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    Highland games are events held throughout the year in Scotland and other countries as a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture and heritage, especially that of the Scottish Highlands. Certain aspects of the games are so well known as to have become emblematic of Scotland, such as the bagpipes, the kilt, and the heavy events, especially the caber toss. While centred on competitions in piping and drumming, dancing, and Scottish heavy athletics, the games also include entertainment and exhibits related to other aspects of Scottish and Gaelic culture.
    The Cowal Highland Gathering, better known as the cowal Games, held in DunoonScotland every August, is the largest Highland games in Scotland, attracting around 3,500 competitors and somewhere in the region of 15–20,000 spectators from around the globe. Worldwide, however, it is dwarfed by two gatherings in the United States: the 50,000 that attend Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina and the even larger gathering—the largest in the Northern Hemisphere—that has taken place every year since 1865 hosted by the Caledonian Club of San Francisco. This event is currently held Labor Day weekend in Pleasanton, California.

    The games are claimed to have influenced Baron Pierre de Coubertin when he was planning the revival of the Olympic Games. De Coubertin saw a display of Highland games at the Paris Exhibition of 1889.


    The origin of human games and sports predates recorded history. An example of a possible early games venue is at Fetteresso, although that location is technically a few miles south of the Scottish Highlands.
    It is reported in numerous books and Highland games programs, that King Malcolm III of Scotland, in the 11th century, summoned contestants to a foot race to the summit of Craig Choinnich (overlooking Braemar).King Malcolm created this foot race in order to find the fastest runner in the land to be his royal messenger. Some have seen this apocryphal event to be the origin of today's modern Highland games.

    There is a document from 1703 summoning the clan of the Laird of Grant, Clan Grant. They were to arrive wearing Highland coats and "also with gunswordpistill [sic] and dirk". From this letter, it is believed that the competitions would have included feats of arms.
    However, the modern Highland games are largely a Victorian invention, developed after the Highland Clearances.

Heavy Events

    In their original form many centuries ago, Highland games revolved around athletic and sports competitions. Though other activities were always a part of the festivities, many today still consider Highland athletics to be what the games are all about — in short, that the athletics are the Games, and all the other activities are just entertainment. Regardless, it remains true today that the athletic competitions are at least an integral part of the events and one — the caber toss — has come to almost symbolize the Highland games.
    Although quite a range of events can be a part of the Highland athletics competition, a few have become standard.

  • Caber toss: A long tapered pine pole or log is stood upright and hoisted by the competitor who balances it vertically holding the smaller end in his hands (see photo). Then the copetitor runs forward attempting to toss it in such a way that it turns end over end with the upper (larger) end striking the ground first. The smaller end that was originally held by the athlete then hits the ground in the 12 o'clock position measured relative to the direction of the run. If successful, the athlete is said to have turned the caber. Cabers vary greatly in length, weight, taper, and balance, all of which affect the degree of difficulty in making a successful toss. Competitors are judged on how closely their throws approximate the ideal 12 o'clock toss on an imaginary clock.

  • Stone put: This event is similar to the modern-day shot put as seen in the Olympic Games. Instead of a steel shot, a large stone of variable weight is often used. There are also some differences from the Olympic shot put in allowable techniques. There are two versions of the stone toss events, differing in allowable technique. The "Braemar Stone" uses a 20–26 lb stone for men (13–18 lb for women) and does not allow any run up to the toeboard or "trig" to deliver the stone, i.e., it is a standing put. In the "Open Stone" using a 16–22 lb stone for men (or 8–12 lb for women), the thrower is allowed to use any throwing style so long as the stone is put with one hand with the stone resting cradled in the neck until the moment of release. Most athletes in the open stone event use either the "glide" or the "spin" techniques

  • Scottish hammer throw: This event is similar to the hammer throw as seen in modern-day track and field competitions, though with some differences. In the Scottish event, a round metal ball (weighing 16 or 22 lb for men or 12 or 16 lb for women) is attached to the end of a shaft about 4 feet in length and made out of wood, bamboo, rattan, or plastic. With the feet in a fixed position, the hammer is whirled about one's head and thrown for distance over the shoulder. Hammer throwers sometimes employ specially designed footwear with flat blades to dig into the turf to maintain their balance and resist the centrifugal forces of the implement as it is whirled about the head. This substantially increases the distance attainable in the throw.

