A very Scottish Burns Night

Rachel Christie 26 January 2014

Throughout my life, I have attended many Burns Night celebrations, and I have to say that they have been some of the best nights of my life. Usually, I have spent Burns Night in a mountain hut or ‘bothy’ near the bottom of the mountains – either at Milehouse near Aviemore, or at Jock’s Spot near Kingussie – with our local branch of the Scottish Mountaineering Society, ‘The Desperadoes.’

The idea is to arrive at the bothy during the day, celebrate Burns Night that evening, walk the mountain the next day and then set off for home the morning after that. In reality, the festivities meant only the hardiest of souls ever made it up the next morning in time to do any walking.

The celebrations usually go along much the same lines – we would begin in the local pub (obviously, we only went to bothies that had local pubs!), and then we would cook up a fully traditional Burns Night feast – haggis, neeps (swedes) and tatties (mashed potatoes).

I don’t care what anyone else says, haggis is fantastically delicious. All the unmentionables of a sheep (lungs, liver, kidney, bits off the floor) ground up, mixed with oatmeal and then stuffed into a sheep’s stomach. Not a meal for the faint of heart or vegetarian of diet!

The compulsory ‘Address to a Haggis’ is always read by a brilliant man called Ian McClelland, who speaks Lallans, the original lowland Scottish that Burns himself would have spoken.

Washed down with plenty of good Scotch whisky (never, ever spelt ‘whiskey’), the music and dubious attempts at highland dancing would continue long into the night.

Just to get you in the mood for celebrating this fabulous tradition, I leave you with the first verse of ‘Address to the Haggis’– in its original, untranslated Lallans:

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,

Great chieftain o’ the pudden’-race!

Aboon them a’ ye tak yer place Painch, tripe, or thairm:

Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace

As lang’s ma airm.