The 42nd NH Highland Games & Festival celebrates Scottish traditions, food, music and athletics

Festival goers can immerse themselves in Scottish food and drink. New to this year’s games, The NH Highland Brews & Bites.

CONCORD, NH –Recognized as the largest Scottish cultural event in North America, the 42n/aNH Highland Games & Annual Festival will be held at Loon Mountain Resort in Lincoln, NH fromfriday september 15,atSunday, September 17, 2017. The NH Highland Games & Festival is one of the most diverse Highland Games in North America, showcasing Scotland’s rich history and traditions through piping, food and drink, athletics, dancing and musical offers.

A fan favorite,Hafthor “Thor” Bjornsson, known for his portrayal of Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane on the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” will return for this year’s games. Thor will try to break his record in theLoon Stone Carry Challengeon Sundayafternoon. There will be an official autograph and photo session with Hafthor on Friday, September 15, from2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m..

Björnsson began competing in Strongmen competitions after an ankle injury ended his professional basketball career. He currently holds the world record for weight competition above the 56lb bar with a height of 19’4″. He was an Arnold Classic runner-up in 2017 and a WoW Stronger winner. In 2014, 2015 and 2017, Björnsson won the title of the strongest man in Europe.

Learn about Scottish culture – no passport required

Dancers will compete in Highland and National Dances including the Sword Dance, Highland Fling, Sailor’s Hornpipe and Flora MacDonald’s Fancy. World-class dancer Laura Donlan will teach a free Highland Dance class on Friday and Sunday during the festival.

Over 65 Scottish clans will take part in the Clan Village, where festival-goers will learn about each clan’s unique Scottish heritage. Each year, one of them is chosen as the honored clan of the festival. The distinction of the honored clan is based on the number of years of the clan’s participation in the festival, the visual quality of its booth and the efforts it makes to promote the festival. The fact that the clan organizes an annual general meeting is also taken into consideration. The clan honored this year is Clan Donald, one of the oldest and most famous Highland clans, and the largest in the world. Its motto in Latin is “Per Mare Per Terras” or in Gaelic “Air Muir s’Air Tir” meaning “By sea by land”.

NEW this year

The NH Highland Brews & Bites: A Beer Pairing Dinner is new to the program this year and will be held at the Mountain Club on Loon Saturday at5:30 p.m.. This dinner includes two Innis and Gunn beers (both aged in oak barrels) and three local breweries: Moat Mountain Brewing Co (North Conway), Great North Aleworks (Manchester) and Smuttynose Brewing Co. (Hampton). Appetizers and other dishes complementary to the menu will be served. This event is sponsored by Amoskeag Beverages and is a separate ticketed event – not included in general festival admission.

Trial classes, educational seminars and workshops will take place throughout the weekend, where participants will learn specific aspects of Scottish history and culture. Trial classes are free and will be available for five hours a day. Opportunities this year include bagpipes, rock lifting, dancing, fly fishing, cooking demonstrations and more:

  • from GlasgowGary Macleanwill be giving daily cooking demonstrations at Season’s Restaurant at the Mountain Club on Loon. Maclean, 45, has won numerous national and international culinary competitions. His most recent successes include winning MasterChef: The Professionals, in 2016, where he competed against 47 other professional chefs during the 7-week competition. Maclean will also be hosting separate dinner parties in other parts of New Hampshire during the week leading up to the festival.
  • Learn about fly fishing in Scotland and watch a demonstration ofSpey Cast. Spey casting is a fly casting technique that evolved in Scotland in the mid-1800s and is named after the River Spey, one of Scotland’s major salmon rivers. The technique is especially useful when fly fishing where there is little or no room behind the caster.
  • world class dancerLaura Donlanwill teach a free Highland Dance classFridayandSundayduring the festival. All ages are welcome to participate and learn the historical tradition.
  • Professional stone lifter Martin Janscics will challenge visitors with the strength and skill required to lift heavy stones.
  • Nothing is more closely associated with Scotland than the bagpipes. This year at the Games, visitors will have the opportunity to try out the bagpipes under the guidance of award-winning Scottish bagpiper and Games bagpipe judge Lezlie Webster.
  • Burgess Hay, a Scottish bagpipe maker will present,“Burgess” – Bagpipes explained, come listen and try. He will share three types of pipes: Scottish Small Pipes, Border Pipes and Great Highland Bagpipes.
Athletes from the United States, Canada, Iceland, Scotland and Europe will compete at the Games in competitions such as Caber Toss, Weight Over Bar, Weight for Distance, Sheaf Toss, Hammer Throw and Loon Stone Carry. Hafthor “Thor” Björnsson will attempt to break his record in the Loon Stone Carry Challenge on Sunday afternoon.