  • Weight throw, also known as the weight for distance event. There are actually two separate events, one using a light (28 lb for men and 14 lb for women) and the other a heavy (56 lb for men, 42 lb for masters men, and 28 lb for women) weight. The weights are made of metal and have a handle attached either directly or by means of a chain. The implement is thrown using one hand only, but otherwise using any technique. Usually a spinning technique is employed. The longest throw wins.

  • Weight over the bar, also known as weight for height. The athletes attempt to toss a 56 pound (4 stone) weight with an attached handle over a horizontal bar using only one hand. Each athlete is allowed three attempts at each height. Successful clearance of the height allows the athlete to advance into the next round at a greater height. The competition is determined by the highest successful toss with fewest misses being used to break tie scores.

  • Sheaf toss: A bundle of straw (the sheaf) weighing 20 pounds (9 kg) for the men and 10 pounds (4.5 kg) for the women and wrapped in a burlap bag is tossed vertically with a pitchfork over a raised bar much like that used in pole vaulting. The progression and scoring of this event is similar to the Weight Over The Bar. There is significant debate among athletes as to whether the sheaf toss is in fact an authentic Highland event. Some argue it is actually a country fair event, but all agree that it is a great crowd pleaser.

  • Maide Leisg(Scots Gaelic meaning 'Lazy Stick'): Trial of strength performed by two men sitting on the ground with the soles of their feet pressing against each other. Thus seated, they held a stick between their toes which they pulled against each other till one of them was raised from the ground. The oldest 'Maide Leisg' competition in the world takes place at the Carloway show and Highland Games on the Isle of Lewis.

    Many of the Heavy Events competitors in Scottish highland athletics are former high school and college track and field athletes who find the Scottish games are a good way to continue their competitive careers.
    Increasingly in the USA, the Heavy Events are attracting women and master class athletes which has led to a proliferation of additional classes in Heavy Events competitions. Lighter implements are used in the classes.


    For many Highland games festival attendees, the most memorable of all the events at the games is the massing of the pipe bands. Normally held in conjunction with the opening and closing ceremonies of the games, as many as 20 or more pipe bands will march and play together. The result is a thunderous rendition of traditional favourites Scotland the Brave or Amazing Grace, and other crowd-pleasing favorites.
    It is, in fact, the music of the bagpipe which has come to symbolise music at the Games and, indeed, in Scotland itself. In addition to the massed bands, nearly all Highland games gatherings feature a wide range of piping and drumming competition, including solo piping and drumming, small group ensembles and, of course, the pipe bands themselves.
    But the pipes and drums are not the only music which can be heard at Highland games. Music at Highland games gatherings takes on a variety of forms. Many such events offer fiddlingharp circles, Celtic bands and other forms of musical entertainment, the latter usually spiced with a healthy amount of bagpipe music.


    People dance there. There were several traditional dances that were danced along to traditional music.

Secondary Events and Attractions

    At modern-day Highland Games events, a wide variety of other activities and events are generally available. Foremost among these are the clan tents and vendors of Scottish related goods. The various clan societies make the Highland games one of the main focus of their seasonal activities, usually making an appearance at as many such events as possible. Visitors can find out information about the Scottish roots and can become active in their own clan society if they wish.
    At modern games, armouries will display their collections of swords and armour, and often perform mock battles. Various vendors selling Scottish memorabilia are also present selling everything from Irn-Bru to the stuffed likeness of the Loch Ness Monster.
    Herding dog trials and exhibitions are often held, showcasing the breeder's and trainer's skills. In addition, there may be other types of Highland animals present, such as the Highland cattle.
   Various traditional and modern Celtic arts are often showcased. This could include Harper's circles, Scottish country dancing, and one or more entertainment stages. In addition, most events usually feature a pre-event ceilidh (a type of social event with traditional music, dancing, song, and other forms of entertainment).
   Various food vendors will also offer assorted types of traditional Scottish refreshment and sustenance.

