Events

What can I expect at a Scottish Highland games?

Sporting prowess

Bliar Atholl shot put
Heavy contests, including the hammer throw and weight for height, see competitors putting their muscles to the test, while field events such as the hill race and cycling competition test speed and stamina.

Did you know that Baron Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, was so impressed by a Highland display he saw at the 1889 Paris Exhibition that he introduced the hammer throw, shot put and the tug o' war to his competition? Talk about high praise! The former two are still included in the Olympics programme to this day - just one of the many fascinating facts of the Highland games.

Bagpipes and drums

Atholl Highlanders Parade Blair Castle 
For many, one of the most memorable sights of the Highland games is the massed bands, when hundreds of pipers and drummers from different groups come together to play and march in unison. Look out for the solo piping competitions too, where competitors play in a range of styles, including the slow, stately and complex Pibroch which is considered to be the classical music of the bagpipe.

Highland dancing

Blair Atholl Highland dancers 

Dancers give dazzling displays of fancy footwork in Scottish dances, such as the sword dance and the famous Highland fling. Competing for titles both solo and in groups, their colourful outfits and infectious energy will leave you in high spirits. The Cowal Highland Gathering is renowned for the quality of its Highland dancing, drawing in the best performers from around the globe as they compete in the Scottish and World Championships.

Clan celebrations

Wallace clan tug o' war Lonach HG

Highland games once saw clan members go head-to-head in fierce competition - and you'll still see this enthusiasm when clans muster all their might in a tug-war. These days, clan attendance at games is now more of a social and ceremonial affair. Some Highland games are part of a wider clan gathering - a celebratory get-together featuring parades, Scottish music and dancing, feasts, heritage events and much joviality.

The Highland games

What do you get when you combine international athletes, local communities and visitors at a Highland games in Scotland? A warm welcome and a cracking family-friendly day out!

With traditional heavy athletic events like tug-o-war and the caber toss, as well as Highland dance competitions, track and field events, and piping, the games are a spectacle like no other. And it all takes place against a scenic Scottish backdrop. What more could you want?

A little bit of history

Braemar Gathering crowd sunny day

Some believe the roots of the Highland games date as far back as the 11th century, when King Malcolm III called a foot race to the summit of Craig Choinnich, near Braemar, in the hopes of finding the fastest runner in the land to become his personal courier. Many games still include a hill race, although the winner is no longer destined for a life of servitude!

The games evolved into a test not only of strength and stamina, but also of creative dance and music skills, to keep kings, queens and clan chiefs entertained.

When are Scotland's Highland games?

Highland games combine sport, fun and culture in a uniquely Scottish style and take place every weekend in the summer. From May to September you can get in on the action at one of over 80 Highland games taking place on islands and in towns, villages and cities across the country - some castle grounds host games too.

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