What Are Highland Games?
We have just got back from our recent holiday around Scotland, mainly keeping on the NC500 but straying off at times, and we wanted to discover the answer to this exact question.
I knew absolutely nothing about what is involved in Highland Games where as Chris knew one thing involving the worlds strongest men and a really long log…..
Intrigued by this we discovered there would be this event on in Mallaig/Morar around the time we were hitting that side of Scotland so we planned ahead (for once) to attend – basically this was the aim of the whole holiday.
Mallaig & Morar
Mallaig is a village on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands, and is the port for the ferries to the Small Isles, Skye and South Uist.
Morar is a small village on the west coast of Scotland, 3 miles south of Mallaig.
The coastline of the area forms part of the Morar, Moidart and Ardnamurchan National Scenic Area, one of 40 such areas in Scotland, which are defined so as to identify areas of exceptional scenery and to ensure its protection by restricting certain forms of development.
It is famous for Morar Beach, known as the “White Sands of Morar”, which featured prominently in the film Local Hero.
Loch Morar, the deepest freshwater body in the British Isles, is nearby, as well as the short River Morar which flows from the loch to the sea.
These two villages team up on the first Sunday of every August to create the Mallaig and Morar Highland Games.
The Bagpipes Began to Play!
As I walked the dogs in the morning I began to hear bagpipes echoing over the beautiful scenery I was walking around.
It certainly was setting the scene. I went and gathered up the troops and we walked down to the event.
We had parked in a close lay by but for anyone wishing to attend this event in future there is ample parking on the fields in which the event is held.
Upon arriving I didn’t know where to look – it was brilliant! The gentleman on the loudspeaker was announcing upcoming events and gently encouraging everyone to come and have a go in the open events.
It had cost £6 per adult to get in and £3 per child and they had given us a programme which I glanced at before keeping wondering around trying to figure out what was happening.
And herein I shall compile what we absolutely loved about this family day out.
1. Highland Dancing
The first events we spotted were by far mine and Eva’s favourite which was the Highland Dancing.
It was just beautiful.
From the colourful tartan outfits to the technique and strength involved it was a fantastic display.
The sword dance was particularly impressive – and tricky with dancers having to tiptoe over crossed swords.
Dancers performed a variation of 10 different dances in front of a judge whilst a piper played away. These are:
- 16 Pas de Basques
- Pas de Basques and High Cuts
- Highland Fling
- Sword Dance
- Seann Truibheas
- Reel of Tulloch
- Flora MacDonald
- Scottish Lilt
- Irish Jig
You can read more about Highland Dancing here.
Tying into the highland dancing, the sound of Bagpipes surrounds the playing fields – its really atmospheric and compliments the wonderful Scottish scenery perfectly!
There were four events adults could participate in to win a prize of up to £80 – and the added bonus of a bottle of Ben Nevis Whisky if you were the best over the four events.
- The Special Pìobaireachd Competition
- Strathspey & Reel
- Jigs and Hornpipe
Now unfortunately I am no bagpipe expert and I cant actually tell you what is involved in each of these, but with a quick google i have learned I watched the below gentleman perform the Pìobaireachd.
Here’s a young man doing it for you to listen to.
3. Tossing the Caber
So the log which Chris mentioned earlier was a Caber. I cannot describe this event any better than in this video so take a watch….
The first attempt the “heavies” (the big big strong guys – in kilts) had was just a practice – it was a smaller Caber to see if they were allowed to hold to actual Caber safely…..wowsers….then 2/5 moved on to the big one…..it was actually scary to watch….The caber is usually made from a Larch tree and is typically 19 feet 6 inches (5.94 m) tall and weighs 175 pounds (79 kg)!!!!!!!!!!!
With baited breaths we watched them have a go! Well done chaps!
4. The Running Competitions
Whilst all of the above is going on the announcer summons everyone to come and get involved in several races from under fours running for 30metres to the big one of the Hill Race!
We didn’t actually grasp what was going on in this event until we watched them set off.
We looked round and as far as our vision would allow us to see was a really massive hill with a flag on the top – we squinted and saw it…..three races of men, women and 12 and unders took off at the same time to reach the flag and get back to the arena.
It was impressive and the event I am now challenging myself to take part in next year.
Eva loved that there were relay races going on at the same time as viewing the heavies.
5. The Piping Band
OK, you got me, it involves bagpipes again, but this is a different kettle of fish. Listening to them with a band is just amazing.
We’ve heard them at the Armed Forces Day too and when playing with a full band it gives a very different feel. Here’s them giving us a jolly good show!
and here’s how it sounded….excuse Teddy through the video with his ball he had just won….
A Great Family Day Out
With the above five reasons why we had such a great time plus many many others – we thoroughly recommend you go see for yourselves!
We will be back next year and I WILL run up that hill! And back down again!
I might not be fast, very fit, or great at running but I know for sure Mallaig and Morar will make me feel very welcome and the lovely Highland friendliness shall hopefully give me plenty of steam and encouragement to give it a good go – and if that fails you will find me in the on site bar!
See you next year!
p.s. seconds away from clicking publish I realised I missed some of my favorite shots….so here’s a gallery….Enjoy!