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The scene is set; a summer’s day, a lush Scottish glen, centuries of history, competitors ready to battle it out … it’s Scotland’s iconic Highland Games – but not as we know it this year.

In 2020, for the first time ever, the Scottish Highland Games have been held virtually, and everyone can have a front row seat to the very best of Scottish culture and competition!

The Highland Games are a traditional feature of summer across Scotland, particularly in rural areas. Dating back over 1,000 years, Highland Games are a celebration of Scottish and Celtic culture, centered around a variety of competitions such as heavy athletics, piping, drumming and Highland dancing.

Whether you want to re-watch the action, find out more about the history behind the games, or stage your own Highland Games from home, there are plenty of ways to get involved this year, albeit in a physically distanced and virtual way!

Here’s how you can be part of the action!

Assemble Your Clan for Scotland’s Virtual Highland Games!

Catch the Virtual Replays

Cowal Highland Gathering is the world’s biggest Highland Games (around 23,000 people attend each year), and their events this year were streamed virtually, with replays available on their YouTube page.

Dancers danced, pipers played and heavy athletes showed off their strength to a worldwide audience as Cowal broadcast its three-day online extravaganza around the globe to fans from Canada to New Zealand, and everywhere else in between.

This year was be the first time the games haven’t taken place since the Second World War. To keep spirit of the games alive they broadcast interviews with past and present competitors, archive film footage and music from some of the biggest names.

Cowal Highland Gathering is a historic event for so many different reasons. It’s holds the world’s oldest pipe band trophies, it is the home of the World Highland Dancing Championships and it hosts Scotland’s only international heavy athletics championship.

The events streamed live to Facebook and YouTube, which can be replayed live for free, anywhere in the world.

ore information or bookings:

2021 Cowal Highland Gathering Details

Where: Dunoon Stadium

When: Thursday 26 – Saturday 28 August 2021

More Info: www.cowalgathering.com

Hold Your Own Highland Games

Highland dancers perform traditional Scottish dance at The Ballater Highland Games

Highland dancers perform traditional Scottish dance at The Ballater Highland Games. Credit: VisitScotland / David N Anderson

It’s true that there’s no better way to experience the games than in their original country, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy the friendly, competitive spirit of the Highland Games at home too!

Now is the perfect time to assemble the clan and rise to the challenge with the Homemade Highland Games 2020.

With a collection of simple household items such as a brooms, pillows, and wellies: living rooms, parks and gardens can be turned into a little slice of Scotland as family and friends battle it out to become the 2020 Homemade Highland Games champion.

Homemade Sheaf Toss

The Sheaf Toss is a traditional heavy athletics competition at most Highland Games where competitors throw a sheaf or filled bag over a high bar using only a pitchfork.

In the homemade version the rules will differ slightly. Instead of seeing how high it can be thrown, see how far it can be tossed.

What You’ll Need:

  • A pillowcase filled with clothes, straw or anything soft to use as your sheaf
  • a pole (a broomstick or sweep is fine)
  • a marker to mark the starting line and the spots on the ground where the sheaf has landed.

Game Rules:

  • Get your homemade sheaf and pole
  • Create a starting line and place your sheaf at it
  • Take turns, try to lift up the sheaf and catapult it into the air so it goes as far as possible (don’t step over the starting line- your toss won’t be counted!)
  • Mark the spot where it landed and let the next player take their turn. You each have two turns each, who tosses it the furthest, wins!

Welly (Gumboot) Throw

Hammer throw at The Ballater Highland Games

Hammer throw at The Ballater Highland Games. Credit: VisitScotland / David N Anderson

This game is inspired by the hammer toss where participants take a heavy metal ball attached to a pole and spin around before letting it fly as far as possible. This version much safer and just as much fun!

What You’ll Need:

  • A welly (gumboot)
  • A starting line
  • A marker

Game Rules:

  • Get your welly, stand at the starting line and grab the welly with both hands
  • Either by spinning or by holding the welly in between your legs, throw it as far as you can without stepping over the line
  • The one who throws the welly the furthest, wins!
  • To make it even harder, make players face away from the starting line and throw the welly backwards over their head

Don’t forget to include track and field activities like sprinting, long jump and even three- legged races!

For more at home Highland Games inspo check out VisitScotland’s Homemade Highland Games e-book.

Highland Games on Screen

A Pipe band March through Ballater during The Ballater Highland Games

A Pipe band March through Ballater during The Ballater Highland Games. Credit: VisitScotland / David N Anderson

The Highland Games have been making a splash for centuries and now they’re even enjoying a starring role on the big screen.

After an action-packed day in the garden or the park, settle down to watch Disney’s Brave and see Scotland’s very own Disney princess, Merida compete for her own hand in marriage at her clan’s Highland Games.

Alternatively, Highland Games’ fans old and new can tune into Netflix’s new docuseries Home Game which profiles unique and dangerous sports from around the world, as well as the communities and cultures where they thrive.

Episode Two of the series heads to Scotland for the Highland Games and meets with real life competitors, including competitors from this year’s virtual Braemar Gathering, who share their love and passion for this iconic sporting event.

Resources

➤ For more ways to experience Scotland and Scottish culture at home visit www.visitscotland.com

➤ Current tourism information regarding advice around Covid 19 can be found at www.visitscotland.org

➤ To ensure everyone can safely enjoy Scotland’s amazing countryside and landscapes, VisitScotland encourages all visitors to fully respect their surroundings by behaving in a responsible and appropriate way.

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

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