The North Carolina
Scottish High Times
The mountains of
It’s enough to make your eyes go plaid. The tartans come in all colors and varieties of horizontal and vertical patterns: green interlocking with navy, white and black bisecting fields of reds with shades of blue crisscrossing each other with geometric precision.
Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of Scottish Clans,
July 9–12 this year 2009 at North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain, is
known for being the largest gathering o’ Scottish clans in the world.
That’s right. Games in
believed the highland games originated in medieval times, when
fleet-footed messengers were in high demand. Kings would arrange
competitions to determine which young lads were best suited to race up
and down the hills of northwest
these competitions have morphed into celebrations of Scottish culture,
featuring not only athletic contests but other events reflecting
The games’ main events are neither for the weak-of-limb nor faint-of-heart.
For example, Turning the Caber involves throwing a pine log in such a way that it somersaults and strikes the ground in a 12 o’clock position on an imaginary clock. Tossing the Sheaf requires competitors to use a pitchfork to heave a bundle of straw over a raised bar. Participants of the Weight Throw must sling a heavy metal disk as far as they can. The winner is the one whose disk goes the farthest.
Finally, there’s the Scottish Hammer Throw. In this event, the competitor swings a 4-foot shaft with a metal ball affixed to it around his or her head before releasing it. Because the centrifugal force is so great, the athletes risk sailing into the air along with the hammer. Many wear special shoes to stay planted in the ground.
Other events include men wrestling in kilts, hundreds of runners racing to the top of
In addition to the grunts and groans on the athletic field, the sounds of traditional instruments fill the air along with the sight traditional dancers.
Musicians compete and perform using a variety of instruments, from the clarsach, a small harp played in 17th-century
There are two types of Scottish dancing, and it’s a toss-up as to which is more fun to watch. The
In addition, festival-goers can watch border collies herd sheep, learn to speak Gaelic and research Scottish genealogy and history in special clan tents.
The fun continues with traditional Scottish ceildhs (pronounced kay-lees), which is Gaelic for “informal parties.” Here people don’t have to be strong, swift or even be able to carry a tune in order to participate. While amateurs and professionals alike sing, dance, drum, fiddle and pipe, people are welcome to just clap along with the syncopated rhythms.
After the games have ended, those who want an extra dose of
Planning Your Trip
This year’s games will be July 9–12 at