A Brief History of Robert Burns and our pick of Edinburgh Burns Suppers

Each year, Scotland (and the rest of the world) celebrates the life of Robert Burns with an abundance of haggis and a few drams of whisky. If you’ve not yet had the pleasure of acquiring tastes for haggis and whisky, a Burns Supper might be the perfect opportunity for you to discover this delightful combination, all whilst celebrating a Scottish icon.

In Edinburgh, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to commemorating the birth of The Bard aka Rabbie Burns. We’ll be sharing a few of our favourites after a brief history of Robert Burns and Burns Night.

Who was Robert Burns?

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) was a Scottish bard (poet), lyricist and farmer, born in Alloway (2 miles south of Ayr). The National Poet of Scotland was also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland’s Favourite Son, the Bard of Ayrshire and the Ploughman Poet.

Whilst much of his work is written in a light Scots dialect, it remains accessible to an audience beyond Scotland, although you may need to carry out a little research to translate some of the words.

A Brief History of Robert Burns

  • Robert Burns was a pioneer of the romantic movement and a self-educated tenant farmer;
  • Published Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect in July 1786;
  • Moved to Edinburgh November 1786;
  • Settled on a farm at Ellisland in the Summer of 1788;
  • Quit farming 1791 and moved to Dumfries;
  • Published Tam O’Shanter in 1791;
  • Died at 37 on 21 July 1796 in Dumfries;
  • In 2009, Robert Burns was named the greatest Scot of all time, in a vote on STV, beating William Wallace.

Robert Burns in Edinburgh

  • Stayed in Baxters Close, off The Lawnmarket;
  • Lodged next door to The Beehive Inn, where he allegedly went to watch cockfights;
  • Robert Burns also stayed in Buccleuch Street, St James Square and White Hart Inn;
  • Worked with James Johnson on the ‘Scots Musical Museum’ collating Scots songs for publication;
  • Rober Burns was a Freemason who attended Kilwinning Lodge in St Johns Close;
  • Regular at Johnny Dowies Tavern at Libertons Wynd (lost when George IV Bridge was built);
  • Edinburgh’s Burns Monument was designed by Thomas Hamilton in 1831;
  • Leith Burns Club erected a statue in Bernard Street in 1898;
  • Edinburgh’s Writers’ Museum contains a collection of Robert Burns’ letters, portraits and personal items.


Poems by Robert Burns

Even if you’ve never heard of Robert Burns, it’s quite likely you’ll know and possibly have sung one of his famous poems on New Year’s Eve – Auld Lang Syne

Other famous works by Robert Burns include:

  • Scots Wha Hae (which served as the unofficial Scottish national anthem)
  • A Red, Red Rose
  • A Man’s a Man for a’ That
  • To a Louse
  • To a Mouse
  • The Battle of Sherramuir
  • Tam O’Shanter
  • Ae Fond Kiss

When is Burns Night?

Burns Night commemorates the birth of Robert Burns and will be held around the world on Thursday 25th January 2018 (although some bars and restaurants will carry on the celebrations through to weekend).

What do you eat and drink at a Burns Supper?

Expect Scottish Fayre at a Burns Supper with Haggis, Neeps and Tatties making an appearance in some form or other.

Whatever your views on the water of life, a Burns Supper would not be complete without a dram or two of whisky.

What happens at a Burns Supper?

I’d be shocked if there wasn’t a serving of haggis and a wee dram of whisky, you could celebrate at home with a serving of haggis, neeps and tatties or if you are in Edinburgh, head to one of our recommended Burns Suppers.

Larger events with speakers would include the following:

  • Traditional Scottish music, possibly live pipers (clapping and stomping often encouraged);
  • Address to a Haggis – a speaker recites Burns’ poem and proceeds to cut open the warm reekin’ rich haggis;
  • A toast to the Lassies – a tongue-in-cheek toast to the ladies, expect a few stereotypical points of view on the fairer sex;
  • Reply to the toast to the Lassies – watch out guys, it’s the ladies turn and payback is coming;
  • The Immortal Memory – an insight into the life of Robert Burns ending in a toast to the man himself.

I’ve been to a number of Burns Supper events with work and some for fun (as in not work-related, every time I’ve attended a Burns Supper I’ve had fun).

What do you wear to a burns supper?

Deciding on what to wear for a Burns Supper will largely depend on the organisers, some will be formal whilst others are relaxed. Whatever the dress code, there’s no harm adding a splash of tartan if you can incorporate it into your outfit.

Edinburgh Burns Supper Events 

Whiski Rooms

Visit The WHISKI Rooms for a fun and traditional Burns Night Supper to celebrate our national poet Robert Burns whose message of friendship and Auld Lang Syne lives on. A memorable night awaits you with bagpipes, speeches, haggis and whisky of course and the full works in the stunning world heritage location.

Burns Supper Menu


with our delicious whisky cream sauce


Complimentary nip of scotch malt whisky to toast the bard

Reservations essential

Please Note:
Reservations taken for the Burns Supper menu only
Full payment required at time of booking
Booking Payments are not refundable

Burns Supper Details
Thursday 25th Jan 2018 – 7:30PM
£35.00 pp

More details

WHISKI Rooms: 4-7 North Bank Street, Edinburgh EH1 2LP


For one special night the Beer Palace will host their very own Brewhemia Burns Supper, with Scottish sonnets from our Howl at the Moon laddies and very special guest (piper) let us treat you to a truly Scottish shindig!

