On Sunday 5th August, Bridge of Allan hosts their 167th Highland Games. Commencing at 10:00am, a multitude of traditional sporting events will be taking place throughout the day including highland dancing, piping, and heavyweight competitions to name just a few.
The games, also known as the Strathallan Meeting, are held annually on the first Sunday in August and were founded in 1852 by Major Alexander Henderson, the Laird of Westerton. Located just north of Stirling, the games are nestled in between two famous Scottish landmarks, Stirling Castle, one of the largest castles in Scotland, and the National Wallace Monument commemorating Sir William Wallace. Read more about the many Wallace monuments around the country in our previous blog.
Highland dancing was thought to keep the Highlanders agile on their feet, allowing them to cross boggy ground with ease. It was also thought to keep them warm during the harsh Scottish winters. Today, young or old, all ages take part in the event and due to the large number of dancers, competitions will take place throughout the day. Amongst the twirling and birling, will be the Sword Dance - organised by King Malcolm Canmore, who crossed his sword with his defeated enemy's in an "X" shape on the ground and danced over them. Dancers must not touch the swords otherwise they will be disqualified. Perhaps the most recognisable dance is the Highland Fling, which is said to imitate the prancing of a courting stag.
Pipe bands from all over the world, with more than a thousand pipers, come together to compete at the games. Led by the pipe major, a band traditionally consists of pipers playing the great highland bagpipe, snare drummers, tenor drummers, and one bass drummer. At 5:30pm, the closing of the games is celebrated with the march past of the pipe bands. All bands assemble into the arena in front of the grand stand and play ‘Salute to the Chieftain’.
It was said that the Highland Games were organised as a method of choosing the best men for battle, allowing them to show their strength and agility through different heavyweight events. Amongst these competitions was the Tossing of the Caber - throwing a large tapered wooden pole with the objective of landing it on the heavy end so that the lighter end topples over, landing directly in line from the thrower. Cabers are traditionally around 10 stone (150lbs) in weight and up to 5 metres (17 feet) in length. They are left in the nearby burn before the event, allowing them to soak up the water increasing their weight. Another contest was Throwing the Hammer. The "hammer" is a metal ball weighing around 1½ stone (22lbs) and attached by steel wire to a handle. The thrower grips hold of the handle and swings it three times above his head before releasing it behind him, aiming to throw it as far as possible. Don't stand too close!
Amongst all the competitive commotion, there will be trade stands, crafts stalls, refreshments, and a funfair for the kids. We will be at the Bridge of Allan games with our swatch books of over 500 tartans and a huge range of products. Come visit our stand and say hello!
Whilst you are in the area, the local attractions offer plenty to do and see. As mentioned previously, Stirling Castle is one of Scotland's largest castles, built on volcanic rock looming above the River Forth. Open daily from 9:30am, the castle offers both guided and audio tours.
Towering upon Abbey Craig hilltop is the National Wallace Monument, commemorating Sir William Wallace. If you brave the climb to the top, 246 steps to be precise, you will be met with the surrounding views of Ben Lomond and the Trossachs.
From mountains, glens, and lochs, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park has it all. Whether its bagging your first munro or taking up a watersport activity such as kayaking or canoeing, there is plenty to do and see for all ages. We look forward to seeing you there!