If you are looking for an occasion that encapsulates the Highland experience, then get yourself along to one of our Highland Games this month
The summer calendar hasn’t been the same without these landmark events in recent years, which is why there is such a buzz around them this year as we welcome them back.
Highland Games are full of traditions and competitions at the heart of local culture, with many allegedly tracing their origins back hundred of years to battle techniques of old – think tossing the caber, putting the shot and throwing the hammer.
These events give you an opportunity to watch strong men and women competing, but also there are usually chances for you to give a game a go, too. It’s not all fighting and throwing, either – Highland dancing and music are a big part of the Games atmosphere, too, and track and field heats.
As well as these nods to history, Games have grown to have lots of modern delights, too, like fine food and shopping stalls. All in all, the makings of a fantastic family day out.
Did you know? Fun facts about Highland Games
The Lonach Gathering is famous for a huge army march the day before the games kicks off. These games were founded in 1823 and continue to fulfil the original mission to preserve Highland dress!
Abernethy Highlands Games is the 2nd oldest Highland Games and is commonly known as the “friendly games”
The Highland bagpipe is the only musical instrument that has ever been proscribed as a weapon of war, with the penalty for playing it being death (for more history titbits like this, why not visit the Clan Macpherson Museum?)
Possibly the most famous Highland Games in the world is the Braemar Gathering, due to the fact it has a long tradition of being attended by the Royal family, which continues to today. It even has a Highland Games Centre, with exhibitions telling the history of the games, on site at Braemar. The exhibition features unusual artefacts such as a brooch presented to the ‘best dancer’ in 1848, which was the first games attended by Queen Victoria. There’s also a letter, written in 1936, by King George V himself, intimating that the Highlanders March could no longer take place as the clansmen no longer looked the part! If you visit the centre, you must remember to look up and see the fabulous ceiling commissioned by Queen Victoria of real, local highlanders. The eight featured on the ceiling belong to neighbouring estates and came to the first Gatherings from places like Blair Atholl, Duff, Invercauld and Lonach.
The story goes that the man who invented the Olympics – French aristocrat Baron Pierre de Coubertin – was actually inspired by seeing a Highland Games in action!
Competing athletes must wear a kilt and kilt socks
There are at least 7 different throwing disciplines, with quite a few categories doing a ‘light’ as well as ‘heavy’ competition. According to current Scottish heavyweight champion Kyle Randalls, the Scots hammer throwing event is most engaging to watch because it goes further and the act of spinning around three times before releasing the hammer looks spectacular.
Highland Games Dates for 2022
Newtonmore Highland Games: Saturday 6 August – A formal march, where the crowd follows behind the clan chief, takes place on the Saturday afternoon
Ballater Highland Games: Thursday 11 August
The Abernethy Highland Games: Saturday 13 August. A highlight of this Games is the fact that you can travel via steam train in Aviemore, to the Games, exiting at Broomhill Station
Glenisla Highland Games: Friday 19 August
Lonach Highland Games: Saturday 27 August
Braemar Highland Games: Saturday 3 September