‘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.

Lonach mountaineers marching around the arena. Photo: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

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.”

Highland dancers. Photo by Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

“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”.

Crowds enjoy the Highland games. Photo: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

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.

The crowd applauds! Photo: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

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.”

The Pipe Band team in the Tug O’War. Photo by Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

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.

Kyle Randalls competing in the heavyweight events. Photo by Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

The results

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]


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Jennifer R. Strohm