What are Highland Games?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Highland Games are gatherings which are held to celebrate Scottish and Celtic heritage, particularly the heritage of the Scottish Highlands. These games typically feature a range of athletic events and competitions in addition to music, dancing, and displays of skill such as sheep herding in some region. Typically, merchants at Highland Games vend an assortment of Scottish foods and products for attendees, and the event may stretch over several days, with a frequently packed schedule.

The Scottish Highlands are a region of Scotland.
The Scottish Highlands are a region of Scotland.

Humans have been getting together and participating in games for thousands of years. The Highland Games mimic many early games by demonstrating feats of strength and skill which would be necessary for survival, in this case in the Scottish Highlands of the 1700s. Contestants heft logs and rocks, participate in foot races, and engage in similar demonstrations of ability. In addition to being a place to showcase skills in the athletic field, the Highland Games offer competition opportunities in traditional Scottish music and dancing.

People can compete in the Highland Games with bagpipes or other instruments.
People can compete in the Highland Games with bagpipes or other instruments.

Heavy events at the Highland Games include the caber toss, weight throw, weight over the bar, sheaf toss, hammer throw, and stone put. Depending on the organizers, the games may also feature foot races, horseback riding, and other demonstrations. People can also compete in the musical realm with bagpipes, flutes, harps, and fiddles, or demonstrate dancing skills. Participants in events typically wear traditional Scottish costumes such as kilts and Aboyne dresses.

The Highland Games feature traditional Scottish sports like the stone put.
The Highland Games feature traditional Scottish sports like the stone put.

These celebrations of Scottish history may provide opportunities to purchase kilts, sweaters, and other Scottish ephemera, along with traditional foods. Highland Games are usually designed to be family friendly, and they may feature evening performances of plays, Scottish poetry, and music for people camping or staying near the site of the games.

Several regions of Scotland host well known annual Highland Games, as do communities with large Scottish populations around the world. If you are interested in attending a Highland Games event for yourself, you can search for “Highland Games” and your region; depending on where you are, you may actually have an event conveniently close by. It is usually advisable to purchase tickets, since the games can get crowded, and you should make lodging arrangements well in advance to ensure that you have a place to stay when you arrive.

Events like horseback riding may be featured at the Highland Games.
Events like horseback riding may be featured at the Highland Games.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

Logicfest

@Vincenzo -- right you are, and a local Highland Games is an incredible event to see if you like watching manly competition (assuming the presence of kilts doesn't kill the manly vibe for you).

Take caber tossing, for example. That involves tossing a piece of tree that's about 20 feet long, Sort of like watching people throw telephone polls around a field. Yes, that looks as cool as it sounds.

Vincenzo

If you live in the American South, the chances are good that you will find some Highland Games event reasonably close to home. That is because the South is simply brimming with Scottish heritage. Well, Scotts-Irish to be sure, but there are many festivals held every year to celebrate the Scottish heritage of the region.

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