Heritage and Culture

The Invercharron Highland Games

The Invercharron Highland Games
By Sophie

The Invercharron Highland Games

As the leaves begin to turn orange and fall from the trees, and the nights draw darker and colder, we suddenly find ourselves in the Autumn months. Throughout the summer, athletes, dancers and pipers have been battling it out to be crowned the champion and soon these winners will be realised. September signals the end of the annual Scottish Highland Games and we see the final games take place, this Saturday, in Invercharron – a picturesque landscape of craggy mountains separated by the sublime river Kyle. These traditional sporting events are widely celebrated throughout Scotland, and have existed since the dawn of the 11th century.

Above: Invercharron Highland Games are held on the banks of the river Kyle of Sutherland. Below: Map of Scotland showing Invercharron

Invercharron traditionally hosts the final games of the year which makes them the most anticipated, as many finals are concluded here. Walking around the freshly cut grass, the wind whips through the crowds, testing their commitment to the games. Small pop up stands, selling produce from local farmers, can be seen dotted about as locals and tourists make their purchases. Anything from scented soaps and candles, to traditional woollen jumpers can be found here, all of it authentic and all of it hand-made. This is what makes this event so unique. The intoxicating smells of hot, home-cooked treats fill the air, causing more than one stomach to rumble ferociously.

As the championship kicks off, shot puts and logs are thrown in the air, followed by the hearty cry of athletes with gigantic muscles. Traditional music can be heard for miles, as pipers play, and their uplifting music is carried through the winds, along the Kyle. Children laugh and cry out competitively as they compete in their own version of the games, who can bounce higher on the bouncy castle. The swish and thud of leather shoes can be heard surrounding the highland dance stage. A colourful scene of twirling tartan skirts can be seen as dancers show off their moves with poised arms and intricate leg choreography. Anything from heavy events and highland dancing, to children's races and a tug of war will take place in this unique, one-day event.

This year Invercharron is proud to host the finals of the 'Tug Of War 110 Stone' Category as well as hosting the first year of the New Highland League for Heavy Athletes. Twelve of the Highland area games will participate and the League Finals and Championship will be decided at Invercharron.

Not sure what the highland games are? Read on and find out.

What are the Highland Games?

The highland games is a meeting of athletes, playing of bagpipes, and highland dancing, held in the Scottish Highlands or by Scots elsewhere. The games are well known for their sporting and athletic events involving throwing and lifting. Activities such as the Shot put, Tug-o-war and Caber Toss are a few of the many unique events that take place.

What makes the Highland Games so popular?

The competitive element of the games, as with any sporting event, is an attractive aspect for competitors and observers alike. The combination of this and the spectacle of highland dancers and pipers, with a beautiful Scottish landscape as a backdrop, make these games truly unique.

How did the Highland Games come to be?

Rumour has it that the highland games have been in existence within the Gaelic community since before the existence of Christianity. In those days, the gatherings would have essentially been war games which existed to select the best warrior within each clan.

The first organised games in Scotland occurred in the 11th Century and was classed as a sporting event. After the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie, wearing of a kilt, playing the bagpipes and gatherings of groups of people were banned. For some time this meant the highland games were not allowed. In the latter part of the 18th Century, however, Highland Societies began forming and the first gathering was held in 1781 in Falkirk. The popularity of this gathering lead to the highland games we know today.