Despite the Burns supper being such a central pillar of Scottish culture, many international students are totally unaware of why we Scots are so keen on the man himself, Robert Burns. Many students have only the vaguest concepts of the traditional haggis but don't know what it is or how to find it. In my experience, Edinburgh locals who have chosen to remain in the city to study are few and far between, so this article is here to act as your guide to this week’s celebrations.

Who Is Robert Burns?

Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard, was a renowned poet and lyricist from the 18th century whose works are hugely important to Scottish people all over the country. In his day, he was considered one of the world’s greatest songwriters—kind of like a mix between Serge Gainsbourg and Bruce Springsteen.

He was a poet for the common man, with a seemingly endless love for the ladies. We like the guy so much that even all this time after his death, we get together and throw him a birthday party every year on the 25th of January. A chance to eat too much, drink too much, and spend time with family and friends during the most depressing month of the year? Sounds great!

Why Have Cake When You Can Have Haggis?

Although many locals might try to convince you that it’s a small, friendly animal with lopsided legs that bounds about the hillsides of the Highlands (something that 33% of American tourists believed in 2003), the fact might be harder to swallow than the fiction. You just need to believe me when I tell you that the mashed up heart, lung, and liver of a sheep (with some filler ingredients like oatmeal) can actually be incredibly appetizing. Really, I’m being serious!

So now you know what haggis is. And fear not if you’re particularly squeamish or just don’t eat meat at all, there are plenty of vegetarian haggis alternatives on offer that are just as tasty and far easier to stomach.

A traditional Burns supper consists of bagpipes, traditional Scottish food, graces, toasts, the recital of Burns' own loving address to the haggis, and plenty of Scotch whisky. It’s an unmissable night for anybody who wants to experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of Scotland at its most shamelessly Scottish. Why not give it a go this week at Teviot?

If a full Burns supper seems like a bit too much of a commitment to try a food you’re not even sure you’ll like, consider visiting one of these Edinburgh restaurants to have a taste.

The World’s End

This pub on the Royal Mile offers an extensive selection of haggis-based fare, as well as an impressive malt whisky collection, so it's a solid choice of location to immerse yourself in all things Scottish.

On the food menu is a traditional portion of haggis, neeps, and tatties served as a starter, as well as some more adventurous options including haggis nachos, a burger topped with haggis and whiskey sauce, and a haggis and potato pie. It may be worth taking a few friends so you can try everything that’s on offer. Or maybe order it all for yourself. Either way.


For another innovative way to enjoy haggis in Edinburgh, check out Mamma’s on the Grassmarket. Mamma’s is a pizzeria that offers some more unusual options such as cactus, banana, marshmallow and, of course, haggis. A vegetarian haggis is also available. Trick your friends into coming with you “for a pizza” and then force them all to try The Scotsman, topped with haggis, potato, onion, and mushroom.

Hadrian’s Brasserie

Situated within The Balmoral Hotel (that’s the one with the big clock tower beside Waverley Station), Hadrian’s is definitely a more upmarket place to give haggis a go. While a starter portion is only a tenner, maybe it's best to wait until your parents are in town to visit, unless you plan on doing a mid-course runner.


Bringing things back down to earth with an option more suited to a student’s budget, Clamshell is a fish and chips takeaway on the High Street that offers a haggis supper, a Braveheart pizza (cheese, tomato, haggis, and onion), and a baked potato topped with haggis. Next time you’re needing to line your stomach before a night out in the Old Town, you know where to head.

Whether you're an Edinburgh local with a longstanding fear of haggis, or a student from outside Scotland interesting in trying our national dish, I hope that you at least now know what it is and why we’re eating it. Maybe you’ll try haggis at some point this week or further in the future. Even if it’s just a packet of those slightly terrifying looking haggis pakoras in Sainsbury’s.