How to Enjoy a Burns Supper

Alistair Mills who, like Burns, hails from Ayrshire (but now lives in Lambourn) explains how to organise and prepare your own Burns Supper for an evening of eating, drinking, talking, poetry, singing and dancing. Robert Burns was born on 25 January (in 1759) and this is the date that Burns Night is normally celebrated.


Haggis Dinner


Ever since Robert Burns’ death in 1796, Burns’ Suppers have been a part of Scottish culture.

Celebrated on Burns’ birthday, January 25, Burns’ Night is an evening of good food interspersed with speeches, dancing, and recitations of the bard’s poetry and singing his songs.

Pipe the haggis

Starter and main course

Cock-o-Leekie Soup

The most famous part of the Supper is the piping in, and the Address to the Haggis (see below). 

It’s quite a sight to see the haggis brought into the room with the sounds of the pipes playing “Scotland the Brave” and everyone cheering on the chef! If you don’t happen to have a set of bagpipes at home, then a recorder, any instrument (or a youtube recording) will suffice. Someone then recites the Address to the Haggis. At the end of the address, the knife is plunged into the haggis to the words “O what a glorious sight, warm-reekin’, rich”.

The company then sets about the meal itself, usually cock-a-leekie soup followed by haggis, champit tatties and bashed neeps (mashed potato and turnip). 

Nowadays haggis is usually shop-bought a favourite being Macsweens of Edinburgh who sell traditional and vegetarian haggis online and via many supermarkets and local butchers.

Haggis and Trimmings


Clootie Dumpling

After the main course comes the pudding. Some serve cranachan, which is a wonderful concoction of toasted pinhead oatmeal, double cream flavoured with whisky and raspberries.

Others prefer a clootie dumpling.



Immortal Memory

Following a comfort break, the evening’s entertainment begins, starting with a speech to propose a toast to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns (see example here).

The programme then continues with a mixture of poetry, music, dancing, and toasts. Burns was a man who loved women, and a toast to the lasses and a reply are usually delivered with good-natured banter.

With the body fed with haggis, and the soul fed on good Scots poetry, it’s time to end the night with a rousing rendition of “Auld Lang Syne“.

Burns Dancing

Address to the Haggis

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

Standard English

Fair on your honest smiling face,
Great Chieftain of the sausage race,
Above them all, you take your place,
Kidneys, tripe, and giblets warm:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

And there’s a hand,
my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.

Standard English

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old times passed.

And there’s a hand,
my trusty brother!
and give’s a hand of yours!
And we’ll take a right good draught,
for old times passed.


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