Wondering where to celebrate Burns Night in 2019? 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 2019 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.
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?
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 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.
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.
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, 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 art of turning flax into linen, but this was not a successful venture.
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
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, an afternoon tea, special museum tours, children’s events, live music concerts, talks, and the burning of John Barleycorn.
An unusual new event in 2019 is the introduction of the first Big Burns Supper Drive-In! Yep, a traditional Burns Supper meal delivered to your car.
In prior years, the festival and events have been under the name Alloway 1759 and Burns Alicht, but the festival in 2019 seems to be promoted as Burns Festival and Burns Hame Toun.
Here are some of the most popular Burns Night events for 2019:
- Centre for Robert Burns Studies Annual Conference on January 12th (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.
- Haggis Hooley on January 18th (website) – A casual Burns Supper with 3-course meal, live band, and ceilidh dancing. This family-friendly celebration takes place in the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (in the museum, not the cottage).
- 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.
- Burns Hame Toun Live Music Events on January 23rd, 25th, & 26th (website) – Live music events in Ayr take place on three evenings, featuring fiddlers Alistair McCulloch and Pete Clark on the 23rd, Karen Matheson, Horse, and Carol Laula on the 25th, and Manran and the Hur on the 26th.
- Burns 19 (Burns Alicht) on January 26th (website) – An evening at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum & Gardens that includes music, children’s rides, a lantern-making workshop, performers, a live band, and the burning of the John Barleycorn effigy.
- Burns Supper Drive-Thru on January 26th and 27th (website) – Taking place in the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum parking area, you can order your food and have it delivered to your car. Meal includes haggis, neeps, and mashed tatties with whisky sauce, a Tunnock’s tea cake, and a can of Irn Bru. Vegetarian option also available.
- Burns Birthday in Mauchlin on January 27th (website) – A free family-oriented event at the Burns House Museum & Library with an afternoon of art workshops, walking tours, storytelling, and performances.
- Hairy Haggis Afternoon Tea on January 27th (website) – A fun afternoon tea with a selection of sandwiches, scones, cakes, and of course haggis taking place at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway. There will also be party games and face painting.
All these events are very casual except the Burns Supper in the Burns Cottage which is a traditional and formal affair. Many require booking ahead and have fees, but some events are free. Most are also very family friendly. If you are looking for a family-friendly Burns Supper, we can recommend the Haggis Hooley.
We spent Burns Night in Ayrshire last year. 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.
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 interior not open in January, but grounds are open), Ayr Racecourse, the Ayrshire Coastal Path (hiking path), 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. 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
The Big Burns Supper in Dumfries is the biggest Burns Night celebration in the world. The 2019 Big Burns Supper festival will run from January 24th to February 3rd. 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 this year. The Globe Inn also normally hosts a popular Burns Supper event, but it switched owners recently and may not be doing it 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 2019:
- Le Haggis Cabaret from January 25th to February 2nd (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. Don’t be surprised if there is also partial nudity. Age 18+ only.
- Burns Night Live on January 25th (website) – This is the headline musical show featuring KT Tunstall along with Peatbog Faeries, Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5, and Bombskare. This will be live broadcasted and guests are encouraged to dress up (get out your tartan!).
- Carry on Sleuthing on January 25th (website) – A fun scripted murder mystery play with audience participation.
- Friday Fringe Magic Circus on January 25th (website) – A fast-paced magic circus show for the whole family.
- London Community Gospel Choir on January 26 (website) – The London Community Gospel Choir, the most successful gospel choir in England, will sing a number of popular gospel songs.
- Smut Slam on January 31st (website) – Comedy and adult storytelling that encourage audience participation relating to topics of sex and relationships. Adults only.
- Burns Anniversary Dinners on February 2nd & 9th (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.
- Double Down Disco on February 2nd (website) – Join two DJs for a night of dancing to disco, house, and soul music in the Spiegeltent.
- World Haggis Day & Mini Highlands Games on February 3rd (website) – A free family-friendly event at Ellisland Farm with lots of haggis and mini versions of the Highlands games. Includes the World Haggis Hurling Championship.
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 attended the Big Burns Supper in Dumfries last year and 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 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.
- 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
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.
Edinburgh doesn’t have an enduring well-organized Burns Festival yet. But this year there is Burns & Beyond, which is an extension of last year’s Red Red Rose Street, which is a series of celebrations that include a Burns Supper, a free family ceilidh, Burns Club comedy nights, a musical, and other activities over a 5 day period from January 22nd to January 27th. 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. The National Museum for Scotland often hosts Burns related events in January, but they don’t seem to be doing so in 2019.
Here are a selection of Burns Night events in Edinburgh for 2019:
- Robert Burns Dinner from January 18th to 27th (website) – A 4-course dinner with dram of whisky and live music at the Ghillie Dhu. A popular and great place to celebrate Burns Night in Edinburgh.
