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Their roots go back to the 11th Century when these tests would help the clan chief choose the fittest fighters and toughest warriors. The Games are also steeped in tradition. It’s thought they go as far back as Malcolm III’s reign in the 11th Century, which would explain the origins of some of the more unusual events. The equipment used echoes items that were part of everyday Scottish life centuries ago.
Originally stones from river beds were used for the shot putt, and the trunk of a tree had its branches removed for the caber toss. The trunk could be soaked in the local stream to make it even heavier. In the pitching the sheaf event, a bag of hay is thrown over a bar using a pitchfork. Today events have broadened to include running, cycling and Highland dancing competitions, as well as the sack race and haggis hurling
- Celebrity appeal
- It is this mix of serious sport and quirky informality that has made the games so popular. They attract celebrities like Billy Connolly, Robin Williams and Ewan McGregor.
- The Royal Family attend the Braemar Gathering every year, following in Queen Victoria’s footsteps who boosted the Games’ popularity when she first attended Braemar in 1848. Tradition dictates the gathering is held on the first Saturday in September when the Queen performs Clan Chieftain duties and enjoys the spectacle.
- Global games
- Highland Games have exported well. Events have sprung up wherever Scots have put down roots. They have always been popular in North America, and continue in places as far flung as Iceland and Indonesia, and closer to home in France and Germany.
- Some form of Highland Games has existed in Scotland for centuries, but today their enduring global appeal is down to tradition, entertainment and competition. For participants and fans they are welcoming events where everyone can come together and celebrate the best of Scotland.
- A caber weighs weighs between 100lb-200lb (45-90kg) and is between 15-22ft long (4.5-6.7m)
- This is a fun race open to everyone in the field wearing a kilt!
- A competitor throws either a light weight of 28lb (12.7kg) or heavy weight of 56lb (25.4kg) from a specific spot without stepping over the ‘trig’