on-site breakfast at the Anchor Line restaurant on the ground floor. Rooms feature seating areas, dining areas, and kitchens.
- Blythswood Square – A 5-star luxury historical hotel offering well-appointed rooms, a restaurant, a bar, and an on-site spa.
- Point A Hotel – A budget hotel in central Glasgow which offers small clean rooms and 24 hour reception, WIFI, and continental breakfast. Good place for those traveling on a tight budget.
So that is our guide to celebrating Burns Night in Scotland! We hope that it has helped you find the perfect place to celebrate Robert Burns’ birthday!
Planning to attend a future Burns Night, Pin this post on Pinterest to read later:
Have you or celebrated Burns Night or been to a Burns Supper in Scotland or elsewhere in the world? If so, tell us about it! Have another Burns Night event that you would like shared, just give us a shout in the Comments section below.
As always, feel free to ask us any questions you may have about celebrating Burns Night in Scotland or planning a trip to Scotland!
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Marius D Post author
Hi, good guide and a Robert Burns supper is great if you want to experience the full Scottish experience….I did not go to one, unfortunately ( I only stayed in Scotland for only one year and was very busy with school work and projects).
I did not go to a Burns supper but I did go to a Ceilidh and had a good time, I also had haggis once or twice, went to the Highlands and traveled by train a lot, mostly from Stirling (where I was based) to Edinburgh. I also slept in backpackers hostels, twice, once in Inverness–the capital of the Highlands…Great guide!!
Jessica & Laurence Norah Post author
Hi Marius, Thanks for your comment and sharing your experience. Too bad you did not get a chance to go to a Burns Supper on Burns Night but glad you got to experience a ceilidh and so many other great experiences during your time in Scotland!! Best, Jessica
Marius D Post author
Hi Jessica, I want to return to Scotland, maybe this summer, maybe before the brexit occurs, perhaps the UK will ask for visa from us in order to enter the country…
David Burr Post author
Dear Jessica & Laurence, This is such a wonderful guide to celebrating Burns Night in Scotland. We are Americans who will be visiting Scotland next week and will be in the Glasgow area around Burns Night. After seeing your article (admittedly knowing nothing about Burns Night), we are thinking of joining in on one or 2 of the Robert Burns celebrations in either Glasgow or Alloway.
As non-Scottish and people who don’t know very much about Burns, although we do hope to learn more armed with your guide and a planned visit to the Robert Burns Museum, we are just a little worried about not fitting in during these events. We also will not have any formal dress with us so need to stick to non-formal events. Wondering if you have any thoughts or insights on this?
Thanks so much for this and all your other wonderful articles on Scotland and thanks in advance for your reply.
Jessica & Laurence Norah Post author
That is a good question. We find that the Scottish people in Glasgow and Ayrshire are quite open and friendly for the most part and they were very happy to have us at the events we went to last year. Some of the people at these events are very knowledgeable about Burns and some were not, so don’t worry if you don’t know too much but a visit to the museum will give you a great overview. You’ll find more foreign visitors in Glasgow and fewer in Ayrshire.
At many of the events that include a sit-down meal, you are seated at shared tables and this makes it easy to meet some neighbors. When we were in Ayrshire for Burns Night the people at our table and at the events enjoyed giving us tips for things to do in and all the Robert Burns connections in the area. We went to the Haggis Hooley last year (casual Burns Dinner) and to Burn Alicht (called Burns 19 this year), and had fun. Then in between we visited the Burns related sites as well as other local attractions.
In terms of dress, I think you would be fine at most of the events. There are a few that require formal dress (generally the fundraising events) but the majority do not. I’d just check the dress code before booking.
Hope this helps and wishing you a fun first Burns Night celebration and trip to Scotland!
Seana Turner Post author
I have to admit that I don’t know much about Burns. This has actually been quite educational! I think I should visit the historical sites first, and then celebrate him on Burns night. I am a sucker for a good storyteller, so I would enjoy that. So fun to read about all of these options for a splashy January 25th!
Jessica & Laurence Norah Post author
Hi Seana, Yes, I don’t think that many people outside of the UK know too much about Robert Burns, and we’ve only come to really know a lot about him by living in Scotland and visiting a bunch of Burns related sites. But wherever you are, you can still toast him with some whisky on January 25th 😉 Best, Jessica