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A History of the Highland Games

May 01, 2018 2 min read

A History of the Highland Games

Highland Games are a popular celebration of Scottish arts, culture, and sports. Around one hundred Games are held in Scotland each year, as well as many hundreds more around the world.

The first historical reference to Highland Games-type events was made during the reign of King Malcolm III (1057-1093), when the King summoned men to race up Craig Choinnich near Braemar in order to find a royal messenger. It is said that Highland Games became a way of choosing the ablest men for the Clan Chieftain's household, which not only encompassed challenges to determine brute strength, but also of dance and musicianship in order to add prestige to the household. 

Today Highland Games feature many of the same elements as those first held hundreds of years ago, albeit much more organised and refined. Many Highland Games feature major highland dancing, pipe band, solo piping, and highland heavy weight contests, and draw significant crowds (the Cowal Highland Gathering, the biggest Highland Games in the world, draws over twenty thousand spectators).   

Pipe Bands wait for Prizegiving at the Cowal Highland Gathering

The Atholl Gathering at Blair Castle

Through Scottish migration in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the traditions and practice of Highland Games spread through numerous parts of the world. New Zealand holds a number of annual Highland Games, including the Turakina Highland Games and Waipu Highland Games. Although much smaller than the Highland Games held in Scotland, these events still play an important part in celebrating Kiwis' Scottish heritage, and provide a great venue for those involved in the Scottish arts and sports to showcase their talents.   

Highland Dancers perform during Massed Bands at the Waipu Highland Games

For more information about the origins and history of Highland Games, check out the article from The Scotsman "A History of the Scottish Highland Games" : http://www.scotsman.com/heritage/people-places/a-history-of-the-scottish-highland-games-1-4132939 


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