Friday, September 17, 2010

Scotland Highland Games

This past weekend, I went with Brecht to a day of Highland games, a distinctly Scottish event.

We took the train 2 hours from Edinburgh central to the tiny town of Pitlochry, Scotland. The town itself is not much to speak of, small, lots of souvenir shopping on the main street. It is, however, in the highlands, and therefore surrounded by large hills/small mountains...very green and picturesque setting.

Although there are also highland games all over the US & other countries, here in Scotland, the Highland games are held in a different small town every weekend for 3 or 4 months or so, from Mayish to mid September. In fact, although they are local events and have local participants, it is also part of a series of Highland Games, and even administered by a group, the Scottish Highland Games Association.

Another seemingly obvious but not so obvious thing is in fact the games only take place in the highlands. Edinburgh, Glasgow, and most of south eastern Scotland are lowlands, so they do not have highland games. Makes sense, but you have to consider the geography of Scotland when you think about it.

The other thing I learned was a bit of history regarding the games. During English occupation, they would not let the Scots train with weapons. So they discretely trained by using the games for this purpose. Honing skills with axes and other weapons.

So anyways, the games were really interesting. Lot's of manly events, despite the kilt-wearing. It really felt like a track and field competition in the US, with various events taking place simultaneously in different parts of the field. Events included:

Log toss. Three different really tall logs of different diameters. Pick it up, flip it over, try to get it to flip over enough so the top end lands on the ground and then rolls over. If it goes less than 180 degrees (and the top side does not land on the ground), you lose:

Stone Throw/Shotput. Throw palm sized stone from ear, with a nice wind up in the process:

Bicycling. Various lengths and sprints. All on the muddy grass:

Running. Lots of sprints, longer events, and even a team even where they handed off the baton (what do they call that again? I forgot).

Tug of War. Hilarious. It went on all day, there were 7 teams. Sometimes the tug of war would go on for 10 or 15 minutes, all the guys just kind of resting there while putting their weight into it. They even had coaches yelling out. Lots of grunting. Big guys. Very funny.

My favorite picture.

Long Hammer throw. Hammer with really long wooden handle:

Ball and Chain throw:

Weight toss. 56 lb weight which at the highest setting gets tossed over a 15'8" bar. They kept saying the equivalent to throwing a 7 lb baby over a 2 story double decker bus.

this would constitute a failure:

Bagpiping. Lots of bagpiping. They had 21 bands play individually throughout the day. Then, at the end, all 21 played together in a procession. They bands had drummers as well. It was really impressive.

The look of kilted dejection:

Then Dougie Maclean played. I had never heard of him, but apparently he is one of Scotlands more famous musicians. And everyone knew the words to the songs he played.

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