Kilts, Cabers, and Bagpipes, Oh my!

Our first Highland Games experience!  We headed to the Lonach Highland Games on Saturday, August 23.  It was about 35 miles away, right inside Cairngorms National Park.  The roads out were pretty empty until we ran into the long queue to park.  It was pretty muddy and I regretted wearing new leather booties…but in the end it wasn’t the worst.  But wellies or hiking books are probably the best option in the future.


We were running a little late, but it seems they were too.  So right when we arrived, the March of the Highlanders and Massed Pipe Bands were entering the arena.  Apparently, they set off in the morning if full regalia and walk through town stopping at different houses for a wee dram of scotch.  They are followed by a horse and cart in case someone consumes one wee dram too many.  The horse and cart also march around the arena just in case…  {A great video of bagpipers and the march should be playing right now.  I got a new plugin and everything, but literally all I was transferring the videos, I dropped my iPhone and it broke.  And now I will never have those videos and I don’t have a phone for a whole week!}

There are a handful of food options, but our burger and roast beef weren’t really good.  There are also about 25 stalls selling different Scottish merchandise. I have to say, I really was quite keen on a headband with grouse (I can only assume grouse?) feathers on it, a Highlands fascinator I believe.  I actually can’t find a picture online, hrumpf.  Next time I’ll get one- or at least get a picture.  I haven’t found any tartan I’m in love with…but I’m always on the lookout.  Right now I would love to get Stella a tartan collar and leash to fit in.  But we didn’t buy anything in the end.

Well, we didn’t get anything except 4 free rams of whiskey!  We walked over to the Whiskies of Scotland tent, Erik anticipating buying a bit to drink.  When we walk up we are given a rudimentary punch card each that allowed us to try 4 whiskies for free.  I was quite proud of myself that I did three….okay, really 2 ½ because one was poured by a lady and I felt less judged asking for a baby pour.  On the 3rd one I nearly gagged.  I guess I’ll say I made some progress…

IMG_0288Anyway, immediately after the parade around the arena some events start.  There are 2 stages for different dance teams to compete, which goes on for hours with loads of different little girls with buns dancing jigs to bagpipes.  There are also 2 different platforms for solo bagpipers to compete/be judged.  In the middle, you have the big dudes throwing the ‘scottish hammer’ and the ‘stone put.’  And then there are some races around the arena when all this is going on, which seems a little dangerous with massive dudes in skirts chucking heavy objects, but who am I to say what’s safe?  It’s really quite a sensory overload.  I should mention the Lonach Pipe Band is marching around and rocking-out outside the arena and the loads and loads of people and dogs…just a lot going on.

They had a nice little memorial for Robin Williams, whom I learned had come to these games in 1999 and 2000.  Both years he wore a complete Highlands Outfit and did the Hill Run.

Ahhh, the hill run. At 3pm there is a 4 mile hill run.  Anyone can enter it seems and this year there were about 90 runners (and even some in kilts).  They all leave and you can’t see where they go or what hill they climb but eventually they all trickle back in.  We’re going to investigate this hill run more and maybe run it next year?  But I can’t imagine taking that on in a kilt.

There are a handful of guys that do long jump and high jump.  Erik would like to take them on since the long jumper won with an 8-foot-and-some-change jump.  E thinks he can do that from standing…I don’t know anything about the long jump but I know I completely welcome E competing at a highlands game.

As the afternoon ware on, there is the tug-of-war with both men’s and women’s teams.  I should mention they wanted a “Women of the World” team to compete- just ladies who are there to assemble into a team.  They requested people to come up to join, but my new Sam Edelman booties were already as trashed as I could stomach.

Then we got to see what we’ve been waiting for: the caber toss!  Stella and I had great seats.  It was all I hoped for and more.  {And here is where there is supposed to be an outstanding caber toss video… } 


Of course it was off and on hot and then cold, windy and then calm, rainy and then sunshine, and then my favorite Scotland weather pattern: sunshine rain.  Literally it downpours while you’re wearing your sunnies.  Wonderful.  But after I got my caber fix, I was soaked and cold and Stella had collapsed under a bench to hide from the rain and rest her aching paws.  It was time to head home.  Overall, we were there 5 hours…pretty good for amateurs eh? IMG_0297

Lastly, I figured before I came here kilts were just a novelty that Americans think of with the Scottish.  That is not true.  I am happy to say that I generally see a few kilts a week and on Saturday I saw about 500.   I saw guys totally decked out and others that just implement a kilt into their everyday wardrobe.  I saw ladies kilts (or tartan skirts) and mini-kilts.  I even found my first Scottish kilt-wearing man to fall in love with.  He was tall, trim and grizzly (I don’t stray from my type) with a maroon sweater on and a grey tartan kilt.  With the great socks and black booties.  Swooooooon.  Alas, no pictures girls!

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