Piping, Dancing And Tug O' War
June 18 , 2016

Piping, Dancing And Tug O' War

There’s a Highland Games on somewhere in Scotland almost every weekend

Piping, Dancing And Tug O’ War
It must be summer: the Highland Games season is upon us again.  Starting at the end of May and running right through to September, you can find a Highland Games on somewhere in Scotland almost every weekend.  What’s involved?  Athletics, Scottish dancing, cycling, heavy weights events like putting the shot and tossing the caber, tug o’ war, pipers, Scottish beer, whisky and food – and lots of tartan.
Here in Perthshire, we start with two events on the same weekend.  On Saturday May 28th the Blackford Highland Games, near Gleneagles, feature running, cycling, heavy weights classes and Highland dancing.  
At Blair Atholl the games run over both Saturday and Sunday.  The special attraction of the Blair Atholl Games is a heat of the Scottish Tug o’ War Championship, while on the Saturday there’s also the pageantry of the annual parade of the Atholl Highlanders, Britain’s last private regiment, and the Pipe Band.

Cupar and Coupar
The weekend of June 11th and 12th has events in different places on different days, so you could attend both if you felt so inclined.  On the Saturday the Games are in Cupar (in Fife, and not to be muddled  with our home town of Coupar Angus, which is, of course, in Perthshire not Angus.  Confused yet?!?).  
On the Sunday the Strathmore Highland Games take place in the park at Glamis Castle, just along the road from The Red House, where there’s another heat of the Scottish Tug o’ War Championships, solo piping, and Scottish dancing as well as sports.  This is a big event, with lots of trade stands, and makes for a great family day out, whatever the weather.
Moving on to August, and the Atholl area is back in the news.  On Saturday August 13th the games are at Aberfeldy, home of Burns’s Birks o’ Aberfeldy, and wrestling is on the menu as well as all the other usual contests.
That Sunday, and a bit closer to The Red House, the Perth Highland Games feature cycling and running Championship races, solo piping and pipe band contests, as well as tug o’ war and heavy weights classes.  It happens in the middle of the small city of Perth, which is well worth a wander around: it’s known as “The Fair City” for a reason!
Staying local, on August 27th the Birnam Highland Games are held at Little Dunkeld; Blairgowrie and Rattray have their turn on Sunday 4th September, and Pitlochry round off the season on Saturday 10th September.

The big event
Probably the biggest event of all, the Braemar Highland Gathering, is on Saturday 3rd September, where 16,000 visitors can descend on the village (normal population: 600) and you could be rubbing elbows with international athletes or even the Royal family.  The massed pipe bands are worth the price of admission by themselves.
If you’ve never attended a Highland Games, we can heartily recommend the experience.  Whichever event you attend, you’re sure of a riot of colour, a lot of friendly rivalry and banter, and a great day out.  Whether there are 500 people watching or 5,000, they’ll be out for a good time.  The competitors, of course, are out to win, and village Games are no less competitive than major ones.  
There may be thrills and spills, especially if the cycling races take place in the rain (rain isn’t usually allowed to stop play; it’s too much part of Scottish daily life).  There’ll certainly be plenty of noise, whether from the crowd or from the pipers, and plenty of spectacle and excitement.  If you’re a photographer you’ll be spoilt for subjects.  

Afterwards you’ll want a peaceful, relaxing evening, away from the noise and the bustle.  Leave it to The Red House to provide you with a perfectly cooked dinner of local food and a few drams of good whisky to end an extraordinary day.

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