Other ongoing activities include the Kilt Mile Run, open to walkers and runners of all ages and skill levels. Registration will take place at the start lineon Sundayafternoon. Attendees will learn about Scotland’s rich history by watching re-enactments in the Living History section of the festival. Visitors can browse and shop in the Vendor Village, which has over 30 vendors selling Scottish wares including kilts, bagpipes, balmorals and more.

The Games include events such as the highly anticipated Sheepdog TrialsFridaymorning, as well as competitions in bagpipes, drumming, dancing and athletics. Other cultural offerings include whiskey and beer tastings, musical performances and shows. Returning entertainment for games this year includesRed pepper pipersandAlbanachboth known for their eclectic musical performances, and many other performers whose music ranges from traditional Scottish to “bagrock” – a combination of bagpipes and rock music.

In addition to music on the festival stages, the Games feature Massed Bandsthe SaturdayandSundaywith over 30 pipers marching onto the parade ground to perform in unison. This year’s featured guest pipe band returns the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Pipes and Drums, a band comprised of serving RCMP members and volunteer citizens. The band was the featured guest pipe band in 2012.

The festival offers a youth program that includes crafts, storytelling, sports games, and music and dance demonstrations. Through the passport program, children can get passport stamps when visiting different festival venues. On Sundaychildren are invited to march and show their Scottish pride in the Bairns Parade.

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Hafthor “Thor” Bjornsson from Game of Thrones will make an appearance.

Scottish Heavy Athletics will be on full display with athletes from the United States, Canada, Iceland, Scotland and other European countries. Athletes will compete in competitions such as the Caber Toss, Hammer Throw, Weight over Bar and Stone Carry. Highland Games athletes come from a variety of backgrounds. In addition toHafthor “Thor” Bjornssonparticipants include:

  • Jamie Gunn,compete in the United States for the first time at this year’s Games. A fourth-generation Highland Games Scottish bowler, Gunn grew up watching his World Heavy Events champion father and started competing aged 16. Gunn, 25, was Scottish Under-25 champion in 2013 and 2014.
  • chuck kassonwho has been competing in the Highland Games since 2011. The Lincoln, Nebraska native had his first professional season in 2014 when he finished the year ranked 15th.andglobally in the United States. He ranked in the top 10 in 2015 and in 2016 he finished 3rdamong American nationals.

Gunn appeared in “Stoneland”, a Rogue film about the history and traditions of Scotland’s ancient lifting stones. The film will be screened in the concert tent at7 p.m.Friday. The film’s stars, rock lifter Martin Jancsics and NHSCOT’s own Bill Crawford, will be on hand to answer questions.

Participants have access to the festival grounds from8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.daily with additional paid parties at various locations on the festival grounds. These events include the Tartan Dinner & Ball, numerous concerts, beer and whiskey tastings. The program of these events is available Tickets for these events often sell out in advance and festival-goers are encouraged to buy their tickets early.

Discover the variety of fun and lively musical performances at the various venues around the Games. Performers include the tribal sounds of Albannach and, returning this year, Scottish rock/pop band The Red Hot Chilli Pipers. Some concerts are free with admission; some require paid entry.

NH Highland Games & Festival Ticket and Parking Information

Day tickets are available online in advance, or at the door each day. Tickets are $20 per person forFridayadmission; $35 forSaturdayadmission; and $25 forSundayadmission. Weekend passes for the full festival are $65 per person and can be purchased in advance throughSeptember 14atnhscot.orgor at the doorFriday. Admission for children under 14 is free if accompanied by a paying adult. Daytime admission includes access to all daytime concerts, all competition venues, Clan Village, Seminars, Living History, Youth Program (Friday,SaturdayandSunday), and all Scottish sellers. Evening concerts, dinners, and dances are paid events separate from daytime admission. These tickets are available for purchase before the festival, and many sell out before the event.

Parking for the NH Highland Games is limited and event attendees are encouraged to carpool. Visitors must follow the parking signs for the games. Bus transportation, free of charge, will also be provided and event attendees will be transported to Loon Mountain.

Tickets are non-refundable as all events take place rain or shine. No animals are allowed; only recognized guide or assistance dogs are allowed.


NHSCOT is a New Hampshire non-profit society dedicated to promoting the dance, music, athletics and customs of the Scottish people and to perpetuating Gaelic culture. For more information about the NH Highland Games & Festival, or NHSCOT, call 603-229-1975, email [email protected] or

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Jennifer R. Strohm