id-way through the Scottish summer holidays, the kids are getting restless and it is time to take a look around and remind ourselves of some of the great opportunities for entertainment in our fine country. So many of our customers ask us about where we live and work and dream of coming to Scotland, and sometimes their knowledge is embarrassingly far greater than ours. We would love you all to visit us and have decided to improve our guidebook abilities so apologies if a few of our posts sound a little like tourist brochures. In fact they are an opportunity for us to learn a bit more about our country and appreciate our local traditions.
Forget Rio and the Olympics
One of the greatest traditions in Scotland is the Highland Games. Forget the Olympics, Rio and years of training and focus, this is the locals taking on a tug-o-war, athletics and wellie throwing. It should be noted however that there are international strongmen also in attendance who compete very seriously and show incredible strength and skill in the "heavy events" such as putting the stone, the hammer throw and tossing the caber. Love that event - great big men in kilts throwing a tree trunk end on end. The caber is traditionally made from a Larch tree, length and weight vary but the general rule is that at least half the competitors can turn it (how on earth do you work that out?) but to give you an idea if you want to practice in your garden it is around 19 feet tall and weighs around 79kg (175 pounds).
The biggest and most prestigious Highland Games is said to be the Braemar Gathering held in September and boasts the attendance of the Royal Family. Balmoral is nice and close so it is an easy commute for the Queen. Dating back to 1040 contests of strength including jumping, running, throwing and riding were held to select the most able men to become soldiers and couriers. The Games weren't just about athleticism, the competition between clan chieftains to have the finest pipers was fierce as they competed against each other for the prestige. Today Highland Games are also a celebration of all things Scottish and dancing, piping and fiddling so prepare yourself for a day out full of colour and atmosphere.
The demise and revival of the Games
In 1746 the crushing of the Jacobite rebellion and the Act of Proscription banned Scottish dress, customs and gatherings and for 40 years there were no Highland Games until the act was repealed and national customs were revived.
This weekend is a big one in the not so big Bridge of Allan for on 7th August their 165th Highland Games
will take place. The drama of the tossing of the caber and other events is only superseded by the fabulous location with the games looked over by the Wallace Monument (yes of the blockbuster film Braveheart) and Stirling Castle keeping guard to the other south of the field. So don't just come for the day, there are plenty of other things to do in the area in and around Stirling, not least the climbing of those 246 steps to meet William Wallace himself.
We spoke to Scott Jarvie from the organising committee to understand a bit more about the Games:
The 165th Bridge of Allan Highland Games exist to uphold the sporting and cultural traditions of Scotland and we strive to ensure that our varied programme of events will sustain these customs. Although not everyone can be a winner, we can take pride in the knowledge that individual participation goes a long way to ensuring the safeguarding and future success of the Games, hopefully for generations to come.
Of course Highland Games do not just take place in Scotland and we have been doing our research and wondering if a world tour is in order to check out the multitude of events taking place across the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The first Games took place in New York in 1836 and there are now more than 200 annual games and gatherings across the US and Canada. This might be quite a long trip!
We would love to hear from you if are a staunch supporter of your local Highland Games, a caber tossing Celt or you just have the Games on your bucket list. Share your stories with us!