The Highland Games are a distinctive feature of the summer calendar, bringing in huge crowds in Scotland and around the globe. To foreigners, they can seem a quirky way to celebrate the Scottish heritage and culture with bagpipes, tartans and highland dancing but that’s just the tip of the surface.
Professional atheletes from around the world put their strength and power against each other in numerous different events like tossing the caber and throwing the hammer to see which ones goes the furthest. They date back to 11th Century and these sort of tests help the chief of the clan to select the best and toughest fighters or warriors. You might be wondering that why after all these decades these unusual games still survived?
One important reason why these Highland games are so popular among people is because of various competitive sport activities, for example the tossing of the caber, which indeed requires amazing strength. Such events are more than just few activities to gather around the crowds. Serious competitors can spend countless hours training, as well as working on sprints and strength exercises. Not only that but they also follow strict diet that contains lot of meat, various vitamins and products that help in muscle recovery process.
Few Highland games also feature championship events, which attracts different competitors from around the globe. Competition is fierce and also features cash prizes along with glory, up for grabs. The Scottish Highland Games Association (SHGA) carefully records results from around 60 games each year and declares overall league champions at the end of the season.
The games featured in Highland games are also steeped in tradition. It’s known that they date back to Malcolm III’s reign in the 11th Century, which totally explains some of the unusual events. The equipment used echoes items that were part of everyday Scottish life centuries ago.
Previously, stones from river beds were used as the shot putt and the trunk of a tree had its branches removed for the caber toss. The trunk could be soaked in the local river stream to make it even more heavier than it actually was. In the pitching the chief event, a bag of hay is thrown over a bar using a pitchfork. Nowadays, events have broadened to include running, cycling and dancing competitions, along with sack race and haggis hurling.
Another major reason why Highland games are so popular is the fact that they include various celebrities like Billy Connolly, Robin Williams and Ewan McGregor. The Royal Family attend the Braemar Gathering every year, following in Queen Victoria’s footsteps who boosted the Highland Games popularity when she first attended Braemar in 18th Century. Tradition dictates the gathering is held on the first Saturday in September when the QUeen performs Clan Chief duties and enjoyes the spectacle.
Furthermore, Highland games have spread across the globe. Events have sprung up wherever Scottish people have put down their roots. They have always been popular in North American and continue in places as far as Iceland and Indonesia, as well as in France and Germany.