The Highland Games!


August 30, 2012 by Heidi

Scottish Festival MugThis past weekend, some friends and I had the good fortune to attend the Long Island Scottish Festival and Traditional Highland Games!  It was tons of fun (not to mention tasty), and I figured given the current popularity of Scottish culture with movies like Brave, I would share the experience with all of you.

The festival consisted of many lovely craft booths–I greatly enjoyed looking at the spinning booth in particular (I do not spin my own yarn–I am lazy).  Lots of lovely Celtic woodwork, jewelry, and of course, kilts as far as the eye can see!  I was good and resisted spending much money, the only purchases for the day were the mug pictured here (it’s a nice metal mug that came with free refills of old fashioned soda for the day), some honey sticks, a meat pie and a bridie (basically a meat and onion turnover).  Unfortunately, the haggis was all sold out by the time we made it to the food booth, or I would have given it a go.

There were also Scottish dog breeds with opportunities to adopt from rescue groups and a field course, kiltmaking demonstrations, Gaelic lessons (I missed this, I only know how to say ‘Kiss my butt’ in Gaelic), bagpipe instruction, highland dance lessons, fencing lessons, and of course–lots of music!

The Music

Amityville Highland Pipe Band
They had various pipe bands from around the island marching through and playing in the green throughout the day.  This is the pipe band from Amityville (yes, that Amityville for you horror fans), who made me laugh as in this picture they were currently piping Give My Regards to Broadway.  The cutest thing I saw all day was probably a 4-5 year old boy playing mini pipes, but alas, I didn’t get a picture.

Long Island Scottish Festival Main Stage

There were various musical groups performing on the main stage throughout the day, and the ones we saw were a lot of fun!  We got to see a lot of different instruments, with rock undertones.

Fiddling While Hula Hooping

This woman was probably the most talented person I saw all day.  Yes, she hula hooped while fiddling for this entire song!

The Highland Games

Stone ThrowCaber Tossing
This was the main reason I wanted to go–to see the traditional Highland Games!  The games consist of several different events depending on where they are being held, but here on Long Island they compete in three events:

  1. Stone Throwing: This is essentially the same a shot put.  Men throw a stone (16-22 pounds) from a cradling position at the neck, and the winner is selected by distance thrown.
  2. Caber Tossing: This is probably the most well-known event of the Highland Games.  Cabers are generally around 150 lbs, 18′ long, and taper from 9″ at one end to 5″ at the other (of course–they’re logs–they vary greatly).  The cabers are picked up and balanced vertically against the shoulder, and then tossed from the narrow end.  Considering the length and weight, you can imagine it’s difficult to get the caber into the proper position without it leaning too far back or forward before you’re ready to toss.  The caber must be turned over completely for the toss to count (essentially the narrow end they are tossing from their hands must flip over and be the furthest end from the thrower upon landing), and it is the goal to toss absolutely strait.
  3. Sheaf Tossing: I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of this event to share–it’s certainly interesting and unique!  Essentially, think pole vault.  The competitors have burlap sacks stuffed with straw (weighing about 16 lbs), which they toss with a pitch fork.  There is a raised wooden bar that each competitor has three chances to clear with a throw.  After each round, the bar is raised, and the tossing continues until it reaches a height none of the competitors are able to clear.

Note:  There seems to be a phenomenon known as KILT POWER.  I swear, any of the competitors not wearing a kilt performed far less impressively.  The two men pictured here were both very successful in all events.

Also–there was children’s Caber Tossing!

Children's Caber TossingThese cabers were PVC pipes of various widths and lengths, and children from about 4-12 participated.  This girl was a boss tossing ‘The Wee Willie Caber” in the 8-9 year old group.

It was certainly a wonderful day, even if I came home red as a tomato (why oh why was this the one day of the summer I forgot sunscreen?), and I hope you’ve enjoyed!  I know this has zero to do with books (unless we’re talking maybe Outlander), but as writing reviews has been like pulling teeth as of late, I wanted to let you know what other fun I’ve been up to.


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  1. Heidi, this seems like so much fun! I doubt I’d be very good at any of the Highland Games, but I would lovee to have seen that woman play the fiddle and hula-hoop at the same time! I’m so glad you had such lovely weather and had a wonderful time here! I’m not familiar with Scottish food or music, but I definitely plan to check them both out soon if I can! Thank you so much for sharing this with us! 😀

  2. Lauren says:

    Wow! Looks like you had a lot of fun. And a beautiful day for it too! I’m always worried in the athletic part that the kilts might come up at some point. But maybe people enjoy that. HA!

    I actually saw an article in my husband’s Wall Street Journal the other day about how Scottish fashion is in right now – especially for men. So maybe we’ll be seeing more people in kilts (or at least plaid) this fall.

  3. Haha love it! Sadly, even though I went to Uni in Scotland I never even saw a caber…let alone being tossed. I was ripped off. I did go to lots of Céilidh’s, eat Haggis, and see the Red Hot Chili Pipers though (lol). I also saw Brave last week and adored it- it felt like a classic as I was watching it. Glad you had a nice day- I would love to go to something like this!

  4. Children’s caber-tossing?!! I need to get the girls on a training regimen to build their upper arm strength, pronto! Haha, looks like you had a great time Heidi (despite the sun and your burn…probably courtesy of your Scottish ancestors). Thanks for sharing the photos!

  5. ahhhahahah!!!! SO JEALOUS!! I want to toss the Wee Willie Caber!! I totally believe in kilt power. It must have something to do with freedom of movement. :-)

  6. I went to Highland Games when I was living in Alaska and they.totally.rock. It sounds very similar to your experiences here. I was so amazed at watching caber tossing! You missed an opportunity to make a Braveheart joke (“You dropped your rock.”) Gosh, I love events like this. I am so jealous as I’m positive you had an awesome time out in the sun with your friends. I went to the Kitsap County Fair last weekend with some of my friends and it was like this, minus all the Scottish stuff plus thousands of animals plus a lot more…uh….country folk. I did have a kickass chili cheese dog, though.

    • Heidi says:

      Hahah, awesome! I LOVE county fairs, we used to go to the Puyallup Fair every year when I lived out there. Great times!

      I did miss the Braveheart opportunity, you’re right. D: But the day was awesome!

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