Posted by: Elder and Sister Hambelton | January 20, 2012

Introduction to Scottish Culture

Although we have not come close to seeing all the marvelous sights and wonderful historic buildings here in Scotland, nor have we experienced all of Scotland’s unique culture, we have had some unique Scottish experiences.

The national dish of Scotland is Haggis. Haggis is a dish containing sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for approximately three hours. Sound appealing?

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

Well we had some the first night we were in Scotland at a Young Adult Center activity.Today haggis is cooked in a casing not the sheep’s stomach and may or may not include the heart and lungs. The haggis we ate was really pretty good. It will be served at one of several Robbie Burns Dinners we have been invited to. Robert Burns of course is a national hero, poet laureate and favorite son. Haggis is traditionally served for Burn’s dinners which happen on or near January 25th each year complete with “neeps and tatties” (Scots:Swedish turnip and potato, boiled and mashed separately) which we also have had and like quite well.

Another traditional meal is Stake Pie. Good ole Scottish Angus beef is baked up in a pie crust (often with an ale sauce). The Stake Pie is served anytime but is a tradition during Hogmanay.

Traditional Stake Pie

Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year in the Scottish manner. It is, however, only the start of a celebration which lasts through the night until the morning of New Year’s Day (1 January) or, in some cases, January 2nd which is a Scottish Bank Holiday. In Edinburgh Hogmanay is an international celebration with over 70,000 gathering downtown on Princes street below Edinburgh Castle to see the New Year in. It is an amazing celebration with a lot of partying, music and fireworks. It is truly Scottish and bigger than Christmas. And it lasts all week, and virtually nothing is open for business. Although we did not participate in hogmany (home by 6:00pm)  we were fortunate to have Stake Pie on New Years day with local members and friends who invited us to dinner.

Princes Street Hogmanay

Thousands crowd the streets

Music is the heart and soul of Scottish culture (not counting the highland games). Bagpipe music is played every day on the corner of Princes Street and Waverly station in downtown Edinburgh. One of the biggest events of the year is a bagpipe and drum military procession called the tattoo held at the castle. Every military regiment in Scotland has a pipe and drum band. We hear it often at other locations and attractions though out Edinburgh.

Bagpipes downtown Edinburgh

Scottish folk music is another genre of music that is world-famous. One of our Stake Presidency members is a professional singer and he invited his friend Davy Holt to his home for an intimate concert. He invited a number of friends and all of the senior couples in the area. Davy Holt is Scotland’s #1 folk singer and regularly tours internationally as well as throughout the UK. He was a tremendous musician and singer, it was a great evening. Many songs are sing-along favorites in Scotland and others involve audience participation. It was a fun evening and we enjoyed hearing the music without having to go to a pub to hear it.

Davy Holt

Audience participation

So much fun!

We are definitely getting a good introduction to Scottish culture. We look forward to learning and experiencing more.



  1. Glad you two are enjoying the culture of Scotland. Love to read your updates. Phyllis

  2. Great post! Thanks for the primer! I’m going to ask Carlson about that musician. What a treat. I’m super jealous. In college I used to go to the basement of a Presbyterian church with Carlson for regular Celtic jams and line dancing – great fun! They sometimes let me play the Irish drum (mercy gesture). Never even seen haggis before – thanks for including pics.

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