You might smile when you see all those guys in kilts arrive with their bagpipes or stretching in anticipation for the caber toss, but don’t be fooled, the scots take these games very seriously.
The Highland Games celebrate Scottish culture and are held in spring and summer all over Scotland. The two most famous are the Cowal Games in Dunoon (the biggest) and the one in Braemar that is attended by the Royal British Family !
I went to the Games in Pitlochry. If not one of the largest gathering, it still had some importance that year because it was the last one of the season. Some teams and athletes travel around to attend all the events, so this was the decisive one.
It took place in a big stadium and lasted a whole day. There was always several things going on at once in the stadium : dancing in one corner, men throwing stuff in an other, music over there … There was a few booths for eating and buying souvenirs as well, including this one for low costs kilts that I found hilarious (for some reason).
It was an amazing way to discover more about highlander culture, and there was so many events that I wasn’t bored even though I spent the whole day. Some of my favorites were the highland dancing, that I had never seen before, and is actually very graceful and aerial, performed by men and women.
There was of course the caber toss that was very impressive. The man is carrying a huge trunk by one end (already a notable feat in my opinion), then throws it so that the end that was in his hands goes all the way to the top then falls on the other side !
But I understood after a while that the true highlight of the day, eagerly awaited by the locals, was the tug’o war. Not at all like the one you do with your friends at summer camp, this one had two teams of burly men on the ground, literally willing to die before releasing the rope.
Each team had a coach that spent it’s time yelling encouragements at the top of his voice. Or sometimes just yelling. He would get on the ground too to scream in one of its pupil’s ear. The teams were so strong that it could go on for some time before a man crossed the fateful line. The people watching were screaming too, enthralled, it was a (fun) crazy-scottish-pandemonium.
At the end, all the pipe bands rejoined in the stadium for the Massing of the pipe bands. There was more than twenty, from all over Scotland. They performed together and we were allowed to come down in the stadium to watch them. I loved seeing all these people playing together, some old men, some laughing small boys, some college girls, some guys that looked like they usually wear suits, …
Watch this video to get a better idea :
It made me really glad that the highland culture didn’t die out and found a way to exist in a country that did everything to make it disappear.
GO SCOTS !
I advise you to book your accommodation in advance when attending the Highland Games, it was packed everywhere !
All the upcoming events to be found right here : http://www.shga.co.uk/