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Raise a glass to Rabbie

Catch Burns Aflame this weekend in Alloway
Catch Burns Aflame this weekend in Alloway

Don’t miss out on your chance to celebrate the national bard this year with a host of special events taking place across the length and breadth of the country


It says a lot about Scotland and the Scots that the man they choose to worship, at least once a year, is not a king, a politician or leader of men in battle, but a man who wrote beautiful poetry and songs.

Robert Burns was the son of a poor tenant Ayrshire farmer and the eldest of seven children. As a youth, he worked his father’s farm and, despite being relatively poor, was very well read. While still a teenager, he wrote his first poem, My Handsome Nell. A bit of a ladies’ man, he had several children to different women, and at one time planned to swap Scotland for the West Indies. But at the point of abandoning farming and his homeland, his first collection of published poems began to receive critical acclaim.

Soon, this ploughman poet became the darling of society and a national celebrity who, despite his fame, still had to work, this time as a taxman. Sadly, he died aged just 37, on the same day his wife, Jean, gave birth to his son, Maxwell. On the day of his funeral, more than 10,000 people turned up to pay their respects.
Since then, millions across the word have set aside time on January 25
each year to celebrate his life with a traditional meal and dram or by attending an organised Burns supper or one of the many celebratory events taking place to mark the birth of Scotland’s Bard.

Highlights for this year include:


The Big Burns Stramash lantern procession on its way through Inverness
The Big Burns Stramash lantern procession on its way through Inverness


Eden Court CREATIVE will celebrate the Bard’s birthday early and in style with a whole day of events taking place in Inverness this Saturday, January 23. Working with young people and artists from around the Highlands, and for the first time schools from the region, there will be a range of different Burns-themed events throughout the day for families to get involved in, including workshops and film screenings, a lantern procession and some outdoor performances, too.

The day’s events will be rounded off with not one but two Burns ceilidhs. From 5.30pm, The Wee Burns Ceilidh is perfect for families with wee ones to come and dance with some special guests. Then, later on in the evening, the Ceilidh Commandos – Gary Innes (Manran), Ewen Henderson (Manran), Alec Dalglish (Skerryvore) and Martin O’Neill (Treacherous Orchestra) – will host The Big Burns Ceilidh for those aged 14 and over. As part of the Stramash, primary four and five children from local schools took part in a Tam o’ Shanter film mash-up and this film will be premiered at the cinema in Eden Court.

The Big Burns Stramash is part of the Scottish Government’s Winter Festivals programme. Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: “Burns Night is the perfect opportunity to celebrate our Scottish identity, including our creativity, pride and confidence. Robert Burns encapsulates this and I encourage friends, family and loved ones across the Highlands to come together to honour this great Scot.”

Scott Armstrong, VisitScotland regional partnerships director, said: “I am delighted that the Big Burns Stramash is being held in Inverness and I am sure it will attract families from around the area. With workshops, film screenings, a lantern procession and two ceilidhs, it is the perfect choice for an event that sets the stage for the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016.”

Tickets for the Stramash are available from the Eden Court box office by calling 01463 234234 or online at

The Macdonald Aviemore Resort will stage the Highland premiere of Robert Burns the Musical on January 30. The modern interpretation of Burns’s life and work is based on an original idea by the late pop legend Michael Jackson and celebrity David Gest, who developed the idea with Tish Tindall, of Lossiemouth-based Rock Academy. The musical, which premiered to rave reviews in Aberdeen last year, will be both staged and screened in the resort’s 650-seat auditorium and adjacent dining area and will be a one-off performance.

Ms Tindall said: We are absolutely delighted to be taking the show to Macdonald Aviemore Resort to launch it to a new audience in the Highlands. After last year’s triumphant premiere in Aberdeen and subsequent tour, I feel the resort and its facilities will provide the perfect venue for a magnificent experience for our audience.”

Tish Tindall developed the idea for Robert Burns The Musical with David Gest
Tish Tindall developed the idea for Robert Burns The Musical with David Gest

Tickets for the show, which starts at 8pm, are available through Macdonald Aviemore Resort’s cinema priced £18 for adults and £15 for children. Contact: 0344 879 9152. Tickets to see the show plus a traditional Burns supper are priced at £35, while there are also special accommodation and show packages on offer. burns-aviemore/?hotelfrom=3


As well as the Inverness Stramash, five other events will take place this month to celebrate Burns’s birthday as part of Scotland’s Winter Festivals. These include Alloway 1759, The Big Burns Supper Festival in Dumfries, Burns’s Birthday in Mauchline, Burns Unplugged in Edinburgh and Burns Fest at the Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh.

Alloway 1759
(January 20-25)

Celebrate the bard’s birthday in his birthplace of Alloway, Ayrshire, with a special programme of events set to take place around Burns Cottage and surrounding landmarks. Events include Ae Spark o’ Nature’s Fire, a Burns-themed fire garden where
flame-lined paths, fire-breathing flowers and scorching sculptural trees combine to create an unforgettable trail o’ light, and the Burns Big Street Party, which will see the front doors of Burns Cottage opened, allowing Burns characters to spill out on to the streets and create an unforgettable street party.
Big Burns Supper Festival, Dumfries
(January 22-30)

Now in its fourth year, the contemporary celebration that takes place in Dumfries has become a nine-day event featuring a varied programme, ranging from the popular street parade, comedy, cabaret, spoken word and contemporary performance.

Burns’s Birthday in Mauchline
(January 23 and 24)

Burns’s Birthday in Mauchline is a new cultural event with the opportunity to see Mauchline come to life with characters from the past, including Racer Jess, Jean Armour and Reverend William Auld. Free Saturday and Sunday events will host family-orientated activities such as storytelling, music, craft making and traditional food, while a ticketed Saturday evening event in Mauchline Parish Church Hall will feature Burnsong performers and music.
Burns Unplugged, Edinburgh
(January 24)

Burns Unplugged at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh is a family-friendly event, celebrating the best contemporary and traditional Scottish music and the spoken word of Burns in the stunning setting of this iconic building. The day-long event will include performances by a number of bands and singer-songwriters on stage, as well as a music and word trail around the Scotland galleries. The galleries will feature music from across the ages and a series of activities and craft workshops, Scots poetry readings and storytelling.
Burns Fest at the Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
(January 21-February 6)

The Scottish Storytelling Centre will pay homage to Robert Burns with eight events celebrating his work, life and legacy. The events include live storytelling, music, workshops, children’s events and, of course, a traditional Burns supper with a storytelling twist, all in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town.
Finding Burns at the McManus Galleries, Dundee
(January 25)

In celebration of the Bard’s birthday, curators highlight several items in and around the museum. Find out more about the history of Burns’s statue and conservation of the magnificent Dundee Burns Club banner. Admission is free, but booking is essential on 01382 307200.

At the historic Pavilion in Strathpeffer, they’re putting their own spin on a Burns supper this year with an informal weekend-long Burns Carvery to coincide with the Strathpuffer, the annual 24-hour cycling event that
takes place locally each year and welcomes hundreds of cyclists, volunteers and supporters to the village. Whether you’re attending the Strathpuffer or not, everyone is welcome to pop along, escape the cold, tuck in and enjoy the buzz about the village. It’s an informal supper, so muddy boots are welcome! It runs from tomorrow, January 22, to Sunday, January 24. Contact: 01997 420124.