Every year on January 25th, millions of Scots mark the birthday of poet Rabbie Burns with a night of readings, fiery whisky and, of course, warming Scottish food. Whether you’re marking the occasion at one of our luxury cottages in Scotland, staying home or visiting friends, these are all the traditional Burns Night food and drink you should try as part of your feast.
Burns often wrote about his love for whisky, even naming it his muse in Scotch Drink. He also writes fondly of it in Tam O’Shanter, describing how it gives confidence to the drinker – need any more reason to raise a glass? There are five Scotch whisky regions: Islay, Speyside, Campbeltown, Lowland and Highland. We’d recommend opting for a selection to find your new favourite, while those who prefer a milder drink can mix it as part of a cocktail.
It wouldn’t be a Scottish feast without haggis, and it certainly wouldn’t be a Burns Night one. It’s made using sheep’s offal, which includes the lungs, hearts, and liver. This is then minced before being cooked with oatmeal and suet, sewn in the sheep’s stomach, and boiled for several hours.
Does that idea make your very own stomach turn? Don’t worry: vegetarians can also give the traditional dish a try, with meat-free versions growing in popularity that include lentils, seeds and mushrooms. And no matter the dietary preferences of your party, we’ve got large group accommodation in Scotland that can accommodate you all.
To make the serving of haggis super authentic, read Burns’ Selkirk Grace before you sit down to enjoy your feast:
“Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.”
Neeps and Tatties
While it may be a traditional haggis side dish, many Scots would probably say that neeps and tattis (also known as swede and potatoes) is their favourite part of a Burns Night meal. Cut both into chunks, drizzle with oil and roast, then roughly mash them together with butter. If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, serve with a rich whisky sauce on the side.
A classic Burns Night food, cock-a-leekie soup allows you turn turn your feast into a three-course meal. As the name suggests, Scottish chicken is combined with leeks, bay leaves and a variety of vegetables. It may not look like much when it’s done, but upon first taste you’ll welcome the warming bowl into your foodie heart like so many others before you.
What’s a dinner party without dessert? Keep an open mind here, because cranachan is basically a Scottish take on the classic English trifle. However, this one layers oatmeal, raspberries, cream, malt whisky and honey together for a vibrant finish. We’d recommend serving with some crumbly Scottish shortbread on the side.
So there you have it: the traditional Burns Night food and drink to try this January 25th, whether you’re celebrating at one of our luxury holiday homes in Scotland or cooking up a storm from the comforts of home. And if you’re hoping to visit later in the year, check out our top things to do in Scotland. Ready to book? A member of our concierge team will be happy to help you.