Celebrate ‘all things Scottish’ at Highland Games

By Carol Viau | Jul 09, 2014
Photo by: Paul Viau photos TONS OF TARTANS — Pictured is the Kirkin ‘O’ the Tartans, performed by the Montreat Scottish Pipes and Drums. Below, is the Parade of the Tartans, led by bagpipe and drum bands, and followed by representatives of the clans in tartan kilts and apparel.

The 59th annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games will be held July 10 -13, at MacRae Meadows on Grandfather Mountain, near Linville. The games are a feast for the eyes and ears.

The pageantry is colorful and the bagpipe bands will be in good form. Visitors will see a ton of tartans and celebrate “all things Scottish.”

The games kick-off at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, July 10, with sheepherding demonstrations and 700 runners competing in The Bear, a 5-mile climbing run from Linville up Grandfather Mountain. A torchlight ceremony opens the games Thursday evening, when representatives of more than 100 clans announce they are convening and participating in the gathering.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, bring a lawn chair or sit on the track bleachers to watched sheep and duck herding, Scottish heavy athletics (including the caber toss — a large wooden pole, typically 19 feet-6 inches tall, weighing 175 pounds), lots of fiddling and children's track racing events. Visitors won’t want to miss the eye-catching Parade of the Tartans, led by several bagpipe and drum bands, and followed by representatives of all the clans attending the event — all in tartan kilts and apparel.

Music lovers will delight in sounds all weekend-long from traditional bagpipes to Celtic rock, with Friday and Saturday night concerts. There is a full schedule of music during the days in the Celtic groves, just off the activities at the meadows. A Scottish fiddling contest will be held in the Scottish Fiddling and Harps tent.

Want to move around a bit? Dancing is plentiful, with highland dancing competitions and a special Saturday night Scottish country dance gala at Lees-McRae College. Children love to watch the border collies compete in sheep and duck herding, but kids also can compete in foot races and wrestling clinics.

Even those who claim no Scottish heritage will have fun visiting the hospitality tents hosted by clans from Buchanan to Henderson, Gregor, MacRae and Young. Volunteers will help visitors look up family tartans. Did you know — there is even a tartan for Poland?

Bring a lawn chair for the 9 a.m. Sunday morning Scottish worship service, with hymns and Scripture readings. It concludes with the Kirkin ‘O’ the Tartans, performed by Scottish pipes and drums corps, and includes a colorful parade of the U.S. colors and flags representing tartans of many Scottish clans.

Scottish food is plentiful. The shepherd’s pie is excellent. And there is no shortage of Scottish items for purchase. One T-shirt sums up the happy atmosphere — "If it weren't for Scotland, there would be no Scotch."

The event is held annually the second full week in July. The venue at MacRae Meadows, is off U.S. Highway 221, two miles north of Linville, and one mile south of the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 305.

For a full schedule of events, visit www.gmhg.org/events.htm. Adult admission is $15 Thursday, $20 Friday, $30 Saturday and $15 Sunday. Tickets cover all activities in the meadows. Tickets are $5 each day for children ages 5-12; those younger than 5 enter free. Four-day passes are available online at www.gmhg.org. Adult passes are $75, and children’s passes are $20. Tickets purchased at the entrance must be paid in cash.