The best Highland games in Scotland this summer - Scotland Magazine
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The best Highland games in Scotland this summer

Discover the origins of Scottish Highland games, and find the best events to attend in Scotland this summer Highland games have been a traditional part of Scotland’s culture for hundreds…

Discover the origins of Scottish Highland games, and find the best events to attend in Scotland this summer

Highland games have been a traditional part of Scotland’s culture for hundreds of years, though their modern-day popularity is owed to the Victorians, when they were formally reintroduced as part of the revival of Tartan and Highland Culture encouraged by Sir Walter Scott and then given a royal seal of approval by Queen Victoria.

However, the roots of Highland games date back to the 11th century when King Malcolm III called a foot race to the summit of Craig Choinnich to find the fastest runner in the land to become his personal courier.

The games then evolved to include events that tested not only muscles and speed of the strongest clan members, but also creative dance and music skills to keep kings, queens, and clan chiefs entertained. 

Highland games as we know them today have been celebrated around Scotland since the 1800s, and many of the events listed below originally began in Victorian times. Taking place in the summer season between May and September, every event has its own unique character and traditions. Here are some of the best events happening in Scotland this summer for you to get a taste of this most Scottish of celebrations.

Highland games in Scotland

Atholl Highland Gathering, Blair Castle, Perthshire

28 and 29 May 2022

Set in the grounds of the beautiful Blair Castle and overseen by the Marquis of Tullibardine, heir to the 12th Duke of Atholl, the Atholl Gathering kicks off on Saturday 28 May with a parade by the Atholl Highlanders, the only private army in Europe – established 183 years ago – accompanied by pipes and drums. The games will showcase competitors from around the globe battling it out centre stage in traditional events such as tossing the caber and throwing the hammer. After a break due to COVID, this year’s event will be one to not miss.

This year’s Atholl Highlanders Parade is also particularly special as it sees the retirement of the regiment’s long serving Pipe Major and Drum Major, who will be succeeded by a musical family double. Pipe Major Ian Duncan and Drum Major Alister Walker have each served for over 50 years and will now step back from frontline duties. Their roles will be handed over to brothers Gary and Niall West, both born and brought up locally in Pitlochry, and whose own musical pedigree will build on their predecessors’ legacy.

Book tickets here.

Strathmore Highland games, Angus

12 June 2022

Enjoy a day of traditional events in the glorious grounds of the beautiful Angus Castle at the Strathmore Highland games. Spectactors can watch track and heavy events, including shot putt, and hammer throwing, alongside piping competitions, Highland dancing and the customary Salute to the Chieftain at the end of the day.

Buy tickets here. 

Aberdeen Highland games, Aberdeen

19 June 2022

Held at Hazelhead Park, this is a popular event that the whole family will be able to enjoy. With traditional Highland games events along side stage entertainment from professional performers, as well as local community groups, plus the chance to try a range of activities, from clay pigeon shooting to an inflatable assault course, this is one not to be missed.

Buy tickets here. 

Luss Highland Gathering, Loch Lomond

2 July 2022

Highland games

It would be hard to find a more beautiful location for these games, which have been held annually since 1875 (aside from a break during the World Wars). Since then the games have remained relatively unchanged. Although sock-knitting competitions and shepherd’s crook-making have been dropped, traditional events such as caber tossing, hammer throwing and hill races have stayed, and of course, the event would not be complete without the rousing sound of the pipes and the swish of Highland dancers.

Buy tickets here.

Locharron Highland games, Wester Ross

16 July 2022

This year’s Locharron Highland games will be in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and are set to be a spectacle! Back after a two-year gap due to covid, the games will be held on the beautiful Attadale Estate and will include a mixture of heavy events, track and field events and highland dancing and piping displays.

Buy tickets here.

Crieff Highland Gathering, Perthshire

21 August 2022

With the first event held in 1870, the Crieff games are known as ‘Scotland’s Premier Highland Games’, and include some much more modern events every year, including acrobatics, motorbike displays and a mini festival celebrating Celtic music. This year the event will be called The Platinum Jubilee Crieff Highland Gathering and in addition to the usual events, including the traditional Scottish Heavyweight Championships, caber tossing and Highland dancing, there will be a musical performance from the world’s most famous bagpipe band, The Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

Buy tickets here.

Cowal Highland Gathering, Argyll

25 – 27 August 2022

The largest Highland games in the world, the Cowal Highland Gathering attracts 23,000 visitors every year. First held in 1894, these games include every traditional event, along with some more modern additions, including mountain biking, a fun run, and traditional Celtic musicians. The highlight of the event is the salute to the Chieftain. At the end of the two-day event the massed pipers and drummers play the stirring Highland Laddie in unison as the sun sets over the Firth of Clyde.

Buy tickets here.

Lonach Highland Gathering and Games, Aberdeenshire

27 August 2022

highland games

Back after a two-year covid-induced break, the Lonach Gathering returns this summer on its traditional date of the fourth Saturday in August. Famous for the march of the Lonach Highlanders, a unique body of non-military men, the Lonach Highland games were established in 1823 and are some of the most famous in the world. The games will include Featuring heavyweight events alongside hill racing and Highland dancing, too.

Buy tickets here.

St Andrews Highland games, St Andrews

28 August 2022

From humble beginnings in 1984, when they were first held on a Thursday afternoon in a field on the outskirts of St Andrews courtesy, the St Andrews Highland games are now firmly established as some of the best in Scotland. This year the games will be held at Station Park in front of the town’s iconic Old Course, overlooking the sea. Enjoy traditional events alongside modern additions, including a cycling competition.

Buy tickets here. 

The Braemar Gathering and Highland games, Aberdeenshire

3 September 2022

Highland games

Always held on the first Saturday in September, the Braemar Gathering and Highland games is one of the most prestigious in the world, having frequently been attended by royalty. Participants can enter themselves to take part in traditional Highland games events, such as stone throwing and caber tossing, alongside music and Highland dancing, piping and drumming displays.

Buy tickets here.

Read more:

Loch Lomond: On the bonnie, bonnie banks

James Macpherson: Hoaxer or hero?

Great Scottish castles

 

 

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