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Tips for Planning Your Burns Night

Burns Night is a much-anticipated part of the Scottish calendar and a true institution of Scottish life. This night can vary from small, informal gatherings of friends and family to full dinners with speakers, pipers, ceilidhs and more. Of course, it is also well-known as being a time to dust off your tartan trews (trousers) (or ties or cufflinks, bowties or even shoes), dig out the family Quaich or clan glasses and pick up some very Scottish tableware! After all you can't have a Burns Night without a touch of tartan!

So.......what exactly does a Burns Night entail? We've got you covered...

Piping in the guests
If you're hosting a full-scale big Burns Night, you'll probably like a piper to welcome the guests! (Not possible? Traditional music will also do.) No head table? Whoever is chairing the evening can simply rap the table to draw attention and begin the evening.

Chairman's Welcome
The Chair (host/organiser) traditionally offers those assembled a warm welcome and provides introductions for the guests and entertainment.

The Selkirk Grace
A very important part not to be missed! This short but well-known prayer is usually read to usher in the meal. Also known as Burn's Grace at Kirkcudbright, The Selkirk Grace, is recited in Scots:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

Piping in the haggis
Following tradition, guests should stand to welcome the arrival of the haggis and eagerly awaits the address to the Haggis which follows next which is delivered on a silver platter, and the rest of the procession which includes the chef, the piper and the individual who will later address the Haggis. (See here for details on what this entails.)

Address to the Haggis
Often an energetic charismatic individual, a reader is now the centre of attention and seizes the moment with a fluent, entertaining and lively rendition of To a Haggis, re-enacting the verse as he proceeds. All part of the fun of course! Upon reaching the end, the reader traditionally raises the haggis (triumphantly - how else?) and is greeted by applause and cheering. A perfect opportunity to wear those tartan trews if there ever was one!

The address is then followed by a toast to the Haggis and the serving of the meal. If your Burns Night is too large to bring the dishes to the haggis, the piper traditionally leads the procession back out to the kitchen for serving.

The meal is accompanied by a healthy serving of a drink of the host's choosing - wine or ale are customary - plus a good helping of whisky sauce for the haggis. Good thing you'll have a healthy helping of Scottish themed napkins to hand to tidy up before the entertainment starts!

Entertainment - round one
The first entertainment of the evening follows immediately on from the meal (once the dishes are cleared to avoid incidents!) often performing Burns songs or reciting one of his poems.

The immortal memory
The speaker returns, once again, to the stage to deliver another spellbinding performance - this time on the life and legacy of the bard himself, Robert Burns. Topics covered include literary talent, politics, his humanity and, of course, his nationalism. It's important to note that this speech is often carefully bridging the chasm between serious intent and sparkling wit, to leave the listeners with a colourful picture of Scotland's beloved Bard.

Entertainment - round two
Time for more of Burns' work!

Toast to the Lassies
Often this part of the evening is a favourite of many Burns Night attendees due to the occasion allowing for some good-natured banter! This humorous highlight is designed to praise the women of the world today using quotes from the Bard ending on a positive note. For those skilful at toasts, making particular reference to those present makes the toast all the more meaningful and entertaining! An excellent excuse to dig out the family quaichs and wine glasses for a lively toast!

Entertainment - round three
Burns is back - the final appearance of a reading of some of his works.

Reply to the Toast to the Lassies (The Lassies' Reply)
Time for revenge! It is now the turn of the women present to 'exact revenge' with a witty retort to the toast to the lassies.

As the evening draws towards its close, it is time for the chair to thank everyone for a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable evening. If your Burns Night is being followed by a ceilidh or other activity, an invitation to remain to enjoy the festivities can be presented. Of course, no Burns Night is complete without a heartfelt rendition of Auld Lang Syne with all those present joining hands and joining in! (Make sure to brush up on those tricky later lines!) 

Burns Night in Gretna Green - Old Toll Bar

Fancy taking part in a Burns Night? Why not check out a local evening at the Old Toll Bar - our very own Toni has arranged a piper and speaker and will be serving a traditional Burns Night menu Saturday 23rd January 2016. Hurry, these evenings are highly popular and tickets won't be available long! Call 01461 337461 to book.


  • 01461 336001

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