Highland games have long since been a staple of the Scottish tourist season and can offer a great day out to experience something memorable but they are for more than just tourists and you may even find yourself taking part. There are many to events to watch; from the track events, both short and long distances, dancing, piping and of course the most quintessentially Scottish “heavies”. The games are held across Scotland and are well supported by Scots and tourists alike.
The Heavies are what many people come to see. These are split into a variety of different disciplines. The weight for distance is intended to see how far you can through a heavy weight on a chain.You can have a nine foot run up but must be standing after throwing. The weight for distance is not to be confused with the Olympic event, in the Scottish version the hammer is attached to a wooden cane of just over four feet in length. You throw the hammer standing with your back to the direction you are throwing it with your feet still.
Objective of the weight for height is exactly as it sounds with the competitor attempting to throw a 56lb weight over a bar. Rather like high jump you have three attempts and the winner is the person who cleared the highest distance. Csaba Meszaros broke the record for weight for height in 2011 slinging a weight just 2 inches short of 19 feet.
As with all the “heavy” events technique is as important as strength. Know how will help you achieve the greatest distance so brawn is often beaten by experience and know how. This is certainly the case for tossing the caber. This is a test of timing and balance as well as strength. The tree trunk is around 100 pounds and usually about 18 feet in length. You have three attempts to try to make the large end of the pole land first and the pole fall away from you with the small end moving in a half circle. The pole is as likely to fall sideways as forwards or back on the thrower. The winner is not the person who throws it furthest but the one who makes it fall closest to 12 o’clock with penalties for angle it falls at. This is not the competition for the amateur.
The Inverness Highland Games in July feature all the favourites as well as many races and events for juniors. Braemar Highland Gathering is perhaps the most famous event often watched by the Royal family but there are many more games around Scotland. Oban has particularly friendly games in late August.
Mackays Self Catering Scotland has a range of self catering cottages near the locations of the games.