Major events in Scotland

Burntisland, FifeBurntisland Highland GamesSecond oldest in the world
Ceres, FifeCERES HIGHLAND GAMESOldest Free games in the world
CrieffCrieff Highland Games
DunoonCowal Highland GatheringBiggest Games in Scotland

Major events outside Scotland


Calgary, AlbertaCalgary Highland Games
Cambridge, OntarioCambridge Highland Games
Grande Prairie, AlbertaGrande Prairie Highland Games
CoquitlamBritish ColumbiaBC Highland Games
Victoria, British ColumbiaVictoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Antigonish, Nova ScotiaAntigonish Highland Games
Almonte, OntarioNorth Lanark Highland Games
Cobourg, OntarioCobourg Highland Games
Maxville, OntarioGlengarry Highland Games
Sudbury, OntarioSudbury Celtic Festival & Highland Games
Montreal, QuebecMontreal Highland Games


St. UrsenFribourgHighland Games Swiss Championships

United States

Scottsboro, Alabama
North Alabama Scottish Festival & Highland Games
Eagle River, Alaska
Alaskan Scottish Highland Games
Camp Verde, Arizona
Verde Valley Highland Games
Phoenix, Arizona
Arizona Scottish Gathering and Highland Games
Prescott, Arizona
Prescott Highland Games
Tucson, Arizona
Tucson Celtic Festival and Highland Games
Batesville, Arkansas
Arkansas Scottish Festival
Bakersfield, California
Bakersfield High Games
Santa Cruz County, California
Scottish Renaissance Festival featuring the Loch Lomond Highland Games & Celtic Gathering
Campbell, California
Campbell Highland Games
Costa Mesa, California
United Scottish Highland Gathering
Fresno, California
Fresno Highland Games
Livermore, California
Livermore Scottish Games and Celtic Celebration
Modesto, California
Modesto Highland Games
Oakland, California
Oakland Scottish Games
Pleasanton, California
Caledonian Club of San Francisco Highland Gathering
Salinas, California
Monterey Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Ventura, California
Seaside Highland Games
Vista, California
San Diego Scottish Highland Games and Gathering
Woodland, California
Sacramento Valley Scottish Games
Elizabeth, Colorado
Elizabeth Celtic Festival
Estes Park, Colorado
Long's Peak Scottish/Irish Highland Festival
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Colorado Scottish Festival
Sterling, Colorado
Sterling Celtic Festival
Goshen, Connecticut
St. Andrews Society of Connecticut Scottish Festival
Norwalk, Connecticut
Round Hill Highland Games
Scotland, Connecticut
Scotland Highland Festival
Dunedin, Florida
Dunedin Highland Games
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Southeast Florida Scottish Festival and Games
Green Cove Springs, Florida
Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games
Ocala, Florida
Ocala Scottish Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Panama City, Florida
Panama City Highland Games
Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola Highland Games
Tallahassee, Florida
Tallahassee Highland Games
Sarasota, Florida
Sarasota Highland Games
Winter Springs, Florida
Central Florida Scottish Highland Games
Zephyrhills, Florida
Zephyrhills Celtic Festival and Highland Games
Blairsville, Georgia
Blairsville Scottish Festival and Highland Games
Chickamauga, Georgia
Appalachian Celtic Festival
Anderson, South Carolina
Loch Hartwell Highland Games
Ringgold, Georgia
Ringold Highland Games
Savannah, Georgia
Savannah Scottish Games and Highland Festival
Stone Mountain, Georgia
Stone Mountain Highland Games
Honolulu, Hawaii
Hawaiian Scottish Festival
Boise, Idaho
Treasure Valley Highland Games
Oakbrook, Illinois
Illinois St. Andrew Society Highland Games
Springfield, Illinois
Shamrock Games
Springfield, Illinois
Springfield Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Columbus, Indiana
Columbus, Indiana Scottish Festival
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Indiana Highland Games
South Bend, Indiana
Celtic Festival and Bryan Verkler Invitational Highland Games
Davenport, Iowa
Celtic Festival and Highland Games of the Quad-Cities
McPherson, Kansas
McPherson Scottish Festival and Highland Games
Wakeeney, Kansas
Th' Gatherin' Fire Festival O'Beltane
Carrollton, Kentucky
Kentucky Scottish Weekend
Glasgow, Kentucky
Glasgow Highland Games
Murray, Kentucky
Western Kentucky Highlands Festival
Jackson, Louisiana
Highland Games of Louisiana
Minden, Louisiana
Tartan Day Celebration
West Monroe, Louisiana
Northeast Louisiana Celtic Festival
Belfast, Maine
Maine Celtic Celebration
Brunswick, Maine
Maine Highland Games
Elkton, Maryland
Fair Hill Scottish Games
Frederick, Maryland
Frederick Celtic Festival
Havre De Grace, Maryland
Stepping Stone Museum Highland Games
