of Scotland, Highland Games
There are many wonderful events
to see in Scotland. Not just Highland Games but also Village Fairs
and Festivals. When in Scotland try to attend some of these events,
especially in the smaller towns.
Scottish athletic competitions
comprise the following categories: the Scottish Highland Athletic
Competitions (or Heavy Events), team sports and traditional Celtic
sporting events. The Heavy Events test the athletes strength,
skill and endurance. Events containing the word Toss
generally refer to competitions for height whereas events containing
the word Throw
are for distance.
Tossing The Caber.
The caber is a 90 to 120 pound log, 16' to 20' in length,
that is tossed end-over-end. Once the narrow end of the caber
is vertically balanced in the arms of the athlete, the athlete
runs forward, stops and heaves the caber upward. The caber must
spin in such a way that the large end hits the ground. The caber
will then fall over with the narrow end falling away from the
athlete. A perfect throw will land at the 12 o'clock position,
straight away from the athlete that released it.
The sheaf toss involves hurling a bag of hay straight up into
the air over an adjustable crossbar with a three-tyned pitchfork.
The bag of hay weighs 16 to 20 pounds for men and 10 to 12 pounds
for women. The winner is the athlete who tosses the sheaf the
Men throw 28 and 56 pound weights for distance in this event.
For women, the weights are 14 and 28 pounds. The athlete grasps
the weight in one hand and begins swinging the weight from side
to side. Once a bit of momentum is achieved, the athlete spins
the weight around, usually twice, to impart additional momentum
and releases the weight. The winner is the athlete who throws
the weight the farthest.
Men will use a 56 pound weight, which is thrown for height, in
this event. Women will use a 28 point weight. The athlete stands
beneath an adjustable height crossbar, grasps the weight with
one hand and swings the weight back and forth between the legs.
On the final swing, the athlete brings the weight up in a smooth
arc and releases the weight so that it will pass over the crossbar.
The winner is the athlete who tosses the weight the highest.
A rounded stone, called a clachneart, weighing between 16 and
32 pounds for men and 8 to 12 pounds for women is thrown for distance
in this event. Some athletes spin to gain momentum before releasing
the stone, in much the same way a shot put is tossed, while others
impart momentum via a forward glide. The winner is the athlete
who throws the stone the farthest. As the weight of the actual
stones used is so variable, distances achieved vary from festival
This is similar to the Stone Throw except that the heavier stone
must be "tossed" without the glide or spin.
For this event, a metal ball is attached to a wooden handle, usually
rattan, to create a hammer. The total length of the hammer must
not exceed 4' 2" (50"). For men, the "light"
hammer weighs 16 pounds and the "heavy" hammer weighs
22 pounds. For women, the "light" hammer weighs 12 pounds
and the "heavy" hammer weighs 16 pounds. The athlete
spins the hammer in a circular motion building up momentum. When
ready, the hammer is released. The winner is the athlete who throws
the hammer the farthest.
In the farmer's walk, the athlete picks up two weights, each
weighing up to 150 pounds, and walks around series of pylons.
The winner is the athlete who walks the farthest.
The traditional tug-of-war with a Scottish flavor. All participants
are kilted. Some games have teams from the various clans and families
compete against one another. Others permit anyone to compete.
the winner is the team that pulls the opposition past the center
Traditional Celtic Sports are those sporting events that originated
centuries ago that are considered part of the "heavy"
Battle Axe Throw.
The battle axes used in the modern competition are frequently
replicas of the type issued to the 78th Frasers Highlanders, a
military regiment from the Highlands of Scotland. The axe is light
enough to be used with one hand and heavy enough to dent or puncture
armour. In the competition, axes are thrown at increasing distances
towards a target. The winner is the individual who's ax, thrown
from the greatest distance, strikes blade first in target center.
The kilted mile is a scottish version of a traditional track event.
