The Highland Games phenomenon
Who doesn’t love a good game, be it cards, chess or Tug-o-War. Well the Scots are no different and this month we explore the world of The Highland games. The games are played not only in Scotland but all over the world and are traditionally played in Spring and Summer with traditional heavy athletic events like the Caber Toss and Tug-O-War as well as Highland Dancing, Piping and food aplenty.
It is said that the Highland Games originated from Ireland in 2000 BCE and crossed the water to Scotland around the fourth century. The largest Highland games in the world are the Cowal highland Gathering or better known as the Cowal Games, which are held in Dunoon, Scotland. These games can attract around 3,500 competitors and over 23,000 spectators from all over the globe. This is far exceed though by the United States with an estimated crowd of 50,000 attending the 2015 Sesquicentennial Games in Pleasanton, California.
Many centuries ago the Highland Games revolved around the heavy athletic and sporting competitions. Most standard competitions are the Caber Toss and Scottish Hammer Throw. The Caber Toss involves a long log being stood upright to balance, then the competitor attempts to run forward and toss it. Competitors are judged on the approximation to 12 o’clock the log stood after it hits the ground. The Scottish Hammer Throw, while similar to the modern day hammer throw seen at track and field events, the weighted ball is attached to a shaft about 4 feet in length and can be made out of wood, bamboo, rattan or plastic and is spun around the head then thrown distance over the shoulder.
The most memorable parts of the games are the music and dancing. Pipe bands from all over the region come to march in the opening and closing ceremonies of the games. In addition to the massed bands, most gatherings feature piping and drumming competitions, including solo and group ensembles. The Highland dances are also on hand to accompany the Highland bands.
In modern day games various vendors selling Scottish memorabilia can be seen, as well as armouries, who will display their collections of swords and armour. You can often see these armouries perform mock battles. Herding dog exhibitions and highland cattle presentations are often held to showcase breed and training skills. Not to mention the Scottish food that’s on show.
So suffice to say the Highland Games has something for everyone. So if you ever come across a games in your area, whether you are Scottish, Irish, Canadian or Australian, go on in and enjoy a little bit of Scottish tradition.