‘Emotional’ return for historic Highland Games
Swords and spears shone in the afternoon sun as the Lonach Highlanders revived a 200-year-old tradition today.
The sound of pipes rose through the air as the main protagonists of the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games led the way for a day of ‘long standing heritage’.
Thousands of people filled the green lawn of Bellabeg for the glorious return of one of Scotland’s most iconic events after a three-year absence.
Hundreds of Lonach Highlanders proudly paraded through the area dressed in their fine tartan finery as the crowds roared with excitement.
They had started their six-mile trek at 8 a.m., visiting various local homes for a sip of whiskey and a cheery greeting, before arriving at the arena at 1 p.m.
Compare Robert Lovie said there would be a lot of ‘heavy hearts’, remembering the Highlanders who had died since the last muster.
But he welcomed “a lot of new faces” joining the tradition for the first time.
Amazed by the procession, he added: “You can travel the world and see nothing more special.”
“We missed it a lot”
For Catherine Begg, today’s event was a much-anticipated throwback to the games she’s always held dear.
The 67-year-old man, who has never missed a Lonach Gatheringwas “over the moon” to join old friends and immerse himself in the pageantry.
“I’ve been waiting for this for months,” she said.
“Lonach is synonymous with long-standing traditions, friendliness and a strong community spirit – and we have missed that dearly in recent years.
“It was weird not having them. And when I saw the Highlanders walk through the arena again, it was a very emotional moment.
Her stepdaughter Susan Fleming, 42, from the Borders, added she had “never seen anything like it”.
Jamie McKelvie, who has never attended Highland games before, was ‘moved’ by the overwhelming display.
The 63-year-old, from Cheltenham, said: “I don’t know what it is, but I was really moved by the sound of the pipes – that’s what really touched my heart.
“And the setting is absolutely amazing. The colors of the surrounding hills, the music, the people – everything was brilliant.
“The Lonach Gathering really brings a sense of pride to locals – something you can’t see everywhere. This is the meaning of tradition and unity.
An extravaganza of Scottish culture and a long-standing tradition
Mr McKelvie was one of almost 10,000 to gather in the shadow of Cairngorms in Strathdon for the historic games.
Dozens of heavyweight athletes faced off in an intense competition of strength and resilience after months of grueling preparation.
Crowds were mesmerized as cabers and hammers were tossed through the air – with loud cheers erupting as they hit the ground.
It was one of the highlights for Berit Buth, 24, from Germany, who was visiting friends in the northeast.
She said: “I really wanted to come to the games as it’s my first time to Scotland. And it was amazing. You really feel the spirit of the local community and Scottish culture here.”
Meanwhile, 85 people put their skills to the test in the traditional hill climb, an event comedy legend that Robin Williams once competed in.
Others took the opportunity to enjoy a fun day out with their families – with stalls offering a wide range of local produce, delicious treats and crafts.
Findlay Cameron, 29, who traveled from Pitlochry, said it was the best way to enjoy a sunny Saturday.
He said: “It was fantastic to see the games back in action after so long. The last few years have been tough so it’s great to have an event like this to rekindle the community spirit and bring everyone together. .
“But the highlight for us was definitely the Lonach Highlanders march. This is what makes this event so special and unique.
Piobaireachd, open; March, open; Strathspey & Reel; best tune composed by Pipe Major William Grant, open – Calum Brown
Piobaireachd, (17 and under) open; March (14-18), open; Strathspey & Reel (14-18) open – Liam Nicolson
March (under 14), open; Strathspey & Reel (Under 14) – Rory Menzies
March; Strathspey & Reel (under 17) Local Parent Gatherings – Sarah Keir
Highland Fling (under 8) Local areas of 4 Kindred Gatherings; Ghillie Callum (under 8) – Local Areas of 4 Kindred Gatherings – Ally Dey
Highland Fling (ages 8-11) Local areas of 4 Kindred Gatherings; Ghillie Callum (8 or 11) Local areas of 4 Kindred Gatherings; Seann Truibhas (8-11) Local Areas of 4 Kindred Gatherings – Harris Fraser
Highland Fling (ages 12-15) Local Areas of 4 Kindred Gatherings – Kyla Dey
Ghillie Callum (ages 12-15) Local areas of 4 Kindred Gatherings; Seann Truibhas (12-15) Local Areas of 4 Kindred Gatherings; Half Reel of Tulloch (Ages 12-15) Local Areas of 4 Kindred Gatherings – Mhairi McPherson
Highland Fling (16+) Local areas of 4 Kindred Gatherings; Ghillie Callum (16+) Local Areas of 4 Kindred Gatherings; Seann Truibhas (16+) Local Areas of 4 Kindred Gatherings; Half Reel of Tulloch (Ages 16+) Local Areas of 4 Kindred Gatherings – Emma McPherson
Put heavy, open stone; throw a heavy, open hammer; throw light heavy, open; throw 56 lb shot put for distance, open; 28 lb shot put for distance, open; toss caber; throw 56 lb weight for height, open; Overall Lonach Open Heavy Championship for the Day, Open – Kyle Randalls
Put the light stone, open; 28 lb shot put for distance (18-28 years old); laying of light stone (18-28 years old); shot put on the bar (18-28 years old) – George Evans
Light hammer throw (18-28 years old) – James Young
Tossing Caber (18-28) – Conan Quinn
Long race (800m), open – Ewen Bradley
high jump, open; short course (90m), open; quarter mile race (400m) open – Stewart Clark
long jump, open; hop, walk and jump, open – Tony Daffurn
Hill Climb, Open – Henry Gordon Hart
Ladies Hill Climb, Open – Lyn Wilson
Youth Hill Climb (Boys), Open – Joseph Coane
Ladies Race – Kirsty McLean
Best Dressed Highlander, Society – Roland Stuart
Best Dressed Highlander, Open – Michael Laing
Best Dressed Highlander or Pipe Band Member (25 and Under), Open – Roy Dobson
Relay race (local clans) – Wallace
Hill Race, Society – Hector Lancaster
Jeter Light Hammer, Company; launch caber, company; lay the stone light, society – Ryan Stuart
Tug-O’-War (local clan men) – Forbes
Women’s Tug-O’-War – Glenbuchat Ladies
Bagpipe Music (March), Society; Bagpipe Music (Strathspey & Reel), Society – Michael Laing
Ghillie Callum, open; Bagpipe, open; Irish Jig, open – Laura Boyle
Reel O’Tulloch, open; Highland Fling, open; Senn Truibhas, open; Highland Reel, Open – Molly Smith
Highland Fling (12-15), open; Seann Truibhas (12-15), open – Eilidh Smith
Reel O’ Tulloch (12-15 years old), open – Eva Collister
Highland Fling (11 and under), open; Seann Truibhas, (11 and under), open – Harris Fraser
Ghillie Callum (11 and under), open – Ruby Spence
For more pictures:
GALLERY: Lonach Highland Gathering
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[‘Emotional’ return for historic Highland Games]