Monday, 25 January 2016

Burns Night.



I'll start with an admission: I'm not a fan of Robert Burns' work. I think it probably stems from being forced to memorise his poems in primary school, and recite them in front of the whole class (pretty sure I can't pronounce half of it now, never mind when I was seven). What I do like though, is food, and any excuse for a fancy meal is one I'll take.


For any non-Scots, I'll do a quick overview for you. Robert Burns was a Scottish poet, famous for works such as Auld Langs Syne, Tam O'Shanter, Ae Fond Kiss and To A Mouse amongst others. His birthday, 25th January, is celebrated in Scotland with a Burns Night supper, where a haggis is, weirdly, led into the dining room by a bagpiper. Then, the host will recite Address to a Haggis (also by Burns), plunge a knife into the haggis and cut it open, before a quick whisky toast. Frankly, the whole thing is slightly bizarre, but hey ho. 

I personally love haggis, but the traditional meal of haggis, neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes) is just not for me. It's all a bit dry and boring, but the alternative of having gravy with it is just weird. So this year, I decided we'd celebrate with a meal of Balmoral chicken - chicken stuffed with haggis, covered with strips of bacon, with mash, veg and whisky sauce. So good.

Seeing as us Scots take any opportunity to blow our own trumpets, I thought I'd celebrate Burns Night by sharing some of the best things to come out of our tiny wee country. Maybe you can check them out, or share some of your own personal favourites?

My Favourite Scottish Music
Biffy Clyro

Just consistently brilliant music - I don't think they've produced an album that I didn't like. More importantly, they are incredible live. One of my favourite bands altogether.

Monticule

An absolutely brilliant up and coming band from Edinburgh. Their music is a beautiful blend of blues and alternative music, and their songs are stunning. Definitely have a listen.

Chvrches

I love this band, their music is really unique and fun. I also saw them perform live a few years ago, before they'd really made waves, and they were excellent.

Paolo Nutini

Not only is he kind of a babe, his voice is beautiful too. Pencil Full of Lead is one of those songs that it's impossible to not be cheered up by, but some of his more mellow songs are truly fantastic.

The Proclaimers

Maybe it's not that cool to like them, but the Proclaimers and their music make me really happy. 'Over and Done With' gets stuck in my head way more often than it should, and try and find me a Scot who won't go a bit mental if 'I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)' is the last song on a night out.

My Favourite Scottish Authors

Irvine Welsh
After the first page of trying to decipher 'Trainspotting' (I had to read it out loud to get it to make sense) I was hooked. Clever, darkly funny and thoroughly enjoyable.

Arthur Conan Doyle
I'll admit, despite having a statue of him in my city, it took until I fell in love with the BBC tv show Sherlock before I picked up a Sherlock Holmes book. Why did I waste so much time?! Seriously entertaining, even after over 100 years.

Val McDermid
Val may be the entire reason I wanted to become a psychologist. Her books featuring Dr Tony Hill are my particular favourites, but in general her books are excellent, gripping crime novels.

Ian Rankin
I love a hero that is hard to like (my favourite tv character is Tony Soprano, for instance) and Rankin's Inspector Rebus is certainly flawed. But these books are so wonderfully written, and as a bonus, they're set in Edinburgh (can you see my bias appearing yet...?)

Christopher Brookmyre
Probably the author of some of the best-named novels of all time ('Quite Ugly One Morning' is a particular favourite), these books are full of satire and black humour. The kind of book that makes you feel more intelligent for having read.

Most Beautiful Places I've Been To

Dunnottar Castle
Photo credit: scotlandjanterm.net
Just look at it, it's like something out of Game of Thrones.

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
Photo credit: visitscotland.com
This beautiful national park has all the lochs and hills you'd expect, but it's less than an hour's drive from the big cities. Lovely countryside on your doorstep.

Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness
Photo credit: undiscoveredscotland.co.uk
One of the most famous destinations in Scotland, but the castle here is one of the best. Yes, it's in ruins, but I love a bit of history, and you don't get better backdrops than this one.

Cairngorms
Photo credit: scotlandsnature.wordpress.com
Probably the most accessible part of the Highlands, with so much to do - hillwalking, mountain biking, white water rafting and of course, the UK's main ski centre.

Assynt
Photo credit: guy-richardson.com
Up in the north-west, this area has scenery so stunning I can't actually believe it's part of the same country I live in. Scotland at it's best.

Most Beautiful Places I Want To Visit

Isle of Skye
Photo credit: scotlandnow.dailyrecord.co.uk
I've briefly passed through on the way to it's neighbour Raasay, but this island has so much to explore. Top of my list is the Fairy Pools.

Isle of Harris
Photo credit: Flickr - jimlaide
Please take me to Luskintyre beach asap. 

Orkney
Photo credit: visitscotland.com
Skara Brae looks unbelievable. SO much history, beautiful scenery and amazing wildlife. 

Glenfinnan Viaduct
Photo credit: roughguide.com
You might recognise this from the Harry Potter movies. I'd love to take a trip on this picturesque railway line.

Fingal's Cave
Photo credit: bbc.co.uk
A cave on the tiny isle of Staffa, this looks absolutely magical.

Best Scottish Food, in my opinion :)

Full Scottish Breakfast
Photo credit: babygrandglasgow.com
Square (Lorne) sausage, tattie scones, black pudding... you guys don't even understand how good it is.

Fish and Chips (with chippy sauce!)
Photo credit: goodfoodrevolution.com
We tend to use haddock for our fish and chips, while the rest of the UK seems to use cod. We're also experts in how to deep fry every single food, so we excel with chippies. And if you're from Edinburgh, you'll know what I mean when I say chippy sauce is the best.

Stovies
Photo credit: truehighlands.com
Tatties, mince, onions... comfort food at it's best.

Haggis
Photo credit: donaldrussell.com
If you know what it consists of, don't let it put you off. If you don't know, give it a try before you look it up. Surprisingly tasty.

Tablet
Photo credit: cyclingcook.blogspot.com
Essentially just a bar of sugar, this stuff will rot your teeth but you won't even care.

This was so hard - there's so much I wanted to include: Tunnocks caramel wafers and snowballs, macaroons, Irn Bru bars and ice lollies, Luca's ice cream (it's the best in the world)...

Generally Just Great Things About Scotland

The humour
Photo credit: twitter.com/sharpis
Living under perpetual rainclouds, we have had to develop a cracking sense of humour. We have some amazing comics like Billy Connolly and Kevin Bridges, but the general population are also hilarious. The amount of times I've found myself cry-laughing over things Scots have posted on Twitter is just ridiculous.

Irn-Bru
Photo credit: irn-bru.co.uk
Hangover cure, elixir of life, just the best drink ever made.

Our National Animal
Photo credit: thinklink.com
It's a unicorn, guys. Seriously. A unicorn. That's how truly fabulous we are.

Free Higher Education
Photo credit: meetingsbooker.com
I know this is a bit of a sore spot for the lovely people in the rest of the UK, and I know it's very unlikely to last forever, but this little benefit is without a doubt the only reason I managed to get a degree from that beautiful establishment above. Thanks, Scottish Government!

Ceilidhs
Photo credit: jiggered.com
No-one knows how to actually do the dances. Everyone's steaming. People are gieing it laldy and getting way too into it, and someone is guaranteed to fall over. It will leave you dizzy to the point of sickness, and it's the most exercise you've had in years. But there's hot men in kilts, so swings and roundabouts...

What are your favourite things about where you are from?

Alba gu brĂ th!
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