The Highland Games

The Highlands Games are an integral part of Scotland’s culture having been around for hundreds of years, since the 1800s. The sense of heritage and community that comes with the experience at each Highland Games hits home the popularity this tradition still has.

Every Highland Game is a bit different with their own traditions and many take place in picturesque locations across Scotland. Memorable for their sporting events but embellished with bagpipes, kilts and whisky, the games see participants throw and lift different shaped weights. The day is normally opened by the Chieftain which can be a member of the local clans and sometimes even Scottish celebrities such as Ewan McGregor or Susan Boyle have held this role.

The games once would see fierce head-to-head competition between clans but now it’s seen as more a ceremonial, social event. The Highland Games have their traditional events which always feature as well as a few more jovial events such as Haggis Hurling which was added as a joke originally but now has a dedicated World Haggis Hurling Association committed to the sport. Many events involve livestock with some games having a best-dressed competition for pets. Highland Games season begins in May through to September usually taking place at the weekend. In this article we’ll look at some of the traditional events you’re likely to see if you attend the Highland Games.

Tossing the Caber

Nothing symbolises the Highland Games better than the caber toss. It’s a guaranteed event in each Games. Participants take a long log, the caber, and stand it upright. It’s then lifted by the player from the bottom of the log. They then run forward building their momentum before throwing the caber so that it turns over and hits the ground. Competitors are judge based on how closely their caber lands to being inline with the original run.

Hammer Throw

Another throwing event, the hammer throw consists of a long wooden handle with a metal hammer ball on the end. This is usually around 22lbs for men and 16lbs for women. Participants use the handle to swing the hammer around their head and release it. Whoever throws it the furthest wins the event.

Shot Put

One of the favourite events at the Highland Games is the shot put. Participants throw a large, heavy stone as far as they can. Dependent on what games you attend they may be thrown after a small run up to a toe board or thrown from a standing position. Again, whoever throws it the furthest wins the event.

Weight for Height

This game requires competitors to throw a heavy weight over a bar. The weight has a handle in which participants use one hand to lift the weight with. With one hand the player throws the weight over the raised bar. The bar is lifted higher and higher until only one participant is left.

Tug O’ War

Involving teams of eight, the contestant line up on either side of a long rope and pull until one team have pulled the other over a line marked in the centre. This is a must see at any Highland Games as the crowd are often in full voice, giving the teams words of encouragement.

The Highland Games have been so globally popular that they have been taken to other countries as more Scots emigrated. Countries that host Highland Games include America, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, and Brazil.

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