Today we are going to take a look at how the Highland Games have evolved in Scotland
and where they are today. First up, here are 5 fun facts you may not know about the
Highland Games in Scotland….
Many of the competitions state that anyone except a novice must wear a Kilt when
competing. You aren’t eligible for a prize without it! This is a rule set by The Scottish
Highland Games Association and applies to 60 of our biggest events.
Highland Dancing was traditionally a male only sport. The original Scottish dances were
developed to portray a very ‘masculine’ message. This included the rutting of the male
stags, agility with a sword and defiance against the banning of the Kilt. At the tail end of
the 19th century Jenny Douglas appeared on the scene, and paved the way for other
female dancers. Today there are very few male dancers competing at Highland Games in
There are all sorts of unusual events at Highland Games which vary from place to place.
These include the Welly Boot Toss; a competition to grow the largest onion; and my
personal favourite, the Strathardle Games musical cars (the motorised version of musical
There really is a World Haggis Eating Championship! Held at the Birman Highland Games
in August, the winner is the person who eats a whole haggis the fastest. The haggis throw
is also a popular event today, despite originally being played as a joke.
A few of the events in the Olympic Games originated in Scotland. The founder of the
modern olympics, Baron Coubertin, enjoyed a brilliant Highland Games show at the 1889
Paris Exhibition. He decided that the the tug o’ war, hammer throw and shot put should
become Olympic sports. Tug ‘o war has sadly lost its place at the Olympics, but the other
two are still there.
History of the Games in Scotland
So where did it all come from? The story goes that King Malcolm III (r.1057-1093) was
looking to find the fastest runner in the land (the areas around Braemar) who would
become his personal courier. What better way to find him, than to organise a gruelling race
up a wee (but steep!) hill – Craig Choinnich.
A hill race is still a very popular event at games today and there are many hill races across
Scotland out-with the Highland Games circuit. We Scots really know how to punish
Games in Scotland Today
It is tradition that different regions or clans would hold Highland Games on different
weekends throughout the summer. This is a tradition that still prevails today. There are
many athletes who spend years training to compete in the Highland Games. Each year
they will compete in ‘the circuit’ and attend games all over Scotland.
If you aren’t a top level athlete, there are plenty of novice and novelty events too, meaning
everyone can get involved. These include easier versions of the main events, alongside
events for those who are less sporty. Many games host competitions for baking, art, music,
the bonniest baby and pet competitions.
Each year we kick off the season at the start of May with the Gourouck Highland
Games…which isn’t actually in the Highlands but in the south of the country. Highland
Games are held all over Scotland as it is such a popular event. Lots of schools and
community clubs also run their own Highland Games, or have an element of traditional
Scottish competitions at their annual Sports Day.
Visiting a Highland Games in Scotland
If you ever visit Scotland during the summer months, I would highly recommend you spend
a day at one of our events. Some won’t be as big an operation as the San Diego Highland
Games, but they will provide you with plenty of local Scottish charm. It is always a fantastic
atmosphere and everyone is friendly and welcoming. You can find a list of dates here:
This article was written by Best Scottish Tours, a small group tour company catering to the
international market. If you are thinking of a tour of Scotland, check out their website: