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Highland Games

Besides the Braemar Games in September, which I would love to attend someday but probably can't this year, what other games/gatherings are really good & fun to see? Has anyone gone to the ones in Atholl in late May? Do they all have similar events? Interested in the piping, dancing, athletic competition, food and liquid refreshments! Would love to stay in nearby pretty village for few days too- any recommendations?

Posted by
17 posts

We're doing Pitlochry on Sept. 9th. Small one but has great reviews.

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, mbgawron,

There are Highland Gatherings throughout Scotland just about every weekend from May through September. The best of the bunch is the Cowal Gathering, held in Dunoon in late August every year. One of the best of the rest is the Lonach Gathering, held in Strathdon on the fourth Saturday in August.

The Lonach Gathering features the March of the Clansmen:

Will you be in Scotland in May? If so, search for "Highland Gatherings Scotland", and see what's happening near where you'll be.

Almost all of the gatherings, with the exception some of the really small ones, feature the same events: solo piping, band competition, Highland dancing, athletic events (caber toss, sheaf toss, hammer throw, tug of war, footrace, etc.), etc. Some of the events which are common in Highland Gatherings in the U.S. and Canada (sheepdog trials, clan tents) are rarely found at Scottish Gatherings.

You will definitely find plenty of food and liquid refreshments at the Gatherings in Scotland. There's nothing like eating a good Scots mutton pie at a Highland Gathering, enjoying the activities as the juice runs down your chin!

For anyone fortunate enough to be in Glasgow on the 18th and 19th of August, the World Pipe Band Competition (the "Worlds" as they call it) will be taking place on Glasgow Green. As the name implies, this is a big one! There will be massed pipes and drums from all over the world competing for two days. There are several levels of competition, based on the grade and size of the band.

Field Marshal Montgomery band was last year's Class 1 winner:

I hope that you're able to attend at least one Gathering while you're in Scotland!

Best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
517 posts

We went to the Pitlochry games several years ago. Loved it. There were other things to do in the area and we stayed in a very nice b&b.

Posted by
5158 posts

I'm hijacking this thread because I was also looking for games in May when I'm there. The only one I could find that would fit my schedule (I'm there from May 4th through the 26th) is one at Gordon Castle in Morayshire. It's on Sunday, May 21st. I could conceivably make it - I will be taking the ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool that morning (arriving around 10:40) and then driving in that direction (with a stop at Culloden and Clava Cairns).

It looks like it ends around 17:00 so I would probably not have much, if any, time there, especially if I stop at Culloden. My question is whether I should eliminate the Culloden stop and drive like mad so I can spend some time at the festival.

My other option would be to leave Stornoway a day early (I would have to change my ferry ticket) so that I could get there for the whole festival. Is it worth it?

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, Mardee,

It's a good four hours from Ullapool to Fochabers, so you would have missed most of the events by the time you arrived at Gordon Castle. Plus you definitely do not want to rush, as you'll be going through some pretty decent scenery.

If you definitely do not want to miss this Gathering, then you need to head back from Lewis a day early. That would give you time to visit Culloden. Fochabers might be socked in as far as accommodation on the evenings surrounding the festival. You'd probably want to stay in Elgin, which is close by. I can recommend the Premier Inn and the West End Guest House. The Elgin Cathedral is worth a visit as well, if you have time.

Best wishes, as always!

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: CalMac charges 10 pounds to change a ticket.

Posted by
5158 posts

CalMac charges 10 pounds to change a ticket.

Ha, of course they do! I remember you telling me that, Mike. Thank you for the information! I'll have to ponder it over and see if it's worth it. It would mean cutting my nights on H&L to only two.

Posted by
2886 posts

Just curious but can I participate in the Highland Games? I've been working out more with weights and would like to challenge myself against Scot men in the feats of strength, like pole-throwing and so forth.

Posted by
1597 posts

The Royal Scottish Highland Games Association is the governing body and responsible for organising the games. I think you need to have to register with them before you can compete in the games. I don't think you can just turn up and take part. Maybe contact them and ask!

Posted by
5158 posts

Mike, if you become a contestant, I will definitely make my way there!!! 🤣

Posted by
4 posts

Last summer I went to the highland games in Bridge of Allan and it was terrific. There were a large number of pipe bands including a few international ones. If you check the events calendar on the RSHGA website it provides details on what competitions will be happening at each games. Farm shows are another fun activity to add to your itinerary. I enjoyed the one in Perth, held on the Friday and Saturday before the B of A games on Sunday.

Posted by
5158 posts

Okay, I'm decided - I'm going to try and make it to the Gordon Castle Highland Games on May 21st. Now I just need to adjust my accommodations on Harris and Lewis and change my ferry ticket. I'm pretty excited - it sounds like fun!

Posted by
4133 posts


At Gourock yesterday, while you weren't allowed to take part in the real events there was a fun audience participation event where you could try hurling a rock.
That was based on one of the sports, which is unique to the Gourock games.
There was a cruise ship in at Greenock, and some of the passengers had got to the games, including Americans, Canadians and an Australian.
In both men's and women's classes an American visitor won.
The real events are serious athletic events- health and safety is and has to be paramount.
The Gourock games maybe a fairly small community event, and the first of the season. But they are taken as seriously as any other, the scenic setting is great, and they are free. And all key events are there.
Always the second Sunday in May.
Thanks to whoever it was from WA on this forum who sowed the seed in my mind, talking about Enumwclaw games.
Inverclyde and the Clyde Islands (except Arran) is a part of Scotland sadly that doesn't feature on most overseas visitors itinerary.
Full trip report to follow, when I'm not on a train to Inverness!
By the way even I made a rookie mistake yesterday at Dunoon, a case of I know the area too well! More on that in the trip report.