On the 22nd August Sarah and I travelled to Dunoon fully kitted out with all the tartan clothing, accessories and interiors you could think off, from a Baby Tartan Romper Suit to a full three piece suit, we even had an abundance of Truffles the highland Coo stashed away in our tartan van!
We took the ferry on Wednesday night all prepped to represent ScotlandShop for the first time at the world famous Cowal Highland Gathering. Apart from the heavens opening for the majority of our stay in Dunoon the Games were a huge success. Read on to find out what went on this year.
Cowal Highland Gathering first took place in 1894 and has been held every year since, taking place during the last weekend in August, the only time there has ever been a break was during World War II. The event made its debut again in 1946 with crowds reaching 28,000, one of the biggest years Cowal has ever seen. The first time an overseas competitor entered was in 1901, when an American travelled to Dunoon to compete in the Heavy Athletics competition. There were not any major changes until 2003 when a third day was introduced, this was a day set aside solely for the Scottish Dancers to compete without any competition from the overseas dancers.
Although the three day event is steeped in tradition, over the years various modern twists have been added to keep the Games current and as a result there is something for everyone to enjoy. This year the quirky activities and attractions included; The Cowal Ceilidh Tent, food demonstrations, Pedal Power vs Parkour - a show which sees competition of skill between a parkour athlete and a BMX stunt bike rider. The attraction that stood out the most, due its unusual concept, had to be the Drakes of Hazard, where a dog navigated a group of Indian Runner Ducks around an obstacle course.
While the spotlight is mainly on all the competitions for Highland Dancing, Pipe Bands, Solo Piping and Heavy athletics, there was also a strong focus on music. On the Friday night 'The Gig at the Gathering' took place in the Ceilidh tent in the grounds of the games, where you could watch performances by many popular bands; showcasing all different types of genres such as folk, country, bluegrass, contemporary and Gaelic song to name a few; and of course you were able to hear the sound of bagpipes featured in the majority of the songs. The American Rogues even travelled all the way from the US to perform in the Ceilidh tent and they brought with them an incredible sound, which had everyone up dancing.
Over the course of the three days we spoke to a huge variety of people, locals, fellow Scots and tourists, who had travelled from as far as Australia to attend the event and each one of them had such interesting stories to tell from their time at Cowal over the years. One lady who had lived in Dunoon her whole life, told us she had been attending the Gathering for 41 years. She used to bring her daughter to dance when she was a little girl and now her daughter has returned to Cowal as a judge for the dancing, a huge honour for anyone who has competed in Highland Dancing. Her grandchildren are also involved in both the dancing and the piping. We spoke to many families, who had stories just like this one, stories about family heritage. It is very much a family based event, the tradition of which has been passed down through generations and will hopefully continue to do so as the years go on.
What an experience Cowal Highland Gathering was, one we certainly will never forget! If you're a regular to the games or you were a first-timer this year (just like us) we would love to hear from you especially if you chatted to us throughout the weekend, so be sure to get in touch with us. Invercharron Highland Games are coming up this weekend and it is definitely not too late to get kitted out in some Scottish attire, visit our website or our Edinburgh store for some inspiration.