Discover Scotland’s Highland Games

Highland Games

Scotland’s Highland Games are a historical-cultural festival that has taken place around Scotland every summer for hundreds of years.

The Games is a chance for each local district to continue the tradition of hosting an exciting, vibrant celebration of Scottish culture.

Highland GamesIf you are planning to visit Scotland this summer, then you may wish to consider stopping off at a local Highland Games. Indeed for many visitors, Scotland’s Highland Games dictates both their timing and their route.

There are some wonderful Wolsey Lodges located in Scotland and you can visit here for route and luxury Lodge suggestions. Pair that with Highland Games locations and timings found here and you can’t go wrong.

The Highland Games today are a celebration of Scottish culture including kilts, tartan, pipe bands and wonderful food and drink. It is also a significant homecoming event for which residents living abroad will return home.

Yet the Games are also an excellent occasion for first-time visitors to Scotland to enjoy. Expect to see local bars and restaurants booked up and open late for the weekend, and take the time to enjoy the welcoming atmosphere.

Early Highland Games

The first mention of events related to the Highland Games is in 1093 when King Malcolm III looking for a new royal messenger held a competition for the fastest runner up Craig Choinnach overlooking Braemar.  Subsequent events focussed on events highlighting strength and bravery.

Homecoming is just one part of the traditions of the Highland Games which are being kept alive in Scotland today.Highland Games

Those participating, as well as spectating the Games, are part of a practice that has been ongoing in Scotland for hundreds of years with the oldest Highland Games believed to be the Ceres Games in Fife in 1314.

Yet the Highland Games began historically as a congregation of local clans in the area and the punishing tasks in the competition were the means of selecting the most skilled and strongest men to fight for the Clan Chief.

However, the sharing of music and dance was also greatly important to the event and would bring the Clan notoriety.

Looking back at the history of the Highland Games, the events rose in popularity after the fall of the Jacobite uprisings in the 1700s when the prestige of Highland life- tartan, kilts, traditional music and dance – were outlawed in the Scottish Highlands.

This caused the Games to become very popular when the laws were relaxed over time as a means of maintaining and protecting these traditions.

Highland Games in the Victorian Era

The Highland Games became an annual event largely from the 1800s when labour unions took over the maintenance of the events and the Games received a great endorsement by Queen Victoria at this time. The Queen often frequents the Braemar Gathering in Ballater as do the modern British Royal family.

Today we see Games that showcase the best of historical Highland Bagpiping, Highland Dancing and of course the athletically challenging Highland Games themselves.

Those of you that find yourselves in Braemar may wish to take the time to visit the Braemar Highland Games Centre for a taste of the event.

Highland GamesHighland Games Heavy Events

Caber Toss: A long log stood upright hoisted by the competitor who needs to throw the log over itself into the 12 o’clock position i.e. to turn the caber.

Stone put: Similar to the modern-day shot put using a large stone instead of a steel shot. Using stones weighing between 6- 12kg with classes for both men and women.

Scottish Hammer Throw: Another event that influences the modern-day hammer throw albeit with some Scottish differences.

Additional Heavy Event classes include Weight Throwing, Sheaf Tossing and Maide-leisg (Scots Gaelic meaning Lazy Stick).

Highland Games Music and Dance

For me, I can never get enough of the wonderful pipe bands we have in Scotland so attending the games with 20 or so massed Pipe Bands makes it all worthwhile.

With an opening of Scotland the Brave or Amazing Grace and a wide range of piping and drumming competitions designed to tug at your heartstrings, you will go home a renewed person.

Combine that with the beauty and talent of Highland Dancing which is mesmerising in itself. Add to that the number of different generations taking part you can see how history has interwoven itself into the Scottish psyche and these traditions is not going to die out.

Highland Games in 2021

Highland GamesSadly this year most of the Games are either being cancelled or going online and so it is even more important to check your timings and route.

However, if you are here and travel is open and even if you miss a Highland Games you will still have the opportunity to explore the local sites, scenic Scottish whisky country and beautiful landscapes with many local sites of interest.

Thanks to the Highland Games encouraging tradition you may well meet the locals who will be keen to talk to you about these events.

Of course, it goes without saying that staying in a Scottish Wolsey Lodge will truly bring home the Homecoming experience as you will meet the locals and be welcomed as friends.

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