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Highland Games: Braemar or Pitlochry, that is the question!

I have read recommendations for the smaller, more intimate local Highland Games. We will be staying in Edinburgh and will plan our flight/arrival to match the event date, flying from Washington state on a Tuesday giving us 5 days to explore the city as well as a day at the Games. The Braemar Highland Games take place the 1st weekend in September followed by The Pitlocghy Highland Games on the 2nd. The literature portrays Braemar as a more grand event, drawing 16,000 plus royalty to a village of 600, while Pitlocghy draws 6000 and is closer to Edinburgh, perhaps more convenient transport (we do not plan to rent a car for our travels through the British Isles). We would appreciate learning more about the nature of each comparing the two. We both grew up in the LA area and have experienced a lifetime of crowds, so we are leaning toward the less crowded venue. We also realize there are very real reasons why people come from all over the world for a very special experience. Enthusiastically looking forward to the culturally unique athletic events, the pipes and the Scottish dance. Thank you for offering insight to help us make an informed decision. We will be heading toward and celebrating our 68th birthdays, 56 of those years celebrating life together. This trip will be our final hurrah. We wish to do it magnificently! PS I just discovered an additional option, Blairgowrie & Rattray Highland Games which appears to coincide with the Braemar Games the 1st weekend in September. So, if you have knowledge of that event, we welcome your thoughts.

Posted by
277 posts

If you are not going to have the use of a car then Pitlochry would be the place to go. There are better transport links to the town from Edinburgh. You can get a direct train to Pitlochry from Edinburgh, but AFAIK not to Blairgowrie. There is no direct train to Braemar and whilst you can get there using public transport, it's much easier and faster to complete the journey by car

http://www.traveline.info/

I can't offer any advice about the games at Pitlochry or Blairgowrie and Rattray because I've never attended them. However you seem not to want crowds and either of them would be less crowded than the Braemar Gathering.

Posted by
909 posts

I went to the Braemar games several years ago and quite enjoyed it. You can get a coach tour from Edinburgh that will take you straight there and back at the end of the day. No need to rent a car.

Posted by
255 posts

What about the crowds? What effect does this have on the quality of the cultural experience?

Posted by
277 posts

I've been thinking about your last question and even discussed the matter with my husband.

In our opinion the crowds present at the Braemar Gathering will add to the experience. They are there because the event is attended by HM The Queen and other members of the British Royal Family. If they were not present for a few hours in the afternoon the Braemar Gathering would lose its biggest attraction and the crowds would not be as large.

I don't think there is another highland gathering or games held anywhere else in the world which is attended by an anointed head of state. It's exceptional.

From a cultural point of view apart from this unique aspect nothing happens at the Braemar Gathering which does not happen anywhere else. Track and heavy events, piping, dancing and trade stands will all take place at other games and gatherings throughout Scotland and the world. Some might argue that if you attend a games in one place you have attended them everywhere else. The format is similar.

I don't know if this helps you any and at the end of the day it's really your call as to whether you attend or not. However if I can be of further help then send me a private message.

Posted by
255 posts

Your thoughts shinning light on the royal touch at the Braemar Highlnd Games reconnects me to one of the very special reasons for this journey. My grandmother was a pianist, eventually the accompanist for the Wiere Brothers. They were sons of Austrian circus performers and became a rather unique stage act fusing European classical music with country western topped off with acrobatics, each balancing a violin or viola or bass on their forehead as my a grandmother, Mildred Seymour, concluded the musical piece, to the roar of the crowd. Over the course of the 50's and 60's, they did 4 command performances for Queen Elizabeth at the Palladium. It's time we get back in touch, don't you think? Braemar Highland Games, here we come!
Thank you to all who have enriched our travel planning with thoughtful considerations and insights.

Posted by
5678 posts

So, now that I know you're going to Braemar, I have to tell you about a favorite gallery, The Knock Gallery. It's just above Balmoral, so lovely views and lovely art and a lovely garden! Here are the directions from Braemar. Oh and lovely amber jewelry too!

Posted by
277 posts

I don't think the OP will be able to visit the Knock Gallery because it's not that easy to get to without a car and I don't think they are planning to drive :-(

Unless they choose to rent a car which will give them the flexibility they need, they will have to take the 201 bus from Braemar to the bottom of the road and walk up the hill. Or they could organise a taxi, which could prove an expensive option.

With apparently such a short amount of time it's probably going to be better for them to take in the Braemar Gathering as a day trip by coach from Edinburgh as suggested by another poster to this thread. Unless there's a change in schedule by the OP and a couple of nights in Braemar can be organised to fit in with their itinerary.

Posted by
255 posts

We will probably opt for a coach to the games Saturday. I explored the art museum's website and greatly appreciate the recommendation. Now I am wondering about when and how early to secure our seats on a coach to the games. The 2016 games take place this weekend. Perhaps someone attending will catch our posting and contribute guidance and recommendations.

Posted by
255 posts

We will probably opt for a coach to the games Saturday. I explored the art museum's website and greatly appreciate the recommendation. Now I am wondering about when and how early to secure our seats on a coach to the games. The 2016 Braemar Games take place this weekend. Perhaps someone attending will catch our posting and contribute guidance and recommendations.

Posted by
277 posts

If the plan was to attend in 2018 then you have plenty of time to secure a coach reservation. Make enquiries now and see what the individual companies have to say. They will know how fast places sell out. You also need to know whether they will book seats at the park for you, or if you have to do that yourselves.

The Braemar Gathering website will give you information about how everything is set up and what the seating plan is.