Results for category "Highland Tradition and Culture"

Four Highland Seasons – never a dull moment


One of the many things that Di and I love about living here are the distinct four Highland seasons that we get here and the amazing variety of conditions and experiences that this brings.

Here’s a brief snapshot, showing a variety of images I have taken in The Highlands, from Spring through to Winter, showing all Four Highland Seasons:

Four Highland Seasons

A quick snapshot of some of our favourite views and images from the Four Highland Seasons

You can view more of these seasonal Highland images in the gallery below. And below that is a month by month itinerary of some of the amazing cultural, visual and photography-related events that are on offer year-round.  Read More →

Highland Games History, Facts and Traditions


Here’s some fascinating Highland Games facts and history for you to enjoy and learn about. These events are also known as Highland Gatherings .

  • David Webster in his 1973 published book on Highland Games indicates that the timeworn history of Highland Gatherings includes tales and legends that are fascinating and worthy of telling, yet difficult when it comes to separating fact from fiction.
    • Webster tells of one James Logan, a respected historian and member of ‘The Club of True Highlanders’ who chose to focus on writing about Highland Games after having his nose broken by a hammer at a competition.
    • Ancient games were often started with a primitive form of shinty1 using a horsehair ball, and the games then finished with chariot races, which sounded more like a scene from Ben Hur in a Roman amphitheatre (except they were typically held in a local marketplace.
    • Other sports that you don’t tend to see int eh modern games included: archery and a sling shot.
    • Music and song was always an important part of gatherings, keeping the older generations involved, who also recited stories of days gone by, importantly passing on tradition and folklore through oral tradition. These were complemented by travelling jugglers and showmen.
  • The Scottish Highland Games Association represent over 60 Highland Gatherings in Scotland, with over 500 athletes competing in 1000 events in front of 150,000 spectators.
  • The Cowal Highland Gathering, also known as the Cowal Games, held in Dunoon, Scotland, every August, is the largest Scottish Highland Games with 3,500 competitors and 23,000 spectators. It is famous for the quality of its Highland Dancing, hosting international competitors who compete for the Scottish and World Championships.
    • Highland Dancing is said to be one of the most sophisticated forms of national dance anywhere in the world, with a strong competitive tradition. It’s recorded origins date back as far as 1525, though Romans are said to have witnessed some kind of Highland Dance when invading Britain as far back as the 1st century AD.
    • The Gaelic for Highland Dancing is ‘Gille Calum’, though it is also written as ‘Gillie Chaluim’.
    • According to Visit Scotland’s mini-guide to Highland Games, Highland Dancing was an all-male competition until the late 19th century.
    • The Highland Fling, one of the best-known dances, is supposed to be based on the antics of a stag on a Scottish hillside. This dance, on the spot, is thought to originate with men dancing on their targe2 (shield).
  • The oldest Highland Games are held each June at Ceres in Fife. They began under a Charter awarded by Robert the Bruce in recognition of the villagers’ support at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
  • The march of the Lonach Highlanders is a 175 year old tradition where around 200 men armed with Lochaber axes and pikes, join the march from Belabeg to Lonach Hall as part of the Lonach Highland Gathering in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.
  • The origins of Highland games are said to date back even further to the 11th century, with their roots in tests of strength for troops. The ‘Heavy Events’ i.e. shot put, hammer throw and “Maide Leisg,” where two seated athletes wrestle over a stick — still reflect this.
    • The contests of strength – jumping, running, throwing and riding, are said to have been introduced by Malcolm Canmore in 1040 as a means of selecting the most able men for soldiers and couriers.  Also known as King Malcolm III, (1031-1093) the son of Duncan (murdered by Macbeth), he is said to have called a foot race to the summit of Creag Choinnich, near Braemar, in the hopes of finding the fastest runner in the land.
    • King Malcolm is also said to have introduced the sword dance, still popular at modern gatherings. Here’s a video of the sword dancing:

    • Some historians believe that Heavy Events actually originated during Druid times!
    • Yet others suggest that Highland Games originate from Ireland in 2000 BC, crossing the water to Scotland with the 4th and 5th century migrations of the Scotti (original Scots people) into Dalriada (Argyll).

highland games compilation

  • These Highland gatherings are as much about music and dancing as they are about sports, featuring dancing, piping, fiddling and the Clarsach (Gaelic harp).
    • The heritage of Scotlands national instrument, the Bagpipe or in Gaelic “piob-mhor” (the great pipe) actually traces back to the middle-east dating back to 1000 BC. Bagpipes are mentioned in the Old Testament. The pipes themselves evolved alongside early European civilisation – with many different evolutions and variations across the continent.
    • The Highland Pipes (Scottish Great Highland bagpipes) are one of the over thirty different kinds of bagpipes that have appeared throughout the world. The Spanish, French, Italians, Germans, Hungarians, Czechoslovakians, Tunisians, Indians, Greeks, and many other cultures have developed bagpipes of their own. This includes variants such as the Scottish Lowland Bagpipes, the Northumbria pipes, and the Irish Union pipes.
    • The bagpipes were popular across England and Ireland in the Middle Ages (5th to the 15th century).
    • It doesn’t appear to be clear quite when and where the first, second and third drones were added to the “piob-mhor” or when and where the bagpipe entered Scotland. According to wikipedia, the first clear reference to the Scottish Highland bagpipes comes from French history, which mentions their use at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547. The bagpipe replaced the trumpet on the battlefield.
    • It is thought that the original Highland pipes probably comprised a single drone with the second drone being added in the mid to late 1500’s. The early seventeenth century saw the development of piping families including the MacCrimmonds, MacArthurs, MacGregors and the Mackays of Gairloch. The third, or the great drone, came into use sometime in the early 1700s. Whereas, Scottish Lowlands, pipers were part of the travelling minstrel class, performing at weddings, feasts and fairs.

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