Thursday, 13 February 2014

Burn's Night and Final Day 4 in Scotland

 We did not know when we booked this trip to Scotland that the hotel was going to celebrate Robert Burns the weekend we were there.

A Burns supper is a celebration of the life and poetry of the poet Robert Burns, author of many Scots poems. The suppers are normally held on or near the poet's birthday, 25 January, sometimes also known as Robert Burns Day.

This is group at the table and the supper starts with the soup course which was the traditional Cock-a- Leekie soup.

 "Piping" of the haggis
Everyone stands as the main course is brought in. This is always a haggis on a large dish. It is usually brought in by the cook, generally while a piper plays bagpipes and leads the way to the host's table, where the haggis is laid down. 

 Then he recites the Address to a Haggis

Great chieftain o' the puddin-race
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.

I am sure, like me some of these words you will not understand so here is some help!

(sonsie = jolly/cheerful)
(aboon = above)
(painch = paunch/stomach, thairm = intestine)
(wordy = worthy)

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,  (hurdies = buttocks)
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dicht,   (dicht = wipe, here with the idea of sharpening)
An' cut you up wi' ready slicht,   (slicht = skill)
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sicht,
Warm-reekin, rich!

At the line His knife see rustic Labour dicht the speaker normally draws and sharpens a knife, and at the line An' cut you up wi' ready slicht, plunges it into the haggis and cuts it open from end to end. 

When done properly this "ceremony" is a highlight of the evening.  There are 5 ore verses however I thought this was enough to give you the right flavour of the evening’s events.

 At the end of the poem, a Scotch whisky toast will be proposed to the haggis, and we all have been given  a dram of whiskey, so also toast the haggis, then the company will sit down to the meal. 

The haggis is traditionally served with mashed potatoes (tatties) and mashed turnips (A Scottish 'turnip' is an English 'swede') (neeps).  It was delicious.  Then we had roast Sirloin of Aberdeen Angus beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and market vegetables.  The traditional sweet is heather honey, whiskey and oatmeal Cranachan after which coffee was served.

He played a "Robbie Burns Medley" on his bagpipes as he left.

There was a man playing an accordion and after dinner he encouraged people to get up and dance.  In Scotland this is known as a  ceilidh. 

One of our party, Nigel asked me if I could dance and that was me on the floor for most of the evening. 

 Stripping the willow is a very traditional dance done on these occasions and although I did not know it and it was quite complicated, but by pushing the pulling with great peels of laughter and encouragement from the other diners, we all managed it. 

After a great days birding, a wonderful diner and evenings dancing I finally made my way to bed, exhausted!!!

The next day we stated our homeward journey after 8.00am hoping to bird watch all the way over to the other side of Scotland to catch the 7.30pm ferry to Larne.  Our first stop was at the RSPB Reserve at Loch Leven, Vane Farm about 11.15.  The weather was closing in on us as it had been forecast that a snow blizzard was coming so our leader, Gary said we had to have our lunch and leave again by 12 noon.  That is what everyone did except me as I had my lunch with me and could have it in the van so for the short time I looked for birds from inside through these windows using the telescope.

 Further out on the reserve I saw many ducks, swans etc and the total I saw at Loch Leven was 45 birds with the Gadwell being another new bird for the trip.

 They had quite a number of feeders near the reserve and there were all the usual Tits, Finches, etc however 2 new birds were Redpoll and Dunnock. 

When we were all seated in the van, Gary gave us the bad news that our ferry had been cancelled!  However they hoped there would be one at 4.30pm.  So we decided to see if we could make it to the ferry for that time, not stopping at all.  Over the mountain we ran into the snow storm and were down to one lane moving very slowly!  We did make it to the ferry however we discovered that 10 minutes after we were down from the mountain, the road was closed!  We had a bumpy crossing but arrived safely in Ireland.  The next day I heard that our ferry had broken down!  I am glad to say, we always seemed to be  ahead of any trouble.

Overall we saw 81 different species in Scotland, not a great number however we all enjoyed every single minute of the trip.

I hope you have enjoyed coming along with me and I know some of you have seen birds and animals that you have not seen before.

Thank you for visiting and also for leaving comments.


  1. Wow, what a trip. You are more than welcome to my share of both the haggis and the whiskey though. And bagpipe music makes me cry. I suspect I would be a dismal failure in Scotland - though I love taties and neeps.

  2. The dreaded A9 and the snowgates. They ruin the plans of mice and men.
    Vane Farm has always disappointed me. I go regularly as my sister lives virtually next door.

  3. It has been a wonderful journey, shame about the snow. Lovely Burns night, I am glad that you had a pleasant stay.

  4. Sounds like your trip to Scotland was wonderful. The dinner and celebration looks like fun! Love the pretty finches. Glad you made it home safely and off of the ferry. Have a great day!

  5. It must have been wonderful to experience Burns Night in Scotland. Sounds like you had a great holiday. I love the red grouse photos in your last post :) Glad you got home safely!

  6. Looks like the perfect way to end your trip Margaret, and you beat the weather too...just!...[;o)

  7. I am glad you were one step ahead of trouble! I've been to a few RB's celebrations, in Canada and Scotland, I never did learn to appreciate Haggis though. I've friends who play the bag pipe it took me a while to appreciate the music and I've never tasted Whiskey...81 species another WOW.

  8. glad you made it home safely! the dancing sounds like fun. :)

  9. What a fun surprise that must have been! I'd love to have been there. Although I'm not sure about the haggis. I do absolutely love bagpipe music, though!

  10. I've managed to avoid eating haggis in my life so far.................

  11. Glad to see you arrived back home safe and sound, looks like you had an enjoyable time, still pulling the boys Margaret can't be bad ;-)
    Take care and all the best Gordon.

  12. looks like you had a great time.


  13. Burns night sounds like a great deal of fun. I'm glad you safely made it home in spite of snow storms and ferries that later broke down.

  14. What a wonderful ending to a lovely holiday. I have enjoyed reading these latest posts on your trip to Scotland. Thank you Margaret!

  15. Glad to see you arrived home safe and on schedule after a wonderful birding trip round Scotland. Going myself later in the year.