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Burns Night in North East Scotland

Rabbie Burns Day

25th January is “Burns Day” It marks a celebration of the life and poetry of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) He was the author of many Scots poems and songs. Traditional Burns Suppers/Dinners are held on or near the poet’s birthday, 25 January, “Rabbie Burns Day” 

Burns Supper Uncovered

Guests are normally welcomed by the sight and sounds of a piper and his bagpipes. Guests gather and blether before the organiser or host welcomes everyone to the Burns Supper.

Guests are seated and the host will say the well-known thanksgiving Selkirk Grace. It is said before meals using the traditional Scots language. 

 

Some hae meat an canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it;

But we hae meat,
 
and we can eat,
 
And sae the Lord be thankit.

The Burns Supper starts with a traditional Scottish soup, usually Scotch broth. Although potato soup, cullen skink, or cock-a-leekie can also be served.

The next course is the famous haggis which is delivered by way of a procession during which everyone stands. The haggis is carried by the cook to the sound of bagpipes, and makes its way to the top table. It is then placed in front of the host who then “Addresses the Haggis”

As the words “His knife see rustic Labour dicht” are spoken, the host normally draws and sharpens a knife. At the words “An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht”, the knife is plunged into the haggis and it is then cut open from end to end. 

A whisky toast is made, and the haggis is then served with the traditional neeps and tatties (mashed swede and mashed potatoes)

The dessert course, normally Cranachan, is a traditional Scottish dessert of whipped cream, whisky, honey, fresh raspberries and toasted oatmeal. An alternative is the Tipsy Laird (whisky trifle).

When the meal reaches the coffee stage, various speeches and toasts are given.

The host gives a speech with remembrance to Rabbie. This may be either light-hearted or serious, but it will probably include a recital of a poem or a song by Burns. Finishing with a toast to the “Immortal Memory” of Robert Burns.

A short set of two speeches follows. A male guest thanks the women who have prepared the meal in the”Address of the Lassies”. This address is normally found to be amusing and not offensive. A toast is then made to the women’s health. A female guest will then respond in good humour with the “reply to the laddies” and reply to any specific points raised by the previous speaker. In organising the evening, the speakers will normally collaborate so that the two toasts complement each other and are fun for the listeners.

The evening may then have further songs and poems by Burns that are performed by invited guests or performers. Scottish music may be played for ceilidh dancing.

At the end of the evening thanks is given and everyone stands to join hands to sing “Auld Lang Syne“.

Visit Scotland's guide to your very own "Burns Night"

More Online Burns Facts

Janey Godley’s Big Burns Supper
Aberdeen University - Extraordinary Burns Supper
NTS - Robert Burns Birthplace

We continue sharing our “Helpful Hints”, “Hidden Gems” and “Quirky Facts” from around the area,  so we hope you found this “North East Explore More” a valuable read. If so, perhaps you would consider following us on the Northern Highlights Pass social channels and also sign up to our monthly “North East Explore More”

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Reconnecting this Festive Season

Time to reconnect...

The festive season has arrived and as we think of safe ways to keep ourselves and loved ones, safe and enjoying time together whilst allowing us to recharge our bodies in a positive way. If you live in North East Scotland, what better time is there to rediscover what is on your very own doorstep in the great outdoors of this wonderful corner of Scotland that we have the good fortune to call home.

Time to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and blow the cobwebs away.From Parks and Gardens to some Museums and Art Galleries, there is a host of free things to see and do throughout the area.

You can follow various themed trails such as Heritage, Pictish, Victorian, Coastal, Stone Circles, Towns and Maritime, to name but a few. Take in the scenic views during a local walk, short or long – choose from your local Forestry Commission, National Nature Reserves, Coastal or Waymarked Footpaths.

Below is a small selection of outdoor information from other organizations that you may find helpful. Please do remember to stay safe and the guidance to protect the environment, yourself and local communities.

Lots to discover and uncover this festive season as you explore, experience and uncover new possibilities in your own local area.

What will you rediscover...

Please remember to follow...

VisitScotland
Scottish Outdoor Access Code
Government Guidelines

As we end 2020 we look forward to preparing for 2021 and being able to welcome visitors safely once more. We will be sharing our “Helpful Hints”, “Hidden Gems” and “Quirky Facts” from around the area,  so we hope you found this “North East Blether” a valuable read.If so, perhaps you would consider following us on the Northern Highlights Pass social channels and also sign up to our monthly “North East Blether”

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2020 Highland Games with a Virtual Twist

2020 Highland Games with a Virtual Twist

Scotland’s traditions of Highland Games for 2020 have understandably been postponed until 2021, but thanks to the commitment of the organisers, some digital gurus and the access to digital content old and new the 2020 celebrations have continued in a different way. Traditional sights and sounds can now be heard by visitors old and new across the digital channels & networks.
Below are just a few of the highlights of what one area in the North East of Scotland has offered with the big finale “Virtual Highland Games” being held at the Braemar Gathering & Highland Games Centre this Saturday 12th September from 9am – 5pm.
On the day way not share your memories of attending or performing at a Highland Games – don’t forget to use the social media #virtualhighlandgames

This Weekend #VirtualHighlandGames

Click HERE for the “Virtual Highland Games” event & details held on Facebook
Click HERE to follow Braemar Media on YouTube for new video content of the 2020 footage. 

Braemar – 2021 Games Saturday 4th September

Aboyne – 2021 Games Saturday 7th August

Read more about the Piping 2020 contest HERE

Ballater – 2021 Games Thursday 12th August

Read more about the Ballater Highland Games in their Online Special Souvenir HERE

Lonach – 2021 Games Saturday  28th August

Read more about the Virtual 2020 Gathering HERE

Lonach 2020 Lockdown Whisky

The History….

