Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

Our visit to Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, July 9, 2016

color guard

Opening ceremonies, kirking of the tartan, Scottish style athletic competitions, bagpipes, Scottish dance events, bands, a mostly up hill full marathon, finding your family tartan, sheep herding trials, Cornish pasties, scones, or just wandering about looking at all the kilts. Such is a day at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.

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We were honored to cheer on the first place marathon runner as he entered the field and made one final lap before crossing the finish line.

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Preparing to throw a 56 pound weight over a high bar

clan help

We arrived at the shuttle station at Avery High School near Linville at 6:30 am, after a wild night of severe weather which ripped apart much of the preparations at the MacRae Meadows, the site of the 61st annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.

One of the first things we witnessed was the shelter tent at the shuttle station flying over the portable toilets landing upside down in the edge of the woods. It was still windy. Our driver told us about the storm on the mountain during our ride up, so we were expecting the worst. However, when we arrived at the meadows we were amazed to see dozens of bright tents, all upright and functioning with just an occasional tent pole that appeared bent, and a few overturned signs that were being uprighted by a crew that had obviously been out of bed for much longer than us.


We sat down briefly under one of the clan tents where JoAnn studied the event maps and I spoke with a lady that helped us get our bearings on where to put our chairs for the best views etc. Bagpipers were practicing for their competitions, and the athletics crews were setting up the poles and bars for the athletic events. The grounds crew continued to scurry about doing last minute preparations as we walked around the field to the recommended bleacher and grassy section, where we would set up our lawn chairs. We set up on a nice level section overlooking the field at about the “50 yard line”.

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First woman finisher… Only a very short distance behind the winner.

Within a few minutes, athletes began to warm up by tossing a 16 pound stone around while bagpipers continued to practice, dancers began to warm up for their competitions, and athletic crews began erecting the poles and bar systems. The marathon race had already started, 26 plus miles away in Boone, and runners were pacing themselves for the mostly uphill run to the MacRae meadows at Grandfather Mountain where they would finish with a final lap around the track.

For the next several hours we were entertained by Scottish wrestling, the throwing of the stones, throwing of 56 pound weights, tossing weights over a high bar, pitching the sheaf with a pitchfork, hammer throws, and turning of the caber. We were also privledged to cheer on the finishing marathon runners.

Heavy Athletics

Video courtesy You Tube and First In Flight

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Amid the athletic competions were the Scottish dance competitions, massed bands, presentation of the colors, and the incredible sheep dog trials. By mid day the sun was out with a vengence, prompting us to look for shade. Moving over to the Celtic grove we found a shady spot where we could listen to the bands, drink a little water and cool down a little.

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Sheep Herding

Video courtesy You Tube and First In Flight

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Our first visit to a Highland Games was a wonderful experience. It made me proud of my Scottish heritage (McBrayer) and gave me new insight into the ancient competitions. Also, I have never seen so much plaid at one place in my entire life…..

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Massed Band

Video courtesy You Tube and First In Flight

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