By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 1st May 2018

Highland Games!

Scotland has a long tradition and history of Highland Games where Clans would compete against each other in sporting events. Early Celts viewed such events as war games where their strongest and bravest soldiers would win the games.

History of the games

We spoke to Sally from Invercharron Highland Games about the history of the games – find out how you can get involved.

Some say that Highland Games originated as a clan chieftain’s way of choosing the best bodyguards and the fittest fighters. Not all the chief’s requirements were warlike – musicians and dancers were important for the prestige of his household. Choosing staff and supporters was done by holding competitions – good runners for couriers, strong men for defence and a range of entertainers to amuse them during the winter evenings.

Many events at today’s Highland Games still use items which would have been part of everyday life in the Highlands of old, for example, round stones from river beds probably provided the original shot-putts whilst a Scots pine trunk shorn of its branches is still the caber as tossed today. Many of these traditions can still be seen in Highland Games today however they are now much more sociable and fun events celebrated worldwide.

Highland Games Today

Scottish Highland Games Association (SHGA) is the governing body of Highland Games in Scotland and there are around sixty SHGA members with a number of associated members from overseas. The Highland Games season runs from the end of May to the 3rd Saturday in September every year. If you are not familiar with the geography of Scotland refer to the interactive map on the SHGA website which will show you where the various Games are held across Scotland and provide you with dates and links to their specific websites and contact details.

All our games are traditional highland games with a full range of activities in and around the arena. These events range from the heavy events (hammer throwing, tossing the caber, throwing the hammer, the shot) through to the light events (running, high jump, long jump, pole vault, cycling, tug o war, highland dancing, solo piping). All these events ensure a wonderful sound and atmosphere with each of the Games offering a slightly different mix of events keeping the Games uniqueness.

The Highland Games range from small community events to larger events for example in Braemar with over 10,000 spectators. Some Games are relative newcomers while many of the events have traditionally been held for well over 100 years. Many of the Games are held to a backdrop of some marvellous scenery and the variety of activities going on in and around the arena makes for a great family day out.

All the games encourage spectators and entrance fees are around £6-£8 for the day. No Highland Games are identical, however, you can expect to find a wide ranging variety of the heavy and light events, food and drink, and other entertainment. If you are interested in participating in any of the events you will need to register in advance with the SHGA or take out a 1 day membership on the day (in secretary’s tent) for a cost of £3.

Highland Games on the NC500

Take part or spectate at the Highland Games around the North Coast 500:


Photos: Invercharron Highland Games

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