One of the reasons that we love Edinburgh so dearly (and there are many reasons to love this dreamy, darling of a city) is that, despite its comparatively modest size, there is very rarely a patch on the annual calendar available for boredom.
Whether it be Hogmanay, the Six Nations or the plethora of festivals that conquer every corner and cranny even on the most dreary of days, the charge of being lifeless is one of which it’s unlikely Auld Reekie is ever to be accused beyond the enjoyable, if nerve shredding, tours of the un-dead available daily from the city’s Royal Mile.
Next in line is, of course, Burns Night.
Every 25th January, Edinburgh, like so many places across Scotland and beyond, gets together to celebrate the birthday of the nation’s most celebrated poet, Robert Burns, with food, drink, dancing and, for those of sturdy voice, a handsome recitation or two.
Events will be taking place across the city as they are every year and, with Rabbie’s birthday falling conveniently upon a Saturday this year, a declaration that Sunday streets may creep more delicately than is customary, even for Edinburgh, is one worthy of note.
With that in mind, it might be preferable for some, therefore, to perhaps celebrate the life of Burns in a more gentle and intimate fashion. Having a few friends around to your home for some food and drink is always a time worthy of memory and an opportunity to show off your, no doubt, expert hospitality no-how is one not to be sniffed at too heartily.
Never hosted a Burns Night before? Have no clue what it’s all about? This seems unlikely. But for those of you new to this particular Scottish observance, here is a quick list of things that is guaranteed to make your evening a storming success.
Haggis: Forget the Loch Ness Monster, kilts or Edinburgh Castle. If you asked anybody around the world what came to mind when they hear the word Scotland, it’s quite likely that Haggis would be pretty much at the top of the list. Yes, it’s divisive, even amongst Scots. It looks kind of odd and, if you’re unfamiliar with the recipe, it might best be kept that way if you have a tendency to be squeamish (liver, heart and lungs anyone?). But it is an essential ingredient to the Burns Night experience and actually, we think, pretty delicious.
Whisky: Yes, we know that Dry January is still in full flow, but can you really resist the warmth of a wee dram to get you into the Burns spirit? There are so many varieties of Scotch Whisky out there that it can be hard to know where to start. Best advice we can give, particular if you are no connoisseur, is to stick to your price range. This could be the first and last time you indulge in the old ‘Fake Tan’. On the other hand, it could be the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship.
Poetry: At the end of the day, it’s all about the big man himself. Whether it’s the ‘Selkirk Grace’ before tucking into a plateful of traditional Scottish grub or ‘Red, Red Rose’ after one too many nips, if you want to experience Burns Night as it’s meant to be experienced, you’re going to have to throw yourself full throttle into this one. Don’t worry if you can’t quite get your tongue around the lingo. That’s all a part of the fun.
Decoration: This one isn’t strictly essential, but if you want to add even more Scottish flavour to the evening, why not go all out with some classic tartan and thistle scattered about the place. Even something as simple as a tartan tablecloth or themed napkins can bring that extra little bit of fun to the evening. It may sound like a bit of Scotland overload, but done right it can be extremely effective. And, if you’re not going to do it on Burns Night, when are you going to do it?
The Company: This one is essential. Surround yourself with the right people and the night is bound to be a success, regardless of the venue, budget or occasion. If the company is not up to scratch, then the evening, at its very least, almost becomes an irrelevance. Good food, good drink and good company. It’s what life is all about, is it not?
However you choose to spend Burns Night, we at Belvoir hope you have the very best of times.
Here’s to the Scottish Bard!