So what’s the history of Highland Games? They are as iconically Scottish as bagpipes, kilts and whisky – all of which feature heavily at any gathering.  Highland games in their current form date to 1867, but it seems likely that the Victorian event was merely a revival of a much older tradition that ceased after the suppression of clan customs following the 1745 Jacobite rising.

The oldest free Highland Games in Scotland is held each June in Ceres and began under a Charter awarded by Robert the Bruce in recognition of the villagers’ support at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

Today the games are noted for their unique sporting and athletic events many of which involve throwing and lifting. These include the shot put, tug-o-war, caber toss and hammer throw – collectively known as heavy events. As well as the game themselves spectators can enjoy the highland dancing, piping displays and the sights and sounds of the Pipe Bands.

One of the most recognised competitions namely “Tossing the Caber” has come to almost symbolise the Highland games around the world. No one really knows how the contest began but it has been suggested that cabers – today often a reclaimed telegraph pole – were first used to help men cross fast flowing rivers.

A full-length log, usually made of Scots pine, is stood upright and lifted by the competitor using both hands under the bottom of it, so as to rest against their body. They then move forward, building momentum, before tossing it into the air so that it turns end over end before it hits the ground. The aim is for the caber to land in line with the original run. If it is straight the toss is said to be in the 12 o’clock position. Competitors are judged on how closely their caber lands to 12 o’clock.

Another really popular event is the “Tug O War” and one of the most fiercely fought over competitions at many Highland Games.

It is simply eight men pulling against another team of eight, coached by an additional member of the team who encourages the team and shouts instructions of technique to ensure they pull their opposite number across the line. A great crowd pleaser.

Other events include the “Hammer Throw” and as the name suggests involves participants using the handle of the hammer to whirl it around their head and then throw it as far as they can.

The hammers are made from a metal ball weighing around 22 lb for men or 16 lb for women, attached to a wooden pole or handle.

In the “Shot Put” competitors throw a large stone of around 20 – 26lbs in weight as far as they possibly can. The stone is thrown either after a short run-up to the toe-board or from a fixed standing position, depending on the rules of the competition. The winner is the contestant who can throw the furthest shot.

Another standard heavy event is “throwing the weight over the bar” which is said to have started with simple stones but with agricultural weights now used, primarily a 56lb metal cube.

Highland Games have proved to be one of Scotland’s biggest cultural exports with the events rooted some 1,000 years ago at the foot of a hill in Deeside.

The first historical reference to Highland Games type of events in Scotland was made during the reign of King Malcolm III (1057-1093) when he summoned men to race up Craig Choinnich near Braemar in order to find a royal messenger.

The games are said to have become a way of choosing the most-ablest men for the clan chieftain’s household, but it wasn’t just brute strength that was determined as musicians and dancers were also sought to add prestige to the clan.

The old kings and chiefs of Scotland used the Highland Dances as a way of choosing the best men for their servants and men at arms. These dances tested a warrior’s strength, stamina, accuracy, and agility.

The oldest of the traditional dances of Scotland, is the “Highland Fling”
According to tradition, ancient warriors and clansmen performed this dance on the small round shield (called a targe), which they carried into battle. Most Targes had a sharp spike of steel of some 5 to 6 inches in length projecting from the centre, so dancers learned early to move with great skill and dexterity – a false or careless step could be more than a little painful.

The dance is said to have been inspired by the capers of the stag – the dancers upraised arms representing the animal’s antlers. Danced vigorously and exultantly, it is now highly stylised and calls for the greatest skill in technique and exactness of timing.

It has become the classic solo dance at modern competitive dancing events and is often selected at competitions to decide who will be judged the best Highland dancer of the day.

Modern Highland Dancing competitions play a big part in any traditional Highland Games. The Dancers need a lot of stamina, strength, coordination and precision in order to execute the various dances to a high standard especially when competing. There are many competitions for highland dancing organised around the world, mainly in Scotland, United States, Canada and Australia.

Highland Games are also the biggest, natural platform for the bagpipes with such events being sound-tracked by the pummelling, distinctive sound of the pipes and drums.

There is no better sight or sound than witnessing the wonderful spectacle of several pipe bands marching and playing together during a performance of massed pipe bands.

Lonach Highland Gathering always held on the last Saturday of August in Strathdon, has the highlight undoubtedly of the march of the Lonach Highlanders.

Around 200 men of all generations, drawn from the glen and armed with Lochaber axes and pikes, join the march from Belabeg to Lonach Hall.

The Braemar Gathering, arguably the most famous games in the world given their Royal connections, had its roots in Kings Malcolm’s race but its modern incarnation began in 1815 when a mutual assistance society of wrights – or builders – was formed in the town.

The workers were to hold a precession every year and in 1832, foot races were held for the first time – and have been run every year since. The games were attended by Queen Victoria in 1838 with Royal support continuing since then.

It is thought that Queen Victoria’s endorsement of the games has been the biggest single factor in the growth of such events and their export around the world. The Braemar Royal Gathering, which takes place during the first weekend in September, is the only Games attended annually by the British Royal Family and attracts around 10,000 spectators.


You can find out more from the tourism destinations

  • Visit Scotland
  • Visit Cairngorms
  • Visit Aberdeenshire
  • Moray Speyside Tourism
  • Visit Braemar
  • Visit Ballater
  • Visit Angus
  • Snow Roads
  • North East 250
  • Photos and video credits go to Braemar Media