Experience a 4 course meal with a cheeky dram included, live music and maybe a wee whisky by the fire in our Bothy bar; you might even be lucky enough to see a real Haggis roaming about…

The Menu

  • Cullen Skink Shot and Smoked Haggis Bon Bon
  • Tian of Haggis, Neeps & Tatties with Whiskey Cream
  • Balmoral Chicken, Clapshot Bon Bons and Pepper Sauce
  • Raspberry Atholl Brose

Package Option

4 Courses & a dram £25pp
4 Courses, a dram & glass of prosecco/pint of tank beer £30pp

Choose from Lunch or Dinner

Lunch – 3pm to 6pm
Dinner – 6pm to 9pm

To book, contact the events team on 0131 226 9560 or email brewhemia.events@clg.co.uk


Leith’s Malmaison is hosting Whisky Pairings on 25th and 26th January to celebrate Burns Night.

Tickets are £25 per person and must be pre-booked and the price includes 3 whiskies all paired with classic Scottish dishes such as Haggis Bon Bons, Cranachan and some delicious Scottish cheeses.

Tickets can be purchased at:


Leith Depot

In light of, the numbers of food banks, homelessness, poverty and working poor The Leith Depot would like to try and engage and contribute at a local community level.

When speaking about the event, Julie Carty said:

“We realise that there can be a stigma attached to handouts, but eating together and nutrition is key to people’s health and well-being.
If the planned event works, we would like to continue it once a month. ”

  • The “Burns Supper Community Dinner” will be held Thursday, 25th of January.
  • Between 3-5pm we will be serving free haggis/veggie haggis, neeps and tatties.
  • Tea & coffee will also be available for free, everyone welcome!
  • Please note,  there will be no alcohol sales during this time.

Everyone welcome!

140 Leith Walk, Edinburgh EH6 5DT

Cafe St Honoré

On Sunday 28th January Cafe St Honoré is celebrating Burns Night with a special menu packed with great Scottish ingredients.

Hidden down a cobbled lane in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town, Cafe St Honoré is one of Edinburgh’s top sustainable restaurants, priding itself of serving the very best produce available.
Chef Director Neil Forbes and Head Chef Joe Simpson have devised a special 4-course Scottish menu to celebrate The Bard.


Our cure organic Belhaven salmon, rocket, Katy Rodger’s crème frâiche and toasted oat salad, pickled cucumber

Local venison and Macsween haggis meatballs, clapshot, mustard greens

Scottish cheese and oatcakes

Warm organic orange marmalade cake, organic Benromach whisky ice cream

£50 per person.

Cafe St Honoré, 34 NW Thistle Street Lane, Edinburgh EH2 1EA

To book, visit www.cafesthonore.com, call 0131 226 2211 or email eat@cafesthonore.com.

The Real Mary King’s Close

In a first for The Real Mary King’s Close, on the 26th of January 2018 , in partnership with Wedgwood the Restaurant, will be serving up the perfect celebration of the birth of Robert Burns. Bringing together poetry, history and the best locally sourced produce, guests will experience an indulgent evening of heritage, poetry and delicious food.

This exceptional event will begin at 6.30pm with a three-course meal at Wedgwood the Restaurant, showcasing the best in Scottish cuisine. Guests will then be treated to a recital of Burns poetry, before being escorted to The Real Mary King’s Close where they will enjoy a Burns inspired guided tour of the uniquely preserved streets and spaces. The evening will finish with a dram of whisky in the beautiful Burgh Courtroom, where guests can raise a glass to Scotland’s favourite son.

More details at:

Sadly now sold out. Hopefully, an event like this happens again next year.


Wedgwood the Restaurant will be serving Burns Supper for only the second time in the restaurant’s history on Thursday 25th January.

From the chef who has prepared haggis with Alpaca to Venison and Guinea Pig in between; Paul Wedgwood has prepared a contemporary Scottish menu which is complemented with a whisky flight chosen by Lisa Wedgwood.

Wedgwood the Restaurant is the eponymous restaurant from one of Scotland’s most respected chefs, Paul Wedgwood. Together with wife Lisa, they have created an award-winning restaurant on Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile which is a favourite with locals and visitors alike.

Refurbished in 2016, the restaurant is Paul and Lisa’s vision of their “perfect night out”: The dining room is stylish and inviting featuring comfortable banquette seating and low lighting making the atmosphere both relaxing and intimate – the perfect setting in which to enjoy Paul’s outstanding menu and Lisa’s immaculately paired wines and polished service.


£55 per person, Paired whisky flight £35

Bubbles and canapés (add £10.00)


Scotch broth, mushroom soda bread

Bailie Nicol Jarvie 8 year


Douglas fir cured salmon, grapefruit, sorrel, rye

Old Pulteney 12 year


Sound of Mull scallops, smoked haddock Cullen skink

Glenkinchie 12 year


Loin of Perthshire venison, haggis, celeriac, chocolate

Wedgwood Whisky


Paul’s selection of the very best of Scottish cheese (supplement £5.00)

Bunnahabhain 12 year




Clootie dumpling, honeycomb, whisky ice cream

Macallan Gold


Coffee & Petit fours

Have a Great Burns Supper!

That should be enough haggis to get you through January!

What are your plans for Burns Night? Will you be celebrating at home or heading out?


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