In this race, the runner runs the entire race while wearing a
kilt. The weight of the kilt adds an additional degree of challenge
to this foot race. The winner is the individual crossing the finish
The Kilted Golf Tournament is a one day golf outing with participants
wearing a kilt. Standard golf rules apply.
Since fly fishing is traditionally considered to have originated
in Scotland, some events are now sponsoring Fly Casting competitions.
The contestant casts towards a target with the winner being the
individual who can cast into the target area from the greatest
Some events have competitions that mock Scottish athletic events.
Others include special events like sack races, egg-and-spoon races,
pillow fights and lawn bowling.
Scottish dancing takes
three basic forms. The first, folk dancing, involves both men
and women and are frequently performed for recreation.. The other
two, the Highland dances and the National dances, are traditionally
individual events involving competitions. In judging the competition
dances, the judges look for are the precision and timing of the
steps in conjunction with the required arm and leg movements.
The dance should appear relaxed and in control of all movements.
The Folk Dances.
Scottish Country Dancing.
Scottish Country Dancing developed in the Lowlands of Scotland
and was first accompanied by the fiddle. It is performed in rows
with sets of partners facing each other and requires very intricate
and precise footwork. It is typically a demonstration and audience
The Gaelic Step resembles Appalachian Clog Dancing. A dancers
arms are held at the side with heavy rhythmic stamping of the
feet. The traditional Irish Step Dancing is somewhat similar.
The Highland Dances. Highland Dancing s thought to have originated
in the Highlands of Scotland around the 11th Century. The dances
were originally performed by men and require a great deal of stamina.
In judging the competition dances, the judges look for are the
precision and timing of the steps in conjunction with the required
arm and leg movements. The dance should appear relaxed and in
control of all movements.
According to tradition, the Highland Fling was originally performed
by the Highland warrior on his targe after battle. Accordingly,
it is danced in one spot without travelling steps. The steps are
simple but must be executed precisely with positions being strongly
held. This dance is often considered to be the greatest test for
the Highland Dance.
This dance was traditionally performed by the Highland warrior
on the eve of the battle using the warrior's sword and scabbard.
The sword and scabbard are crossed on the ground to define the
dancing spot. According to legend, the warriors that were able
to dance the Sword Dance without touching the sword with his feet
would be successful in the approaching battle.
Seann triubhas, pronounced sheen trews, are the Gaelic words for
"old trousers". This dance celebrates the lifting of
the Act of Proscription, the law that forbade the wearing of the
kilt by the common highlander. The dance symbolizes the kicking
off of the hated trousers.
The National Dances. Many of the National Dances were originally
choreographed for women. The focus is more on grace than brute
strength and stamina.
Strathspey and Highland
Reel. The Strathspey
and Highland Reel dance begins at the slow tempo of the strathspey.
Later, the tempo changes to the fast tempo of the reel. The basic
step is the same step used in Scottish Country Dancing combined
with figure eight movements. Dancers are judged individually in
this group dance.
Strathspey and Half
Tulloch. The Strathspey
and Half Tulloch is attributed to the movements of cold parishioners
used to stay warm. The parishioners were waiting outside the Church
one cold morning for a rather tardy preacher. Dancers are judged
individually in this group dance.
Of Celtic origin, the Sailor's Hornpipe is a traditional solo
dance known throughout to the British Isles. The name is derived
from and English wind instrument made from an ox horn with a costume
based on the historical British seaman. The dance depicts shipboard
activities such as rope hauling, climbing, looking to the sea
and being a bit tipsy.
Dances. The National
Dances are sedate with elegant movements. Traditionally, they
were created solely to be danced by women. Many steps are taken
from classical ballet. The Scottish
Lilt is a dance that
is performed in a shortened version of the traditional 17th century
women's attire (the arisaid over a white dress). Flora
honors the national heroine who helped hide Charles Edward Stuart
after the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The Scotch
Measure is a graceful
variation of the Fling. It can be danced solo or in pairs. The
Earl of Erroll
uses ballet steps to create a flowing movement with complicated
Piping competition is a solo event with pipers competing at six
skill levels. The judging is based on tuning, timing (including
tempo and breaks between tunes), execution and expression. Competitions
fall into two categories: the MSR (marches, strathspeys and reels)
events and the piobaireachd (classical music for the pipes). Some
functions also offer competition in the jig and hornpipe categories.