- Tam o’ Shanter: Telling the Big Tale on January 19th (website) – Learn more about one of Robert Burns’ most famous tales and how to tell it properly at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.
- Museum of the Moon from January 21st to 26th (website) – A touring lunar art installation by UK artist Luke Jerram that will hang in St. Giles Cathedral. The piece is 7 meters in diameter and features detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface. Free to visit during the day but tickets needed for evening viewing and special events. Also a number of moon and space related talks and events will be held during this period as well as a performance by St. Giles Choir.
- Café Ceilidh: Burns Celebration on January 22nd (website) – A casual gathering of readings, music, and poems by Robert Burns at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.
- Rabbie Burns The Musical on January 23rd and 24th (website) – A witty and funny musical celebrating the life of Robert Burns.
- Burns Night Charity Dinner on January 24th (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.
- Burns Supper on January 25th & 26th (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!
- Supper with Burns on January 25th (website) – A casual 3 course meal, toasts, poetry, and music at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.
- Burns Supper on January 25th (website) – A three course meal, cocktail, toasts, and live music at the Freemasons’ Hall.
- Burns Supper on January 25th (website) – A 4 course Burns Supper menu at The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen.
- Burns Night Comedy Show on January 25th (website) – A line-up of comedians in a special Burns Night edition of their comedy show.
- Grassmarket Burns Night Dinner & Dance on January 26th (website) – A charity dinner gala with 5-course fundraiser dinner with wine, toasts, music, storytelling, magic, and ceilidh dancing.
- Red Rose Club on January 26th (website) – An evening of popular electronic music and dancing.
- Family Ceilidh on January 26th (website) – A free family-friendly ceilidh with live music.
- Silent Adventures on January 26th (website) – A silent disco taking place in a secret venue in Edinburgh’s city center.
- Burns for Beginners from January 27th to 30th (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.
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 several 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.
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. It 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
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 for 2019:
- Celebration of Burns 2019 on January 18th (website) – A Burns Supper, whisky, music, and ceilidh at the Radisson Blu hotel. A fundraiser for the Prince and Princess of Wales Charity.
- Rabbie’s Haggis Afternoon Tea on January 21st to 27th (website) – A unique and casual haggis-themed Scottish afternoon tea at Innis & Gunn Beer Kitchen where many of the items will feature Macsween haggis. Includes beer.
- Burns Night Comedy Special on January 23rd & 27th (website) – The Stand is hosting a 2-hour comedy show special with JoJo Sutherland, Christopher MacArthur-Boyd, Christopher KC, Stephen Buchanan, and host Ray Bradshaw.
- Beyond Burns Supper on January 24th (website) – Enjoy a 4-course Burns Supper followed by music and dancing either in the restaurant or outside on the cobbled terrace at Ubiquitous Chip.
- A Question of Burns Supper on January 24th (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.
- Burns Supper on January 24th (website) – Burns Supper at Anchor Line restaurant includes 4-course dinner, welcome cocktail, whisky with each course, and piper.
- Burns Night at Wellpark Brewery on January 24th & 25th (website) – Enjoy a tour of Wellpark Brewery followed by a taste of haggis, neeps, and tatties with a dram of whisky. Then enjoy a pint of Tennents beer.
- Burns Supper & Ceilidh on January 25th (website) – A formal 3-course meal, toasts, live music, and ceilidh at Cottiers Theatre. Formal dress required.
- Erskine Burns Night on January 25th (website) – A 3 course meal followed by a ceilidh led by the Scottish band The Jiggers at the beautiful Sherbrooke Castle Hotel. Charity event for veteran charity Erskine.
- Burns Spectacular on January 25th (website) – An overnight hiking trip that includes driver/guide, camping equipment, transport, performances, 2-course dinner, and breakfast with the Mountain Men. If you are looking for an outdoor experiential Burns Night, this is a good one!
- Vegan Burns Nigh Ceilidh on January 25th (website) – An evening ceilidh with a live band, welcome drink on arrival, and a vegan Scottish buffet at Soul Food Kitchen.
- Burns Supper on January 25th (website) – A 3 course dinner at Mharsanta with whisky, toasts, and piper.
- International Piping Night on January 25th (website) – This lavish line-up of brings together pipes and pipers from five Celtic regions at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Not a Burns specific event, but definitely appropriate. Part of the much larger Celtic Connections festival being held in Glasgow from January 17th to February 3rd.
- Burns Night at the Britannia Panopticon on January 25th & 26th (website) – A night of raffles, songs, poetry, and whisky tasting. Dinner possible on 25th.
- Oran Mor Burns Supper 2019 on January 26th (website) – A 3-course meal, dram of whisky, music, and entertainment at Oran Mor.
- Burns Brunch on January 26th and 27th (website) – Enjoy an afternoon 3-course brunch, music, and poetry at Stravaigin.
- The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns on January 29th (website) – A comedy theatre show at the Oran Mor about Robert Burns’ loves and relationships.
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.
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!
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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!