Highland Games

Highland Games

Are you game?

Not sure which Highland Games to check out? Simon Varwell offers a comprehensive round-up of this summer's best Games. And, if you still can't decide, you could always just visit them all.

Who would have thought that the country that brought you the deep-fried Mars bar could have also been responsible for one of the toughest and oldest sporting traditions? Centuries-old and tracing its roots to Scotland's ancient clan system, Highland Games are Scotland's very own Olympics - with inter-clan prestige now replaced with fun days out and a chance to compete in a variety of pursuits. With off-beat events like haggis-eating now joining the more traditional spectacles of tossing the caber, piping and dancing, Highland Games can be a great way of seeing Scottish culture at its most iconic, and in some of its most breath-taking locations.


Sat 25-Sun 26 Jul, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, www.clangathering.org 
Scotland's capital is a bulging feast of architecture, culture and history - it doesn't do things by halves, and the same goes for its Highland Games. The 2009 Deuchars World Highland Games Heavy Events Championship includes some of the toughest sports, including putting the stone (a form of shot put with stones weighing up to 11kg (26lb), hammer throwing, and weight throwing with a 25kg (56lb) weight - and of course the eponymous tossing the caber. It will be quite a sight to see the heavies (strongmen from across the world, who regularly compete in the Games tours and often have Olympic or Commonwealth Games experience) take on these tasks. And, for those with extra energy, there's a hill race over Arthur's Seat which - if you stop for a breather - offers stunning views across the city. 
Sell it: Big events and even bigger challenges, and a truly global spectacle - this is the Olympic Games of the Highland Games circuit. 


Sat 25-Sun 26 Jul, all across Dufftown, www.dufftownhighlandgames.org
If you want to get off the usual tourist trail, then head to beautiful Banffshire in North-East Scotland, and to Dufftown, in the heart of whisky country. This Games boasts not only the usual tough events that are exhausting even to write about, but a hill race, a tug-o-war, and various races and events for all ages. You have a real chance to make your mark on these Games too, because there's an 'Overseas Visitors' race (kilt presumably not mandatory). And don't worry if that all sounds a bit too much like hard work, because there's a beer tent so you can reward yourself with something refreshing and frothy topped afterwards. 
Sell it: A small but perfectly formed event, keeping some of the authenticity, charm and community feel that Highland Games should.


Sat 18-Sun 19 Jul, Bught Park, Inverness, www.invernesshighlandgames.com 
With nearly 200 years in its modern format, the Inverness Highland Games is a major highlight of the calendar, taking place just a few miles from scenic shores of Loch Ness. And it will take the strength of Nessie herself to take part in this year's Games, which - as part of Scotland's Year of Homecoming - plays host to the Masters World Championships. The Inverness Games will boast competitors from nearly a dozen countries, and events for men, women and juniors. This should prove to be one of the biggest Inverness Highland Games in history. But if that sounds like far too much excitement, there's always the more sublime competitions such as piping, Highland dancing and traditional music to (hopefully) soothe the senses. 
Sell it: A huge event with an international flavour, the arrival of the Masters World Championships makes this pretty unmissable.


A pretty village in rural Aberdeenshire, Strathdon comes to life when it hosts the Lonach Gathering and Highland Games. Billed as ‘Scotland’s friendliest Highland Games’ and regularly attracting in the region of 8,000 spectators, it’s a pretty big calendar event. And one nearby resident who likes to join in the fun is comedian Billy Connolly, regularly attending with his celebrity chums in tow. The Games kick off with a March of the Men of Lonach, with whisky stops en route, and the events themselves include all the favourite sports and competitions - with cabers, weights and hammers flying through the air all day.

Sell it: This quiet village is given an adrenalin injection every August and this, their 168th Highland games no less, is set to be bigger and better than ever.


