DURING the 1970s we took a family holiday bed and breakfasting around Scotland on a motor tour. We covered 1,600 miles in our nine-day trip.
After a night at Kingussie we continued south and were attracted by a commotion at Newtonmore. We pulled in to investigate and so made our one and only visit to a Highland Games. I have never forgotten it and it gave us a very interesting morning’s entertainment.
These demonstrations of physical prowess are mixtures of history, ceremony and pageantry solidly rooted in Scottish culture. At one time at such gatherings, clan chiefs would seek beefy henchmen and later the shows provided cheap entertainment for remote highlanders.
In the mid 18th century Scottish statute forbade dancing, kilt wearing and even the playing of bagpipes at them, but the late 1800s saw a real revival in Highland Games. The Royal Victorian interest gave them a lasting boost.
We arrived too late for the Laird’s speech of welcome. The band performs with skirling pipes and crashing drums. Dancers whirl and agile girls fascinate spectators with their precise stepping.
The Highland Fling is difficult to execute as it is on the spot. It is said to date from the 11th Century when Malcolm Canmore killed one of Macbeth’s chiefs, laid his own sword crosswise on him and then danced over him.
We watched burly fellows heave huge boulders, chained hammers and cannon balls, but I was a little disappointed with the tossing of the caber. The tug-of-war was a real old ding-dong, and athletes ran off for the hill-climb then later raced pell-mell back to the arena.
These wonderful occasions from May to September are certainly worth a visit.