Highland Games

Blazing with brightly colored tartans and ringing with the sound of
bagpipes, the Highland Games are unique sporting and cultural events
celebrating all things Scottish, and are held in towns throughout the

Highlands every summer. The games, or “gatherings,” go back at least 900 years. They
originated as county fairs with competitions providing clan chiefs the chance to observe
the physical prowess of the area’s most promising young lads. The tradition continues
today, as a breed of tough, kilted Scotsmen known as Heavies engage in traditional sports
such as “throwing the hammer,” “putting the stone,” and the gatherings’ prime event, “tossing
the caber”—heaving a 20-foot tree trunk weighing upward of 130 pounds. Alongside
the traditional musclebound displays, there are foot races and long-jump competitions,
plus all kinds of Highlands dancing and music, and a wee bit of whisky to help the celebrations
along.

Highland Games
Highland Games

Of Scotland’s 40-plus annual gatherings, those at Braemar are among the most
renowned. In the 19th century, Queen Victoria used to come to watch from her nearby
Scottish residence of Balmoral Castle, and the current royal family maintains the tradition.

with the men donning kilts for the occasion. The monarch is honored as Chieftain of the
Braemar Gathering.
If watching the Highland dancers and athletes tires you out or stirs up your appetite, a
night at the Auld Kirk in the charming little town of Ballater, a few miles east of Braemar,
will reinvigorate the senses. This former Victorian-era church is now a fine restaurant,
with many of the original ecclesiastical details still in place, making it an intriguing setting in
which to enjoy modern Scottish cuisine. And though the emphasis here is on food, six welcoming bedrooms are hidden away in the Kirk’s upper floor, providing a perfect place to
prolong the experience.

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