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Burns Night: Haggis, Whisky and Poetry

Today is one of the stand out celebrations in the Scottish calendar, for today is Burns Night. The annual festival celebrates the life and poetry of Scottish national poet Robert Burns (above), who was born on this very day (January 25th) in 1759. In typically Scottish style, the celebrations are a brilliant mix of solemn traditions and raucous fun.

Traditions and Celebrations

Burns Night is all about celebrating everything that is Scottish, and centres around a supper held in the evening. Many people will dress in traditional Scottish clothes for the evening, which often means donning a tartan kilt. However, the most important aspect of any Burns Night supper, has to be the haggis. Haggis is the most quintessential of all Scottish foods, and if you haven't tried or even seen one before, you may not like the sound of what it is made from. Sheep's heart, liver and lungs are minced with onion, oatmeal, suet (beef fat), and spices and then boiled in a sheep's stomach for 3 hours. Sounds nice eh?

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The Northern Lights Thrill Britain

Parts of Scotland and Northern England have enjoyed stunning displays of the Northern Lights over the last few nights. Unusually strong solar storms have caused the aurora borealis to be seen far further south than normal, allowing people to enjoy their best appearance in more than a decade.

Although the Northern Lights are most usually associated with the Arctic Circle, they can be seen fairly regularly in northern parts of Scotland. However, it is very rare that they ever reach as far south as England, and locals are taking full advantage of the beautiful sight. For the last two nights English counties as far south as Yorkshire have been enraptured by the lights, and can expect one final hurrah tonight. Indeed, Robin Scagell from the Society for Popular Astronomy, said:

"It looks like we could be treated to another cosmic light show and so it is well worth watching the northern part of the heavens."

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£600,000 of Damage at Scottish Universities

Broken headboards, flooding, fire damage and stained mattresses are the most common forms of damage done by Scottish students in their halls of residence. New figures show that universities in Scotland have suffered over £600,000 worth of damage by their own students in the last five years, with an average of seven new cases each day.

Figures have been taken from all of Scotland's 21 universities since the year 2006, with the total amount of damage adding up to £610,000, spread over 14,000 different cases.

Aberdeen University has the dubious honour of having the most reckless students, as it recorded £144,000 worth of damage in the past five years. However, the university claimed that the vast majority of the damage caused was simply through everyday use and that very few students are ever fined for damage to their rooms:

"Most of the damage is identified once the students have vacated the property and it is unlikely to lead to disciplinary action...Students who have persisted in causing vandalism have been evicted from student residences."

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Giant Pandas Arrive at Edinburgh Zoo

Two giant pandas are to be the first to live in the UK for 17 years after they were flown over from China to Edinburgh Zoo on Sunday. Tian Tian, meaning ‘Sweetie', and Yang Guang, meaning ‘Sunshine', are said to be settling in well but are still a little jet lagged.

The pandas arrived as part of developing links between Scotland and China, and have been lent to the zoo from Bifengxia Panda Base. After a couple of weeks of settling in to their new home, they will go on show to the public from Friday 16th December and are expected to stay at the zoo for at least the next ten years.

Five Years Effort

The pandas have a brand new £250,000 enclosure and Edinburgh Zoo's director of business operations, Gary Wilson, revealed:

"They are getting on very well. We were really surprised how well they settled into their enclosure. They are obviously quite jet lagged. They are in a strange sequence of sleeping for two hours and eating for two hours, a bit like most humans when they fly half way around the world."

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Edinburgh: A Student Travel Guide

One of the best things about living in the UK is how quick, easy and cheap it is to get to around Britain and to mainland Europe. For short weekend breaks there are so many options it can be hard to decide where to go. To help you out we are creating a series of guides to places in Europe that are perfect for short holidays. If you have been anywhere exciting in Europe and want to write a short guide, then please get in contact with us

At, it is Scotland Week this week, so we thought it would be fitting to do a travel guide to the Scottish capital city. If you like the sound of Edinburgh and want a chance to win a free trip to Scotland, make sure you check out our competition here. It is so easy to enter and it is up to you whether you win or not!


Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is an important literary and cultural centre, and a brilliant choice if you are looking for a weekend away.

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