What are the Highland Games and when do they take place?

EVERY year dozens of Highland Games take place in Scotland and around the world.

Here’s what you need to know about these colorful and unique sports, entertainment, and culture shows.


Launch the caber an event that has come to embody the Highland Games

What are the Highland Games?

The Highland Games take their name from the region they originated from, the Scottish Highlands, although they are now held in other parts of the country.

There are also Highland Games in countries with strong ties to Scotland, including Canada and New Zealand, and even places like Japan, Indonesia, and Brazil.

The first historical reference to Highland Games-type events in Scotland was made during the reign of King Malcolm III, who reigned from 1057 to 1093.

He summoned men to race to Craig Choinnich near Braemar in order to find a royal messenger and so the games developed as a means of finding the most capable men to serve the local highland chief.

Musicians and dancers have been added to give prestige to the games.

    Her Majesty received a bouquet of flowers from a Highland dancer during the games


Her Majesty received a bouquet of flowers from a Highland dancer during the gamesCredit: Getty Images – Getty

These days, Highland dancers give dazzling displays of traditional Scottish dances, such as the sword dance and the famous Highland Fling.

Each game has its own traditions, like the Skye Highland Games, which begins with the bagpipe group leading everyone from the town of Portree to The Lump, a hill that juts out into the harbor.

Perhaps the most famous event is the Braemar Highland Gathering, which the Queen attends while taking her annual vacation to her Balmoral estate.

Her Majesty is the patron saint of the Braemar Gathering, which is held a short distance from the Royal Family’s summer retreat each year.

She follows in the footsteps of Queen Victoria who boosted the popularity of the Games when she first attended Braemar in 1848.

When do they take place?

The games take place during the summer months from May to September.

Each year, around 80 Highland Games are held on the islands and in towns, villages and towns across the country.

What are the heavy events?

The intense competition sees the Highland Games contestants putting their muscles to the test.

Events include the Caber Throw, perhaps the event most closely associated with the Highland Games.

Competitors balance a 20 foot tall pine log in the 12 o’clock position, then run and throw it.

Competitors are judged according to the proximity of their ball launched at 12 o’clock.

    Prince Charles judges tug-of-war


Prince Charles judges tug-of-war

The hammer throw event features a hammer made from a metal ball weighing approximately 22 lbs for men or 16 lbs for women, attached to a wooden pole or handle.

In the shot put, competitors throw a large rock of about 20 to 26 pounds as far as they can.

Tug of war is one of the most fiercely contested competitions at the Highland Games and sees two teams of eight pulling the opposition down a line.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, was so impressed with a Highland exhibit that he saw at the Paris Exposition of 1889 that he introduced events to the games.

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Jennifer R. Strohm