Travel

Highland Games: For First Timers

In case you haven’t noticed, I wasn’t excited about moving to Aberdeen (<-understatement of the year!).   But I just want to say a big thanks to my readers and followers on social media for their words of encouragement and support.  As well as their tips and suggestions on must-see Scotland locations.  Also the warm welcome from other Aberdeen residents online (and in-person) has been overwhelming, so again a big thank you.  This has made the transition easier and has helped me get over my own little pity-party pretty quickly.

Despite the bout of sadness and perhaps some negativity around here, that’s not what I’m typically about.  I’m ready than ever to explore, make the most of this experience and make a new life here in Scotland.  And I’m happy to bring you all along with me.

And just a side note:  Don’t hesitate to reach out!  Ask me about whatever you like, moving, traveling, expat life.  Let me know what kind of things you want to read about.  Just a simple ‘hello’ in the comments section will bring some (must-needed) sunshine to my day.

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Okay, so with that line of thinking and attitude about life in Scotland, we took the advice of a reader, Glenda, to check out the Highland Games nearby.  We missed the one in Aberdeen this summer, but with a car at our disposal, we didn’t hesitate to make the 1.5hr drive to St. Andrews for the Highland Games.

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What are the Highland Games?

They are events combining sport, fun and culture held across Scotland, most predominately in the highlands, celebrating and showcasing Scottish and Celtic culture.  And if you can’t make it to St Andrews, don’t sweat it.  There are Highland Games all across the region throughout the entire summer.  So if you are planning a trip to Scotland, make sure you check out the schedule to see which city is hosting their Highland Games.

Here are my tips for making your first Highland Games an experience to remember

1. Go on time

We had a late start to the morning but happily made it just before the opening band made their way around the track.

2. Buy the program

At the St Andrew’s Highland Games, it was a measly 2£ and well worth it.  The day was packed with activities happening simultaneously. The program helped us ensure we saw the things we wanted to see, even if the listed times were just guidelines.

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3. Know the events

Each Highland Games is different but most will have the usual events:  heavy athletic events like tug-o-war, hammer throw, weight for height and the caber toss, Highland dance competitions, track and field events, and (bag) piping.  I loved watching the dancing, especially the young girls and boys dancing in their colourful costumes.  And the tug o’war was impressive to watch.  Did you know they even had coaches coaching them through it.  It was intense!

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4. Bring a picnic and blanket (or just try all the food)

Chairs are limited and many people sat on picnic blankets around the track.  Either enjoying their own picnic or the food on offer.  In addition to Angus burgers and curry fries like we had, there was a popular stand selling smoked fish.  We regret not trying it and will have to next time we get the chance.

5. Bring the family! Even the furry friends.

There were bouncy castles and fun runs for spectators of all ages.  Young and old, there is something for everyone.  The sun was shining and it was a perfect way to spend an afternoon.  It was casual, laid back and entertaining.

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Since we spent the whole day at the Games, we didn’t go into St. Andrew’s to explore.  But we’re not worried… we know we’ll be back.

Have you ever been to a Highland Games? Did I miss anything?  Comment below.  

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Hey, thanks for reading!  I’m linking up with #WanderfulWednesdays with Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World.

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  • Great photos! I would love to see some Highland Games one day. 🙂

    Have you read the Outlander series or seen the show? The first book/season is set in Scotland and makes for some major Scotland wanderlust! 😀

    • Thanks! I haven’t seen the show but some other people have suggested it so I should perhaps try to find a copy and watch it. 🙂

  • Kathleen (Kat)

    It’s rare to come across a travel post on the Highland Games in Scotland..well at least for me..it’s wonderful to read your post on the festivities 🙂 Great photos!

    • Thanks Kat! I’m hoping to go to the Braemar Gathering which is a very popular highland games event attended by the Royal Family! Will definitely write about that too. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • I’ve definitely pinned this for a future visit to Scotland! I’d LOVE to see the Highland Games! As Meredith says below, Outlander is a GREAT show!! 🙂

  • I’ve lived in Scotland all my life and never been to Highland Games. I should really do something about that. You couldn’t have picked a better place for it – St Andrews is definitely worth another trip!
    Christy
    http://www.dinnerstories.co.uk

    • Oh really! It’s funny how we see less of our own native countries that we do far off places. I’ve barely seen any of Canada myself. I’ll go back to St Andrews to explore the city better one day.

  • I’ve never heard about this before. Looks so fun and unique! Love love this post! (Your pics on instagram are awesome too, btw!)

    • Thank you so much Isabel! It’s a great Scottish tradition and there are games all over the region throughout the summer so it’s easy to catch one. I’ll update the post with a link to the schedule!

  • I’d love to experience the Highland Games one day! And when it comes to Aberdeen – I’ve never been but I always wanted to go. I was planning to when I was in Edinburgh but it takes longer to get there by train than I expected so a day trip wouldn’t have been possible. Anyway, I get that the Scottish weather can get to you and if that’s combined with grey buildings around, it must definitely be difficult. Try to make the best of it though! I mean, you’re so close to the Shetland Isles now and they have puffins there! 😀 I can’t wait to move next year as we’ll have direct flight connections to Aberdeen then and I definitely plan on visiting the city and go to Shetland by ferry! Hope you still live there by then so you can show me around 😉

    • I’m looking forward to exploring more of Scotland and actually Aberdeen is a good starting point for that. We’re going to Edinburgh tomorrow actually! Looking forward to catching some Fringe Festival action and taking in the city that everyone raves about. Shetlands are also on our list. That’d be great if you came here and meet in person. We’ll likely be here 2-3 years 😀

  • Clare Thomson

    So different from Paris but kind of wonderful in its own way! Seeing a Highland Games has long been on my bucket list so it’s great to have your tips. Your photos are great too. Sure you’ll be eating lots of smoked fish while you’re in Aberdeen!

    • Thanks! And there are so many games all around the Highlands throughout the summer too. So it’s really easy to see one if you visit around this time.

  • Wow, what an amazing and unique experience! You have captured it so well with these amazing shots.

  • Rebecca

    Going to a Highland games in Pitlochry in a couple of weeks, thanks for the tips! Pretty excited to show my Italian boyfriend what Scotland is all about… stay positive in Aberdeen 🙂

    • Thanks for the message. Trying to stay positive! We’re going to the Braemar Gathering tomorrow actually. Apparently can’t get enough of the Highland Games! Enjoy Pitlochry. I think I read something about salmon ladders there… that would be interesting to see.