Sat 15 Aug, Glenfinnan, www.lochaber.com/highlandgames/glenfinnan.htm  
Glenfinnan is a spectacular location on the shores of Loch Sheil, in the western Highlands. It is situated on the beautiful train journey from Fort William to Mallaig and from here you can sail to the Isle of Skye. And, for all you fact fans, the Glenfinnan rail viaduct is where the famous scenes of the Hogwarts Express are shot in the Harry Potter films. Moreover, the village is famous for the raising of the standard by the Jacobites before their ultimately failed rebellion in 1745. All that, even before you start on the Highland Games! The Glenfinnan Games are a pretty big event in the town, so expect it to be swimming with local talent - ready to pit themselves in one of the many sporting events. Are you game enough to take on a 'local'?  
Sell it: A massive event in a small but spectacular location, this is a real chance to meet the locals and visit a truly authentic Highland Games. 


Sat 29 Aug, Little Dunkeld, near Birnam, www.birnamhighlandgames.com 
Birnam's probably most famous for its wood, which featured in Shakespeare's Macbeth. It is in the middle of the dramatic Perthshire mountains, and just a caber toss from Dunkeld - home to an ancient cathedral. Yet this serene location is host to one of Scotland's most fun-loving Highland Games. The more typical events of hammer throwing, country dancing and bagpiping are joined by cycling, the World Haggis-Eating Championships, and the Mad Kiltie Dash. The haggis-eating championships are exactly as it says on the tin - and anyone can enter for free. Just don't remind yourself what haggis actually is and wash it down with a spot of whisky. Meanwhile the Mad Kiltie Dash is a race open to anyone with a kilt. Pants or no pants? We'll leave you to decide. 
Sell it: This is a Games that clearly knows how to have a good time and not take itself too seriously, which sounds like just our kind of event. 

Mallaig & Morar Highland Games

Small traditional Highland games with heavy events, athletics, piping, Highland dancing, and a cross country race.

Dornoch Highland Gathering

Events for all the family at this traditional Highland games, including piping, athletics, trade stalls and much more.

Aberlour Strathspey Highland Games

Traditional Highland games with massed pipe band displays, Highland dancing, heavy and light events, caber tossing, tug o'war and stalls.

Peebles Highland Games

Annual Highland games with a pipe band contest, whisky tasting and haggis hurling.

Newtonmore Highland Games

Traditional Highland games including the Clan Macpherson gathering and annual march, piping competitions, field and track events, hill races and much more.

Pitlochry Highland Games

Traditional Highland games featuring dancing, pipe band competitions and, of course, heavy events and track & field.

Airth Highland Games

All heavy weight events, running, cycling, tug-o-war, highland dancing, piping and more.

The Isle Of Skye Highland Games

Traditional highland games with all the usual treats, including piping, Highland dancing and kids activities.

Assynt Highland Games

The event begins with the welcoming of the Chieftain's Barge to Lochinver by a pipe band, and continues with hammer throwing, tossing the caber, field and hill races, and flycasting.

Brodick Highland Games

Traditional village Highland games with athletics, a pipe band, pillow fights, heavy weights, Highland dancing, bouncy castles, stalls, and a parachute display.

Balquhidder, Lochearnhead and Strathyre Highland Games

Traditional Highland games with music, dancing and sports. Includes the clan gathering of the clans McLaren, Stewart, McGregor and McNabb.

Glenurquhart Highland Gathering and Games

Traditional highland games with tug-o-war, pipe bands and hill races.

Glenisla Highland Games

Traditional highland games with piping, dancing, heavy events, children's races and Mount Blair hill race.

Invercharron Highland Games

Traditional Highland games including heavy athletics, Highland dancing, piping, tug o' war, running, jumping and cycling events.

Atholl and Breadalbane Show

A plethora of traditional entertainment, from prize bulls to highland dancing to caber tossing.

Inveraray Highland Games

Traditional Highland games with heavy objects (including the World Caber Championship), track and field events, wrestling, cycling. solo piping, Highland dancing, pipe band performances, catering and trade stands.

Durness Highland Gathering

Traditional Highland games with track and field events, piping, Highland dancing and plenty for the kids as well.

Caithness Highland Gathering And Games

Traditional Highland games.

Glengarry Highland Games

A traditional Highland Games with heavy, track and field events, hill race, children's races, tug o' war, highland dancing and pipe bands.

Cornhill Highland Games

Traditional Highland games with heavy weight championships, Highland dancing, hill race, children's races, tug o'war and a licensed bar.

