You’d find it more difficult to find an event more “Scottish” than a Highland Games – with the sea of tartan, bagpipes, highland dancing and brute strength competitions. The first historical reference to Highland Games events in Scotland was made during the reign of King Malcolm III, when he summoned men to race up Craig Choinnich near Braemar in order to find a royal messenger. Indeed this tradition continues, with the Hill Race at the annual Braemar Gathering being one of the highlights of the weekend.
With over 100 Highland Games taking place in Scotland between May and September, it can be difficult to know which are the best ones to attend when you visit Scotland, so here is some information about top five.
The Braemar Gathering takes place in the Highland village of Braemar, near Balmoral, on the first Saturday of September each year. The line up includes Heavy Events (think tossing the caber & throwing the hammer), Pipe Band & Highland Dancing competitions, Tug o’ War and the famous Hill Race.
Located close to the Queen’s Scottish holiday home, Balmoral, attending this games is a rare opportunity to see the Royal Family at their most relaxed, with the Queen, Prince Philip and their children regularly in attendance to watch the events of the day.
For more information about the Braemar Gathering and to book tickets, visit their website: braemargathering.org
Cowal Highland Gathering
The Cowal Highland Gathering is held in Dunoon, Argyll, each year in August and dates back to 1894. Over the course of the weekend you will see world-class pipers, dancers and athletes competing on a large scale and if you visit, you will be joining the some 23,000 visits who attend these Highland Games each year.
In addition to the day time events, there is also an evening event on the Friday night called “Gig at the Gathering”, where you have the opportunity to join the party and enjoy the traditional Scottish music at what is renowned as one of the top ceilidh music events in the calendar.
For more information about Cowal Highland Gathering and to book tickets, visit their website: cowalgathering.com
Inverarary Highland Games
Inverarary is a traditional county town in Argyll and the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll. As the gateway to the Highlands and Islands, this is the perfect Highland Games to attend if you are planning to visit more of Scotland.
The games take place in the grounds of Inverarary Castle, and start with a pipe band parade from the centre of the town to the castle.
At these games you can watch Highland Dancing, a Solo Piping Competition that takes runs for the full day and Heavy and Light sporting events. In fact, The Caber World Championship will be contested again at Inveraray Games in 2019.
For more information and to book tickets, visit the Inverarary Games website: inveraray-games.co.uk
Atholl Highlanders Parade and Gathering
The Atholl Gathering takes place on the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May each year, in the grounds of Blair Castle in Highland Perthshire.
Heavy weight strong men from around the world take centre stage at the games, with traditional events such as tossing the caber, putting the stone and throwing the hammer.
With plenty of other attractions to keep you amused for the full day, including Highland Dancing, Tug O’ War, and stalls selling Scottish crafts, food and drink, you can be sure of a fun-packed day.
For more information visit the Blair Castle website: blair-castle.co.uk
Gordon Castle Highland Games & Country Fair
For the ninth year, Scotland’s only Highland Games and Country Fair combined returns to Gordon Castle, near the village of Fochabers, east of the Cathedral city of Elgin.
Each year, this event attracts around 10,000 visitors, with a Highland Games Arena, Country Sports Arena and new in 2019, “Gig at the Games” taking place on the Friday evening, including live bands, BBQ and licensed bar.
For more information and to buy tickets for Gordon Castle Highland Games, visit: gordoncastle.co.uk