St. Leonard, Maryland
Southern Maryland Celtic Festival and Highland Gathering
McHenry, Maryland
McHenry Higland Festival
Snow Hill, Maryland
Chesapeake Celtic Festival
Florence, Massachusetts
Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival
Greenfield, Massachusetts
Western Massachusetts Highland Games and Festival
Alma, Michigan
Alma Highland Festival and Games
Kalamazoo, Michigan
Kalamazoo Highland Games
Livonia, Michigan
St. Andrews Society of Detroit Highland Games
Saline, Michigan
Saline Highland Games
Farmington, Minnesota
Minnesota Scottish Fair
Moorhead, Minnesota
Celtic Festival
Gulfport, Mississippi
Highlands and Islands Games on the Gulf Coast
Jackson, Mississippi
Celtic Fest Mississippi
Buffalo, Missouri
Southwest Missouri Celtic Heritage Festival
Riverside, Missouri
Kansas City Highland Games
St. Charles, Missouri
Missouri Tartan Day Festivities
Hamilton, Montana
Bitterroot Scottish Irish Festival
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas Celtic Gathering
Reno, Nevada
Reno Celtic Celebration
Lincoln, New Hampshire
New Hampshire Highland Games
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival and Highland Games
Altamont, New York
Capital District Scottish Games
Amherst, New York
Amherst Museum Scottish Festival and Highland Games
Old Westbury, New York
Long Island Scottish Games
Greensboro, North Carolina
Triad Highland Games
Hendersonville, North Carolina
Foothills Highland Games and Festival
Huntersville, North Carolina
Loch Norman Highland Games
Laurinburg, North Carolina
Scotland County Highland Games
Linville, North Carolina
Grandfather Mountain Highland Games
Mint Hill, North Carolina
Mint Hill Highland Games
Waxhaw, North Carolina
Waxhaw Scottish Highland Games
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Winston-Salem Celtic Music Festival and Highland Games
Hartville, Ohio
Brigadoon Beltane Festival
Wellington, Ohio
Ohio Scottish Festival
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Oklahoma Scottish Festival and Highland Games
Yukon, Oklahoma
Scottish Heritage Festival and Highland Games
Athena, Oregon
Athena Caledonian Games
Baker City, Oregon
Eastern Oregon Highland Games
Gresham, Oregon
Portland Highland Games
Madras, Oregon
High Desert Celtic Festival and Games
Winston, Oregon
Douglas County Celtic Highland Games
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Bethlehem Celtic Classic
Edinboro, Pennsylvania
Edinboro Highland Games
Ligonier, Pennsylvania
Ligonier Highland Games
Manheim, Pennsylvania
Celtic Fling and Highland Games
Richmond, Rhode Island
Rhode Island Scottish Highland Festival
Clover, South Carolina
Clover Scottish Games
Greenville, South Carolina
Greenville Scottish Highland Games
Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina
Charleston Scottish Games and Highland Gathering
Rapid City, South Dakota
Black Hills Dakota Gathering of the Clans
Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Gatlinburg Scottish Highland Games
Jackson, Tennessee
Celtic Fest
Arlington, Texas
Texas Scottish Festival and Highland Games
Bedford, Texas
Bedford Celtic Heritage Festival
Helotes, Texas
San Antonio Highland Games
Houston, Texas
Houston Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Salado, Texas
Salado Scottish Clan Gathering and Highland Games
Lehi, Utah
Utah Highland Games
Payson, Utah
Payson Scottish Festival
Delaplane, Virginia
Virginia Scottish Games and Festival
Leesburg, Virginia
Potomac Celtic Festival
Lanexa, Virginia
Williamsburg Scottish Festival
Lexington, Virginia
Lexington Scots Irish Festival
Mechanicsville, Virginia
Meadow Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Radford, Virginia
Radford Highlander Festival
Enumclaw, Washington
Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games
Bellingham, Washington
Bellingham Highland Games
Graham, Washington
Tacoma Highland Games
Greenbank, Washington
Whidbey Island Highland Games
Kelso, Washington
Kelso Hilander Festival and Games
Mount Vernon, Washington
Skagit Valley Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Prosser, Washington
Prosser Scottish Festival
Puyallup, Washington
Scottish American Festival
Spokane, Washington
Spokane Highland Games
Bridgeport, West Virginia
North Central West Virginia Scottish Festival and Celtic Gathering
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee Highland Games and Festival
Waukesha, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Highland Games
Gillette, Wyoming
Wyoming Celtic Festival
Jackson, Wyoming
Jackson Hole Scottish Festival


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