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The Highland Games in Braemar September

We are considering launching our self designed tour of the British Isles in Edinburgh, the very beginning of September, 2018. The Braemar Highland Games are written up as a highlight for locals, world travelers and even royalty. We are looking forward to everything Scottish, and in fact I just traced my heritage to Glasgow. Maybe that's why I can't hold back the tears every time I hear the pipes and delight in highland dance. We have dedicated our lives to sport and so have an enduring appreciation for athletic competition. My husband is a former pitcher and college baseball coach.

Our question is, Do you recommend we join the 16,000 who come to the village of Braemar, population 600 or so on any given non-game day, in order to experience the games, the parade of bagpipes and drums along with the chance to witness the celebration of life embodied in the Scottish dance? Actually we might enjoy Braemar or another such village when the gamers have gone home. We are not adverse to attending the games, but we are thinking it might be a struggle to secure lodging and transportation to ensure a pleasant experience if we attend the games. So, welcoming perspectives on the value and the considerations.

Posted by
5678 posts

I do enjoy Scottish Games. I am not sure about the Braemar Games. I've not been, and i know thought that the crowds are impressive. Smaller games are lovely too. You might also think about attending some games here in the US. Check out this schedule. And here's a similar schedule for 2016 for Scotland. They won't have 2018 up for quite a while, but this list should give you some ideas.

Another way to find the spirit of Scotland is to go to a Ceilidh or catch some traditional music in a pub. Sandy Bells in Edinburgh, The Taybank in Dunkeld, and Hootenanny in Inverness are a few places where I am confident you'll find music.

Pam

Posted by
260 posts

I live about eight miles from Braemar and have to say the annual gathering (always held on the first Saturday in September) is the biggest event in this area in any year. The crowds attending it are certainly impressive. If you plan to attend a Highland games then Braemar is one to go to if you can, although smaller games can be just as much fun simply because they are more intimate and without the crowds present at Braemar.

That said the organising committee have over the years honed the event and it is well able to cope with the numbers attending. Car parking is about a twenty minute walk from the Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park where the games are held and there is a shuttle bus operating. The park itself is open air and somewhat at the mercy of the elements, but that’s half the fun. To get a better idea of what the field looks like I’d use Google photos and maps.

Staying in Braemar would be a great idea to experience everything and there is usually a ceilidh at nearby Mar Lodge the night before the gathering. You’d need a car to get there. Details for this year’s ceilidh are here to give you an idea http://www.nts.org.uk/Events/Mar-Lodge-Estate/The-Gathering-Ceilidh/

Some accommodation providers may insist on a three night booking which may not fit in with your plans. However there are places to stay further away i.e. Crathie, Ballater, Aboyne, Pitlochry and Kirkmichael. If you’re not planning this trip until 2018 you have lots of time to find somewhere to stay and put together an itinerary.

Braemar is a very pretty village and easily negotiated on foot. The countryside around it is beautiful and there’s plenty to see and do in the area. At this point I could give you a lot of website links to look at, but for now I’ll just give you one http://visitroyaldeeside.com/

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert certainly knew what they were doing when they purchased the Balmoral Estate in Crathie (across the River Dee from where I live) and the British Royal Family have continued to use it as their annual summer holiday home ever since. The area of Royal Deeside is justifiably proud of the links it has to the Royal Family and they are supportive of us in times of need.

If there’s anything else I can help you with then please feel free to send me a private message and I’ll do everything I can to assist you.

Posted by
814 posts

I attended the games a few years ago, but I took a bus tour from Edinburgh, therefore, I didn't have to worry about finding accommodation or parking in the village. It was a lot of fun, but it was damp all day, and chilly, so come prepared for that. If you want to sit in the bleachers you have to pay more, but I spent the day just wandering from on event to another. I think you would enjoy it.

Posted by
255 posts

Thank you for these fine and helpful suggestions. We will most certainly follow up. The websites have served to be quite a valuable resource. As we engage in the process of designing our itinerary, we are considering ourselves fortunate to have landed on Edinburgh as our beginning point, on a date the led us to The Highland Games in Breamar. And I suspect we will be hooked and will seek out the games in the states.

Posted by
255 posts

Now that we have taken a look at a Ceilidh, we have a new question; must the men wear a kilt?
I think my husband would look quite dashing, but I would have to chase him down and plug him with lots of quality scotch to the point of lost consciousness in order to dress him for the event!

Posted by
5697 posts

@zagfam, if you visit a Highland Games event in the US before you leave, perhaps your husband will become a fan of the kilt after spending a day surrounded by them. In my area, it's Labor Day weekend in Pleasanton. (But LOTS of people who just wear their usual weekend attire, as well.)

Posted by
255 posts

With a smile, I am thinking, as comfortable and culturally stylish as the kilt may be, particularly in the context of the games and the ceilidh, I still don't think there is that much scotch on the planet.

Posted by
260 posts

Must a man wear a kilt at a ceilidh?

Not necessarily but if he is going to then he should wear one of the correct weight and length. I’m no expert on kilts but have seen enough to recognise the real thing from a cheap copy. Sometimes I look at guys wearing them and wonder if they are doing it for a bet. Kilts can be hired easily enough to save the expense of purchasing one.

If your husband is on holiday then he won’t be in the company of people who know him and if he feels comfortable wearing a kilt, then he should. He should also eschew the old stories of men wearing nothing underneath. Sometimes at a ceilidh the dancing is quite vigorous (Strip the Willow comes to mind) and a man might end up showing more than he might wish to :-(

Posted by
255 posts

Once again, very valuable information. Good to know a kilt can be rented. I am certain lots of fun to be had a a ceilidh!