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Highland Games in Inveraray
Text and photos: Eckart Winkler, Bad Nauheim, http://www.eckart-winkler.de
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Common and touristic Information about Great Britain


Competitions with the kilt - log throwing and bagpipes - a lot of impressions of unusual competitions

Travel data
Date of the journeyJuly 1994
Duration1 day
Report online since02.11.2019

We go to Inveraray for the Highland Games. We have heard and read a lot about these traditional competitions in Scotland. Now let's take a look at them ourselves. The weather is very promising at first. However, the closer we get to Inveraray, the worse it gets.

At 12:45 we arrive. Already out there a huge hype. Bus and car parking is available in the meadows. Policemen instruct the vehicles. We see and hear bagpipe players tuning their instruments or warming up.

The entrance fee is about 4 euros, and inside it continues with bagpipe sounds. Everywhere you see and hear the players in full Highland gear with kilt, hat and bagpipe. Big shambles of familiar melodies.

On a very well maintained meadow, a sports field about the size of a normal athletics sports field is staked out, so with a about 400 m long circular track, equipped throughout with 6 lanes.
Bagpipe band
The formation of bagpipe musicians is of course a part of it.

Around this sports ground there are thousands of stalls and tents where you can buy every conceivable meaning and nonsense. Anything Scottish is there anyway, from kilt to plaid clothes and bagpipes. Badges of all Scottish Clans, Clan Treats, Clan Card Games, etc.

But then there are also all sorts of non-Scottish, normal dresses like T-shirts and sweat shirts or jeans, ordinary jewelery, ordinary records and books, and you can read it out of hand. The children can play on various giant pillows.

Of course, there is also plenty to eat. From Fish & Chips to Sweets to Chips & Fish. You can quench your thirst with Scottish malt whisky, but also with beer. In short, the competitions are a huge spectacle. Some of the visitors do not know if they came for the competitions or the spectacles.

As far as the competitions are concerned, we unfortunately missed the tree trunk throwing, we should have come a bit earlier. What we do not know at the time is that a few days later in Inverness, we should have the opportunity to witness this match as a toast.

The Tossing the Caber is in our view the typical Scottish competition. There is no such thing in any other culture. Throwing is not about the distance, but about the shape. The tree trunk must turn over and stay as straight as possible. That's difficult enough, the tree trunk is heavy.
Unusual: the bike competition on grass.

Right now is the "Putting the Stone", which is quite similar to the athletic shot put. Again, there are some who use the turning technique. Most of the athletes wear a kilt, plus a T-shirt and sneakers. In the runs, the normal sports pants prevails. Who wants to run 200 m in the kilt?

There are astonishingly many disciplines that are actually known from athletics. In addition to the already mentioned shot put a large number of runs, but also the more exotic discipline triple jump, but with not so very strict rules as in athletics. Hammer throwing is there, but the hammer has more the shape of a bucket with handle. The weight seems to be greater than in athletics, and the technique of throwing is a completely different one.

At 1.30pm the music train comess, consisting of a whole number of bagpipe players, plus probably as many drummers and the big timpani. This group marches over the track and comes to a stop inside, where it continues to play. The now prevailing drizzle does not seem to bother the musicians, they are certainly used to it. After about fifteen minutes, the excerpt from the stadium, the competitions continue.

Now the cycling starts. As if the circular tracks were paved, they go with normal road bikes. Unusual, but, as I said, the lawn is also unusually well prepared.
Bagpipe Competition
The bagpipe competition is not all about the right tone.

Another competition concerns the bagpipe itself. Around the sports field are built a number of small stages, on each of which a single bagpiper marches around and plays. A referee sits in a small tent and assesses the matter. Sequence, expression, music, all this is probably subject to a points system. One wrong step and the first place is over. And the procedure takes a long time for each of the competitors, so a wrong step happens quickly. Well, maybe the B-note can rip something out.

The drizzle is now a heavy rain, and soon it is no fun to walk around on the sports field. We want to get something to eat, fish and chips. But already more people had this idea, so there are only chips, but the ketchup is free. And we can sit in the tent. First on only one chair, then a second one gets free.

It's getting worse and worse outside. The prospect that the weather could improve again, is low. So we leave the grounds for a tour in the small town of Inveraray.


We do not regret the visit of the Highland Games, despite the bad weather. We have received a lot of impressions from these partly exotic competitions. If you have the time, you should definitely take it. As I said, in addition to the competitors there is still a lot around, so it isn't boring anyway. Moreover, it is also a relatively cheap pleasure compared to other tourist activities.


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