Just when you thought holidays couldn’t get any better than St. George’s Day (right??), in strolls Burns Night and informs you that it basically requires you to drink whisky and dance.
For those unfamiliar, it’s an annual celebration of the life of Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland. You probably belted out a verse of his most famous poem, Auld Lang Syne, a few weeks ago at New Year’s Eve. The man certainly enjoyed a good party, and traditionally a good Burns Night shindig involves whisky, haggis (which has a poem read to it), more whisky, bagpipes, kilts, sometimes a little dancing, and always a lot of merriment.
Here are the best places in London to celebrate the Ploughman Poet, from rip-roaring ceilidh dancing, to stirring bagpipe renditions, vast banquets, open whisky bars, rooftop parties, and more…
The Ceilidh Club
For the Ceilidh Club, Burns Night is all about ceilidh. Crazy, huh? And given that they generally try to pull out all the stops anyway, to make this most sacred evening all the better they’re basically flinging the stops across the room. There’ll be a live band, a caller, nearly three hours of dancing, an addressing of the haggis, and – surprise – some haggis (plus neeps & tatties).
Covid stuff: They’ll be checking for double vacc certificates, or a negative LFT within the previous 48 hours, on entry.
Details: 21st, 22nd, 28th & 29th January | St. Mary’s Marylebone, Wyndham Place, London, W1H 1PQ | £33-43
Whisky Tasting aboard the Golden Hinde
If getting a little tipsy reminds you at all of being aboad a ship, then prepare to have that experience either doubled or somehow cancelled out. Because in honour of Burns Night, the The Scotch Malt Whisky Society have decided to create a pop up whisky tasting experience aboard the Golden Hinde. You’ll get to sample from the various malt whisky at stations positioned in different areas of our Tudor galleon, all while hearing the dulcet tones of bagpiper Hector Munro. And there’ll be neeps & tatties.
Details: 24th January | The Golden Hinde, Cathedral Street, SE1 9DE | £65
Fiddle Paradiddle – also known as ‘London’s wildest ceilidh band’ – will be talking you through the moves at this ceilidh in an atmospheric Balham church, as well as providing some ‘nu-folk’ to dance to as the night wears on. Not before, of course, you’ve had a Burns night feast with haggis, neeps, tatties, and some sort of whisky-based pud… They’re not animals.
Covid stuff: Negative LFT within the previous 48 hours.
Details: 21st, 22nd & 28th January | St. Thomas’ Church Balham, Telford Avenue, SW2 4XW | £42.50
Burns Night at Carousel
You’d probably expect Carousel to be bringing down one of Scotland’s most promising young chefs to cook up an inventive Burns Night feast. But they’re not. They’re bringing four. Messirs Sam Yorke & Tomás Gormley (from Heron in Edinburgh), David Smith (from The Dipping Lugger), and Shaun Haggerty (from the Michelin Starred Cail Bruich Group in Glasgow) will all be teaming up to bring you modern classics like Orkney scallops with peated whisky & toasted barley ponzu; and roe deer with haggis, neeps & tatties. And it’ll all be topped off with with whisky, poetry, and cocktails.
Details: 25th January | 19-23 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 1RL | £75
B&H Burns Night Party
There’s nothing quite as quintessentially English as celebrating another culture’s national day slightly more fervently than your own. You know, just so they don’t feel bad and such. Which explains why the fine chaps at Bourne & Hollingsworth are putting on the ultimate Burns Night in London, complete with whisky reception; a cocktail-paired, five-course banquet; the addressing of the haggis; the toast tae the lassies; a Burns poetry-reading competition (trickier than it sounds after the aforementioned cocktail-paired banquet)… aaand live music and ceilidh dancing.
Details: 25th January | Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, 42 Northampton Road, EC1R 0HU | From £30
Barge East is a beautiful, 117-year old Dutch cargo vessel now moored in East London. And this Burns night, it’ll be shipping haggis, drams of whisky, and a four-course Scottish feast directly to your mouth, as part of a mysteriously ‘interactive evening of poetry’…
Details: 25th January | Sweetwater Mooring, River Lee, White Post Lane, E9 5EN | £49pp
Burns Night with the Ceilidh Liberation Front
The Ceilidh Liberation Front are a radical folk band who enjoy “subverting the lore of Ceilidh with their energetic folk dance regime.” And if that involves hurtling round a Grade II listed church in Marylebone to a foot-stomping band, a well-stocked whisky bar and a haggis feast (with a vegan alternative), then it’s the kind of regime we can get behind.
Details: 28th & 29th January | Grand Junction, St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Rowington Close, London, W2 5TF | £16
The Hollywood Arms
You’ll find the Hollywood Arms
attached to Dwayne Johnson’s shoulders off a side street in Chelsea. And on the Wednesday directly after Burns Night, they’re clearing out the space, installing two long tables down the middle, and holding a four-course Scottish inspired meal complete with a bagpiper.
Details: 26th January | 45 Hollywood Road, SW10 9HX | £65
The Rhythm And Booze Project
Rhythm & Booze pretty much already sums up your typical Burns Night. But just to make theirs extra-special, this duo will be pairing their live music with an open whisky bar. Oh, and a little poetry from the bard himself.
Covid stuff: You’ll need proof of full vaccination for entry to the event – and they will turn away, with no refunds, anyone who can’t provide it.
Details: 28th January | Crol & Co, 77 Dunton Road, SE1 5TW | £65
The Oyster Shed
The Oyster Shed is down on the banks overlooking the Thames, and for Burns Night, they’ll be “delivering boozy sips” in their winter garden, before setting up a 4-course meal cooked up by their head chef Natalie Coleman. And if that name rings a bell, it’s because she won MasterChef. So her haggis scotch eggs, cranachan, and whisky infused sauces are probably quite good.
Details: 25th January | 5 Angel Lane, EC4R 3AB | £45
Phoenix Arts Club
The Phoenix is quite familiar with Burns. They put on a show every year, and this time they’re bussed in some of “Scotland’s very best cabaret performers” to entertain. Expect sword swallowing daredevil Snookie Mono, whiskey & haggis swallowing from you, poetry readings, bagpipers, and more, all MC’d by drag diva Vanity von Glow.
Details: 25th January | 1 Phoenix Street, WC2H 8BU | £45-£60
Skylight Tobacco Dock
The best way to raise a glass to the ploughman poet is to make sure the glass is already a few floors up. At Skylight in Wapping, they’re going to make sure the glass is filled with whiskey, and then take advantage of everyone’s lack of sobriety by bringing in a Ceidlih caller “with a twist” later on.
Details: 29th January | Skylight Tobacco Dock, Pennington Street, E1W 2SF | £4-£200
Frank and Dean Hootenanny
Boisdale variously describes itself as having “the world’s greatest whisky bar,” hosting “the best live music in the capital,” and being “Scotland’s unofficial embassy in London”. Also, there’s tartan. Lots of tartan. So there are probably worse places to raise a glass to Burns – especially when they’re putting on a Rat Pack-styled night of live music, alongside the more traditional piping and haggis-serenading.
Details: 25th & 26th January | Boisdale Canary Wharf, 15 Cabot Square, E14 4QT | £53.42 – £182.78
Fancy a scotch? Take a look at London’s best whisky bars.