Burns Night on the Golden Hinde exterior

Burns Night on the Golden Hinde

Burns Night on the Golden Hinde

Kate Byng-Hall steps aboard for some traditional Scottish revelry on a London landmark

On the approach to the Golden Hinde, the sound of bagpipes could be heard from right round the corner.

This Burns Night, the Golden Hinde hosted an evening of whisky tasting and food aboard the reconstruction of the Tudor ship to mark the highlight of the Scottish calendar.

London’s Scotch Malt Whisky Society provided revellers with four samples of premium whisky to try as they celebrated the life of Rabbie Burns.

Stepping aboard the ship, at St Mary Overie Dock near London Bridge, was like stepping back in time. The reconstruction of Francis Drake’s ship – the first English vessel to circumnavigate the world – was built in 1971 and clambering down into the heart of the ship was definitely a taste of what it must have been like for the sailors some 450 years ago – we had to duck right down and the stairs were rather vertiginous, especially in heels!

We were greeted with smiles and whisky bottles as soon as we walked up the gangplank, and sensed this was going to be a unique experience.

Below deck, the atmosphere was lively with Scots and Englishmen alike (plus a smattering of tartan) ready to celebrate. Space was at a premium, but it managed to feel cosy rather than overcrowded.

After a lovely smoked salmon and cream cheese canapé with rustic oatcakes, it was time for the customary Scottish delicacy of haggis, neeps and tatties (crushed turnips and mash) with whisky and parsley gravy. Presentation is simple – the dish is all about the flavours and this didn’t disappoint. In fact, for my first haggis experience, I was pleasantly surprised with the rich meaty flavour and peppery seasoning.  The neeps were deliciously sweet and the gravy made it the perfect hearty meal.

We really felt the lack of space here, though, as there didn’t seem to be enough tables to accommodate all the diners, forcing us to perch on a bench and eat off our laps.

I would’ve enjoyed a much longer bagpipe accompaniment to the evening to add to the patriotic flavour as well, but someone did step in to recite Burns’ classic poem ‘Address to a Haggis’ during dinner.  Some visitors looked a little baffled, but he was still met with plenty of applause and table-banging – it was one of the highlights of the night.

After the feast, it was time to tour both the rest of the ship and the whisky tasting stations. Climbing past the 16th-century cannons was a proper adventure, and some very special whisky was the reward at the end.

We only found two of the tasting stations – we weren’t sure if we’d missed one – but the friendly staff from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society explained the samples very well.

The drams served in proper whisky glasses added to the authenticity of the experience, and all the talk of top notes, peaty-ness and flavour profiles made us feel like real connoisseurs. Three of the four bottles were unmarked so we didn’t know what brand the whisky was, allowing the flavours alone to do the talking.

There were plenty of nooks and crannies around the ship to take a seat and enjoy the warming whisky by dim candle light.  This is what made the event so charming – an escape from modern life and a taste of the past while still in the centre of London.