The Cairngorms is chock-full of Highland Games over the summer and early autumn, particularly in our little Strathspey corner of the national park. They vary in size and scale, from a chance to see the Royal Family at the grand and historical Braemar Gathering, to the smaller and less formal (but no less fiercely contested!) village events. Here are some of our favourites with a run down of what to expect at each.
Abernethy Highland Games, Nethy Bridge, Saturday 11th August
The highlight of these games, locally known as “The Friendly Games” is the massed pipe bands, where usually at least 5 or 6 march together onto the field. This year apparently 9 bands are preparing to march so that should be a wonderful spectacle to enjoy. These games have lots of children’s events which are grouped into ages, are free to enter and don’t need an application form. Just turn up, take part and enjoy! There are usually tattie and spoon, three legged, wheelbarrow and obstacle races - some of which are for an adult and child to compete in together. All children who compete will receive a badge and there are prizes for coming 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
For the fast and competitive there is a range of athletics competitions such as sprints, middle distance races and high jump. There are dancing and music competitions such as solo piping and drumming. And then of course the Heavy Events which are so exciting to watch - the hammer, the putt, the caber and the weights.
The very last event of the day is the Tug O’ War, which is often contested by the pipe bands. Will Dufftown win again this year? They have taken the Walter Grant Memorial Trophy home 4 years out of the last 5, so they are hot favourites!
There is even the opportunity to arrive in style, by riding the Strathspey Steam Railway from Aviemore to Broomhill for the games. There will be a complimentary bus ride from the station to the Games and a special train to take you back to Aviemore at the close of the Games, leaving Broomhill at 17.30.
Grantown Highland Games, Sunday 26 August
These games, held at Heathfield Park in the town include running, heavy events, solo piping, light field events, Highland Dance and also, unusually, cycling!
Braemar Gathering, 1st September
Undoubtedly the grandest of them all! Apparently there have been Gatherings of one sort or another at Braemar since the days of King Malcolm Canmore, nine hundred years ago, but the Gathering has been run in its present form since 1832. Queen Victoria first attended in 1848 and Her Majesty The Queen has attended every single year since 1952 and often attends with many other members of the royal family. We are all excited to know if the new Duchess of Sussex will be in attendance in 2018!
If you manage to attend any of these games, we’d love to know how you enjoyed it! And of course we always enjoy seeing your pictures - especially if you find yourself competing in any of the events, and particularly if any trophies or medals are won!