Drumming competition is a solo event with drummers competing at
five skill levels. The judging is based on roll, tone, tempo,
execution, rhythm/expansion, quality/variety and blend.
A Drum Major competition is a solo event for the Drum Major. Since
the drum major sets the tempo for band through swinging of mace
(staff), this competition is used to help create consistency between
drum majors. The drum major must compete in full dress and is
judged on that dress, their deportment or general conduct and
their flourish (manipulation of the mace).
A Pipe Band competition is a band event where a specified minimum
number of pipers and drummers are required. Each band must play
a medley of tunes where the types of tunes required will depend
on the caliber or grade of the pipe band. In addition, the higher
the level of competition, the longer the band will play. Three
judges will determine each bands standing within the competition.
The judges evaluate a number of areas including how well the tunes
selected were played versus how difficult the tunes are to play,
the quality of tuning for the pipes at the beginning and end of
the set, and the musical nature of the selected tunes (eg do the
selected tunes flow easily from one to the next).
The Massed Band ceremony is when all participating pipe bands
parade together playing a common medley of pipe tunes. Traditionally,
the massed band will perform simple maneuvers on the parade field.
The medley consists of popular bagpipe tunes.
Celtic Harp (Clarsach).
In the Highlands, the harp, or clarsach, accompanied the clan
chiefs into battle until the bagpipes took over this roll in the
16th century. The clan harper would perform for both happy and
Competition consists of the following pieces: Air, March, Strathspey
Sheep Dog Trials.
Sheep Dog Trials are really a competition examining a dog's
working ability as each dog works sheep or other livestock in
a prescribed course. The dogs must be controlled only by the whistle
tones from its master. The winner is the dog with the best time
in in successfully driving the sheep through the course.
and Feline Breeds.
These dog and cat shows feature competitions between Scottish/Celtic
breeds, not just the commonly seen border collies. Some of the
canine competitions feature exhibitions where dogs are competing
in AKC sanctioned events.
Some functions make arrangements with nearby ranchers and farmers
to bring Scottish breed livestock for exhibition. This includes
cattle (the Scottish Highland Steer or Red Angus, the Belted Galloway),
horses (the Clydesdales) and sheep (Jacobs Sheep). Often, these
animals are part of a petting zoo for children.
Spinning and Weaving.
Many of the larger functions now feature a spinning and weaving
demonstration where wool is turned into yarn and then woven into
cloth. Often, a lecture is given to the audience as part of the
The Ceilidh is a variety show that features examples of traditional
music and dance. Typically, it features folk music, pipe music,
fiddling, country dancing and highland dancing. Some are structured
and feature professional entertainers. Usually a charge for admission
to this event.
Story Telling is a relatively new activity for most events. Story
tellers relay the almost-lost oral history of the Celtic lands
and its peoples. Typically, this activity is associated with an
entertainment program for children.
The Tartan Ball is a formal event where formal Highland Dress
is often required. Scottish Country Dancing is featured to the
accompaniment of live Scottish music.
Whiskey Tasting is just as the name implies - adult patrons are
able to sample different Scotch Whiskeys. This often includes
both the single malts and the more common blends. There may be
a supplementary charge for participation in this event.
Tossing The Wellie.
According to non-verifiable tradition, this competition arose
as the result of men coming home tracking mud into the house.
In retaliation, women threw boots at the men. The modern competition
is one for distance where a "Wellington" (boot) is thrown.
Bonnie Knees Contest.
Judges, typically female and blindfolded at some events, are asked
to rate the portion of the male leg that is exposed between the
hose and the bottom edge of the kilt. Some functions have specialized
awards for "Bonniest" and "Most Dimpled" knees.