The Highland Games

The Highland Games is a traditional Scottish sporting event.
The Highland Games is a traditional Scottish sporting event.

Author: Joshua Burns. Escuela Kilkenny. The Highland Games is a traditional Scottish sporting event that has become a popular festival, taking place in the late spring or early summer. The first recorded mention of the games dates back to the 11th century, however, the modern form of the games was invented in Victorian times.

Non-Sporting Events
The Highland Games is a fun time for everyone. It has a real festival atmosphere, and there are always hundreds of people who come for the diverse and entertaining non-sporting events.

Music is a central part of the Highland Games, especially at the opening and the closing ceremonies. At these points, up to pipe bands, each with a large number of members, will play the traditional bagpipe. The Scottish bagpipe is a wind instrument, similar to the ones found in Galicia. Along with the piping, you can often find harps, fiddling, and other Celtic music.

With music, comes dance. At the Cowal Highland Gathering, the World Annual Highland Dancing competition takes place. At this the best traditional dancers gather from around the world to compete.

Clan Tents
The Scottish clans are the family groups that made up the old Gaelic society that preceded the modern one, coming to an end largely in the 1740’s. Although the society has changed, the clans remain, and at the highland festivals, individual clans set up tents, showing off their coat of arms,* and often selling various traditional items.

Sporting Events
Although the non-sporting events are enough to draw a large crowd* on their own, it’s the heavy athletic events that most people come for.

Caber toss
The caber toss is one of the most well known highland sports. It’s generally a men’s event, where one individual takes a large, wooden pole (known as a caber) and throws it so it turns in the air. Many believe the aim is to get the caber as far away as possible, but in fact, the goal is to throw it so it lands completely straight.

Stone put
This is similar to the Olympic shot put event, but varies in a few key ways. The main differences are the fact that stones are used instead of the steel shots they have in the Olympics, and there are more techniques that the competitors are allowed to use. Aside from that, the main goal is still to throw the stone as far as possible

Scottish hammer throw
The Scottish hammer throw is also similar to modern-day track and field events. However, in the Scottish version, the metal ball is attached to a shaft*. With your feet in a fixed position, the hammer is then thrown around the head in a circular motion and thrown for distance over the shoulder.

Weight throw and
Weight Over the bar
These are two similar but distinct events. In the weight throw, the goal is to throw the hunk of metal,* which has a handle and a chain attached, as far as possible. The weight of the metal varies depending on whether it’s the men’s or women’s event. The weight over the bar event is similar but differs on one key point. Instead of throwing the metal as far as possible, the goal is to throw it high, over a horizontal bar, using only one hand. Each participant gets three attempts.

Highland Games
outside of Scotland
While the Highland Games originated in Scotland, and are very popular there, they have managed to spread much further afield. There are games held in many countries, including Belgium, Canada, and even Brazil. However, the country with the highest number of attendees is actually in the United States, where 30,000 people attend the games every year in North Carolina.

The Highland Games is a very popular and unique event. If you ever find yourself in Scotland when they’re on, they’re a fascinating way to get an understanding of their history, and how it still lives on in modern life.


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