Blairgowrie & Rattray Highland Games

Traditional Highland Games, with an exciting mix of piping, dancing, track and field events. Also featuring a dog show and a wide range of stands.

Aberlour House Junior Highland Games

Highland games especially tailored for children with stalls, attractions, and competitions for primary schools. All proceeds to a local charity.

Kenmore Highland Games

Traditional Highland games with a heavy event unique to Kenmore, throwing the tirnie stones.

Morvern Highland Games

Authentic Highland games in a scenic rural setting. Heavy events, children's sports, piping competition, woodcarving, the Morvern Mile, storytelling, face painting, and much more. The games will be officially opened by the Oban Pipe Band.

Southend Highland Games

Traditional Highland games.

Lochaber Highland Games

Traditional Highland games featuring clan battle performances throughout the day, a pipe band led by honorary chieftain Sir Jimmy Savile, heavy events, track events, craft stalls and a beer tent.

Lesmahagow Highland Games

Pipe band contests, heavy events, road race, haggis hurling competition, children's football tournament final, athletics and more.

Taynuilt Highland Games

Traditional Highland games featuring Highland dancing and piping competitions, plus heavy and track events.

Strathmore Highland Games

Traditional Highland games with running, cycling, caber-tossing, solo piping, Highland dancing, tug-o-war, and pipe band events. Tuck into street food from local suppliers and browse stands selling crafts made in the area.

Burntisland Highland Games

All the fun and excitement of the traditional games with Highland dancing and heavy events.

Bute Highland Games

Pipe bands, Highland dancing, junior shinty championship, 10k road race and heavyweight championships.

Kinloch Rannoch Highland Games

Traditional Highland games with races, piping, tug o' war, highland dancing and heavyweight competitions.

West Lothian Highland Games

Traditional Scottish Highland games covering all disciplines including pipe band and Highland dancing competitions.

Oldmeldrum Sports and Highland Games

Traditional Highland games with heavy and light events, highland dancing, pipe band, displays, trade stands and a craft fair.

Lewis Highland Games

Traditional Highland games incorporating dancing, police dog display, athletics, fun fair, stalls and piping.

Cortachy Highland Games

Traditional games which have taken place since the 1800s, featuring heavy events, field events, children's races, a dog show, flower and vegetable show, piping and highland dancing, industrial shows, fancy dress and much more.

Killin Highland Games

Traditional Highland Games including strength events, piping and dancing competitions, races, trade stands and mini fairground.

Abernethy Highland Games and Clan Grant Gathering

Traditional Highland Games featuring massed pipe bands, heavy events, a ten mile race, and lots of events for all the family to enjoy. Grand opening parade at 1315.

Bridge of Allan Highland Games

Highland dancing, athletics, cycling, wrestling, heavyweights and pipe bands.

Rob Roy Highland Games

A traditional event held on the Loch Field. Compete in the world giant sack race championships.

Cowal Highland Gathering

Featuring the World Highland Dancing Championship, Cowal Pipe Band Championship, heavy athletics, solo piping, and a ceilidh.

Junior Highland Games

Learn how to toss a caber and 'put the haggis'. Highland dancing and live music are all included.

Montrose Highland Games & Heavy Horse Show

Traditional games events with a heavy horse show, Highland dancing, solo piping, pipe bands stalls, and catering.

Cumnock Highland Games

Heavy events, Highland dancing, pipe band competition, tug o'war, hammer throwing, caber tossing and many other attractions.

Edinburgh Highland Games

Scotland's biggest highland Games event, which includes the Deuchars World Highland Games Heavy Events Championship, an international solo piping competition, Highland dancing competition and a hill race around Arthur's Seat.

Aberfeldy Highland Gathering

Traditional Scottish Highland games including the carrying of the Menzies Stone.

Callander Highland Games

Traditional Highland games and strong man events which includes the annual Hill Run for all ages and abilities.

Forres Highland Games

Traditional Highland games with piping, Highland dancing, heavy events and athletics.

Shotts Highland Games

Traditional Highland games featuring Highland dancing, a pipe band competition and heavy events.

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