Gorgeous mountain peaks rising through the mist…the sound of bagpipes filling the air…and tartan as far as the eye could see…
No, I didn’t take a trip to Glencoe this summer! But I did get to experience the next best thing: the famous Grandfather Mountain Highland Games at MacRae Meadow in Linville, North Carolina. I was invited to attend as a guest of Scottish Heritage USA, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the gracious Southern hospitality that they extended to me over the long weekend. Scottish heritage is truly alive and well in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
One of the country’s largest Highland Games, Grandfather Mountain welcomes more than 30,000 visitors every summer. The setting is particularly evocative, with the 6,000-foot Grandfather Mountain presiding over hundreds of colorful tents housing clan gatherings from across the country. In the center, a grassy field serves as the stage for athletic events, dancing competitions, sheep herding demonstrations, and pipe and drum performances.
I had the opportunity to introduce the National Trust for Scotland and share news about conservation initiatives at properties like Ben Lawers and Hill House at the Scottish Cultural Village, a venue for learning about Scottish culture. Other Scottish Cultural Village speakers focused on the history of kilts, Viking colonization of Scotland, and anintroduction to whisky.
My favorite parts of the weekend including watching “Tossing the Sheaf” (where the athletes swing a 16-lb bag of hay over a 20-foot pole using a pitchfork) and the Caber Toss; cheering on marathon runners during the last leg of their race; and waving to all of the proud clan representatives flying their colors during the Parade of Tartans. (Scones with strawberries and cream for breakfast wasn’t bad, either!)
But above all, I’ll remember the wonderful people I met, whether though SHUSA, at the Scottish Cultural Village, or in line for fish and chips. Individuals from around the country, united in their love of Scotland. And, just maybe, Jamie Fraser!
P.S Be sure to let us know if you’ll be at the New Hampshire Highland Games at Loon Mountain in September –
we’ll be there, too!
Photographs from the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games here on NTSUSA’s Facebook Page