Tomorrow night is Burns Night, an occasion when Scots all over the world get together and celebrate the life of probably the greatest ever Scotsman. It’s an excuse for revelry, poetry and culinary indulgence. If you are on holiday it’s a perfect chance to spoil yourself or experience some true Scottish culture and hospitality. If you are inspired by all the celebration to experience the world of Burns first hand then read on for some ideas for your next holiday.
“Thee, Ferintosh, O sadly lost. Scotland lament frae coast to coast.”
As well as being a romantic Burns was a lover of whisky. His favourite dram was from the Ferintosh Distillery on the Black Isle. Although its closure was lamented in the above verse by Burns over 200 years ago, whisky production has only just started in the area again with the establishment of the community-owned Glen Wyvis Distillery. Production is already in full swing with the first malts currently maturing and a range of gins available now. Skylarks is just a short walk to where the ruins of the old Ferintosh distillery can be found. It’s a luxurious and romantic getaway that has a view over Ben Wyvis from the deck outside where you can enjoy a summer sunset with a dram of something local, or a sauna and a hot toddy in the winter. Burns was also a dog lover, his beloved sheepdog Luath being his constant companion. He would no doubt be happy to know that Skylarks welcomes 3 dogs, so your best friends need not miss out on your holiday.
“O thou, my muse! Guid auld Scotch drink”
Burns lived for many years in the Borders where he worked as a farmer as well as an exciseman. His old house at Ellisland Farm is now a museum but of significantly more interest to some is his favourite pub in Dumfries, which has been welcoming guests now for over 400 years. Known as his howff (or haunt), The Globe Inn has a number of poems etched into windows by the bard himself. His favourite chair is also still at the bar but beware of taking a seat. Anyone who does must by local custom correctly recite a verse of his poetry, the penalty for failure is to buy everyone at the bar a drink. This was the home of the very first Burns supper and is an absolute must see for anyone in the area. Westerkirk Mains is an easy drive away and makes a fantastic base for exploring this and many of the other Burns related attractions in the borders. It sleeps 14 so also makes a fantastic venue if you wanted to organise your own Burns supper. The huge lawn would make an appropriate spot for your very own haggis hurling contest. Warning: It’s not actually as easy as it sounds as, per official haggis hurling regulations, the haggis has to be in edible condition afterwards.
“Through the gap the struggling river toils, and still below, the horrid cauldron boils.”
Burns journeyed all over Scotland seeking inspiration for his poetry. In 1787 he ventured along the shores of Loch Ness and visited the Falls of Foyers which was a particularly popular attraction at the time. After his visit he wrote the poem “The Falls of Foyers” the words of which are now inscribed on rocks on the walk down to the viewing area. They are still an impressive sight with the best time to visit being after heavy rain when the full splendour of the 140ft falls are on display.Caledonian Retreat only is a scenic 10-minute drive down Loch Ness from here. It’s a fantastic place to immerse yourself in this captivating landscape which has being inspiring visitors for hundreds of years. The hot tub makes a striking change from the horrid cauldron that Burns describes and is a brilliant way to relax and take it all in.
In stark contrast William McGonagall, notoriously regarded as Scotland’s worst ever poet wrote the following after his own visit.
“To the traveller as he gazes thereon, That he feels amazed with delight,
To see the water falling from such a height,
That his heed feels giddy with the scene,
As he views the Falls of Foyers and the woodlands so green.”
There is no doubting his sincerity but his hilarious lack of any poetic talent just reaffirms how fortunate we are to have our National Bard and how rightly proud of him we should be.