The annual outdoor events begin in Scotland in mid-May and take place in villages and towns up and down the country until mid-September.
Up to 100 Highland Games will be happening during this time including, of course, the world’s biggest (Cowal Highland Games in Dunoon) and the country’s most famous (The Braemar Gathering), which has been attended by the Royal family since the middle of the 19th century.
Highland Games have long-been a summer tradition in Scotland but did you know that the first official Highland Games took place in 1314? In the centuries that followed, they have grown in popularity and in numbers – some attract more than 10,000 national and international visitors!
Hundreds of pipers and drummers also travel from miles around to attend each Highland Games, march and play for the ever-growing crowds.
First established in the north of Scotland, local Highland Games continue to be a big annual event in most towns’ calendars today and take up a year to organise. But did you know that the Scottish Highland Games Association (SHGA), which represents Traditional Highland Games in Scotland, also has many members overseas?
Attending a Highland Games is an ideal chance to come together as a family, or with friends, and celebrate your true Scottish heritage.
As well as the usual ‘heavy events’, like caber tossing and hammer throwing, there are Highland Dancing competitions – another integral part of any Highland Games – and entertainment for the whole family to enjoy in your community, a neighbouring Scottish town and abroad.
Find out where your local Games are taking place, and make sure you are in attendance to show your support. Here are just a few happening this summer…
The Ballater Highland Games are held annually on the second Thursday in August in Monaltrie Park, Ballater and in 2019 the Games will be held on Thursday 8th August.
There have been Games held in Ballater since 1864 and, apart from the war years, the Games have continued uninterrupted until the present day.
Many famous athletes and champions have competed at Ballater. Today the events form part of the circuits comprising the Glenfiddich Heavy Events Championship and the Grampian Games Qualifying Championship, which encourages the younger athletes to participate in the heavy and field events.
Ballater Highland Games, held at Monaltrie Park, prides itself in having something for everyone, young and old alike.
There are all the traditional events and competitions, including combined pipe bands, hill race and tilt the bucket, as well as a beer tent, food and trade stalls and a children’s funfair.
On occasion, personalities are to be seen, and one memorable day a military 25 pounder was fired by a certain television presenter to signal the start of the Hill Race.
To complete the day, Beat Retreat by the Pipe Bands is planned for 7pm on the Church Green in Ballater.
Gates open 10am, events start 11am and the official opening will be at noon.
Bute Highland Games will be held on Saturday 24th August – a welcome return to their traditional second last Saturday in August slot on the Highland Games circuit.
Chairman Douglas Lyle and the organising committee of the Bute Highland Games are delighted to welcome Samantha Ella Embury as this year’s chieftain. Samantha is a member of the Bute family and a self-confessed lover and passionate supporter of the beautiful island.
She is very much involved in the Bute Family Trust (set up by her grandfather) which supports many good causes on the island. She is also passionate about supporting young people who may be at risk and has worked in this field in Brazil and the UK.
She is married to Gavin and they have two children, Louie and Honor. She says she is “excited and incredibly honoured” to be the 2019 Chieftain.
The High Street Stadium is a scenic backdrop for the Bute Games, known as the “family friendly games”.
There is something for everyone – pipes and drums; Highland dancing; athletics; heavy events; wrestling; junior shinty; and the ever popular and scenic 10k road race.
There are also trade stands, catering and attractions for youngsters.
Ceres Games are the oldest free games in Scotland.
There has been a market and games held in Ceres at the end of June every year (except for war and during the period of the 1746 Act of Proscription) since 1314. In that year, the charter to do so was given to the people of the village by Robert Bruce in recognition of their support at the Battle of Bannockburn.
The battle was fought in order to preserve the right of the Scots to determine how they would be ruled.
With the 705th anniversary of Bannockburn being celebrated during the next event, it is appropriate that people take up the Bruce’s offer to enjoy the midsummer Games. As usual, the games will be a cheerful mix of pipe music, dancing, wrestling, heavy events, cycling and running.
Around the Bow Butts, there will be shows, stalls, a refreshment tent and, of course, the magnificent GamesBurger barbeque.
Most of all, the organisers would encourage you to attend the Games, held on the close, intimate stage of the Bow Butts, and to invite your friends and family to join you. It is a unique celebration of the village and our history and the planning, preparation, fundraising and enjoyment of the Games, even the tidying up afterwards.
The 22nd annual Cornhill Highland Games takes place on Saturday 1st June 2019 in Cornhill, by Banff, Aberdeenshire.
Part of the Scottish Highland Games Association and Grampian Games Association, Cornhill Highland Games is a highlight on the calendar for competitors and visitors alike. The Highland Dancing Competition kicks off the day from 10.30am, with all other events starting from 11am.
The programme includes full traditional Highland Games heavy events including tossing the caber, putting the stone, hammer throwing and throwing weights for distance. This is complemented by a number of light events throughout the day from races to high jump and long jump.
Entries are invited for the 10k road race and challenging Knock Hill Race, an 8.5 miles road and hill race to the top of the local Knock Hill and back. Now in its 49th year, the Knock Hill Race continues to attract runners from near and far to compete for the prizemoney and satisfaction of completing the course! Over 16s are welcome to enter on the day from 10am for an 11am start.
The Tug of War competition is a hotly contested one, with teams from across Scotland battling for a qualifying place to compete at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh later in the year.
As well as spectating the strength, determination and challenges of the competitors, visitors to the Games can enjoy good local produce, browse handmade crafts and socialise in the licensed bar with music from 4pm. Younger visitors can enjoy zorbing, a range of inflatables, face painting, storytelling and other children’s activities.
It’s a day for all the family to enjoy!
Crieff Highland Gathering is Scotland’s premier Highland Games and looks forward to welcoming you on Sunday 18th August 2019 in the centre of Crieff at the iconic Market Park.
They have a full programme of traditional Highland games competitions including Running, Cycling, Highland Dancing, Light Field, and Tug o War. There will also be traditional music in the music tent, as well as showcasing several Pipe Bands as well as the spine-tingling salute to the Chieftain.
Crieff Games is also the home of the most prestigious heavyweight event in the calendar – the Scottish Heavyweight Championships – with participants taking part in tossing the caber, tossing the hammer, putting the shot and throwing the weight.
The first Crieff Highland Gathering was in 1870 and continues to be the major annual local and tourist attraction in the area attracting circa 6,000 people.
Over the years Crieff Highland Games has been privileged with some notable Chieftains including Ewan McGregor OBE, Kenny Logan, Elaine C Smith and Allan Wells MBE in addition to our Royal Chieftain HRH Earl of Strathearn KT, Prince William.
The annual Gourock Highland Games, now celebrating its 63rd year, kicks off the Scottish Highland games season on Sunday 12th May at noon in Battery Park, Gourock.
Over 10,000 people are expected to attend the one-day event which features top quality piping competitions in the first run out ahead of the opening Major of the season; traditional highland games competition including tossing the caber and lifting the Kempock Stane; the West of Scotland Highland Dance Championships; a range of come and try sports including golf, tennis and archery; mini Highland Games with Inverclyde Active Schools; food, drink and entertainment; traders’ tent hosting James Watt merchandise and a range of craft stalls; Gourock Community tent with local community information youth groups and tourist information; plus a range of other fun activities and events.
Public transport available by rail to Fort Matilda Station, which is only a few minutes’ walk away, or by bus with McGill’s Coaches which stop right at the park.
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