The Highland Games are returning with a bang after three years away due to the pandemic.
An army of pipers, dancers, spectators and strongmen will descend on Pitlochry, Perthshire, for a weekend of fun and frolics.
The Highland Games is a yearly celebration of Scottish culture held across the country.
The weekend long festival celebrates Scottish culture and history through traditional games.
The gathering is based on traditional Highland sports such as the caber toss, tug o’ war and the hammer throw.
The Atholl Highland Games will take place at the historic Atholl Estate , against the backdrop of the stunning Blair Castle.
Proud history of Atholl Highlanders
The Atholl Estate and the Highland Games share an illustrious history, going back centuries.
The origins of the Atholl Highlanders began in 1839 as a private army for the Duke of Atholl,or the Lord Glenlyon.
It was this army that greeted Queen Victoria at Blair Castle on her holiday to Scotland in 1842.
The Atholl Highlanders are now the only private army in Europe, according to the Atholl Estate.
This army serves the Duke of Atholl, who is also the Chief of Murray Clan.
Heir to the Estate, 12th Duke of Atholl Bruce Murray, will oversee the weekend.
‘Pomp, pageantry and sporting prowess’
The games’ organisers have promised a weekend packed with ‘pomp, pageantry and sporting prowess.”
Over 4,000 people are expected to turn out to the Atholl Estates to watch and take part in the games.
Among the events there will be shot-putting, tug ‘o war, heavyweight competitions and family races.
CEO of Blair Castle Andrew Bruce Wooten warmly welcomed the upcoming gathering, pointing to the site’s historical standing.
“The Parade and Atholl Gathering hold tremendous significance because they are firmly rooted in the history of Blair Castle and sit at the heart of the local community.” he says.
“The very first was held in 1845 to celebrate being awarded royal colours, and with these the right to bear arms, by Queen Victoria. Since then, the Atholl Highlanders and these events represent traditions and values very close to all our hearts.
Andrew went on to say:
“So, I’m delighted to see both the parade and the games back after the enforced break. It is going to be a wonderful weekend which will bring both international and local visitors together in a celebration of our heritage with fun and spectacle.”
Scheduled events at Blair Castle
The timeline of the events at Blair Castle are scheduled as follows:
Saturday May 28
11 am – Proceedings kick off with Castle Archivist Keren Guthrie giving an Atholl Highlanders Talk.
2.30 pm – Atholl Highlanders Parade
3.00 pm – Inspections, general salute and March past
Sunday May 29
9.30 am – Gates open for the games
10.30 am – Piping and Junior Heavyweight competitions begin
11.00 am – Local Heavyweights and Highland Dancing competitions begin
12.30 pm – Open Heavyweights competition
1.15 pm – Atholl Highlanders March
1.30 pm – Formal opening and The Highlanders’ Dash
2.15 pm – Family races
3.00 pm – Open Tug o’ War competition
4.15 pm – Awards Ceremony
Let the games begin
The games make their much anticipated return after several years of cancellation woes.
The pandemic has led to the cancellation of the gathering since 2020, much to the disappointment of fans.
In the last year, Blair Castle has slowly reopened its doors to the public.
Senior trustee and director of the Atholl Estates Sarah Troughton spoke to the Courier in 2021 about the reopening.
She said at the time : “There’s a genuine estate spirit and ordinarily we all pull together to organise events, but without any of that over the past year, it has felt quite a lonely place.
“The months of closure during the pandemic gave us all time to reflect on how the castle is set up for visitors.
Sarah went on to say: “I’ve lived in it on and off all my life and it’s important to me that it retains its authenticity.
“It’s a team effort and I love being involved.”
The Blair Horse Trials are also scheduled to take place this August.