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Highland Games in Scotland

The Highland Games are annual events which take place in citys and numerous small towns throughout Scotland.  The Games have a day long programme of events with often most of the participants coming from the local areas.

The Highland Games are said to have originated up to 2000 years ago and they originally started in Ireland.  The games were originally were a more serious affair with rival clans competing against each other to see who was the strongest and fastest and this could determine what role a person would play within the clans.  For example the fastest runners would be used for messengers and the strongest men would make the best fighters etc.

The games in their current form are different from the original format but they still have many traditional events which help keep the Celtic and Ancient traditions alive.  These include the caber toss and hammer throw which have become emblematic events of Scotland.

There are Highland Games events which now take place all over the world with just under 100 different Highland Games events in Scotland alone.  The oldest games take place at Ceres in Fife with those games dating back to 1314 and were actually a gift from Robert the Bruce after his victory at Bannockburn.  The largest Highland Games event is the Cowal games in Dunoon which attract around 3,500 competitors and just over 23,000 spectators.

The Games have a mixture of Light Events and Heavy events as well as musical events such as Pipe Band Competitions and Highland Dancing.  The common events are explained below.

Heavy Events

Caber Toss

The Caber Toss is one of the most popular events at the Highland Games and it involves “tossing” a large tree truck (aprx 20ft high) away from the thrower.  The object is not distance but to get the caber to land in a straight line rotating 180 degrees so that the top end points towards the thrower.  It is a test of not only strength but also balance.

Stone Put

The Stone Put is very similar to the shot put with one of the main difference being that a regular stone (of varying weight) is used instead of a more standard ball.  There are different weights used for the stone these vary between 20–26  and the aim is to get throw the stone as far as possible only using one hand (much the same as the shot put).

Hammer Throw

The Hammer Throw is similar to the modern day hammer throw used in athletics events with a round ball weight up to 22lb for men and 16lb for women.  This ball is attached to a piece of wood and the thrower must throw from a fixed position over their shoulder trying to get as much distance as possible.

Weight Throw

The Weight Throw has two different events, the first involves throwing a 28lb weight trying to get as much distance as possible.  The second event involves throwing a heavier weight (56lbs)  over a bar trying to get as much height as possible with each competitor getting three attempts to at each height.

caber toss highland dancing stone put

Other Events


The athletics events are usually referred to as "Light Events" and these vary depending on the games but usually include a sprint race, cycling, high jump and long jump.  These events usually take place with different age groups competing (children and adult) and gender (although some games do have mixed events).

Tug of War

The tug of war is another popular event at the Highland Games and the rules are fairly simple.  There are two teams made up of between 5 and 8 persons (even number of people on each side) both side take a hold of a piece of rope 12 feet in their direction.  The first team to do this twice wins the competition.

Highland Dancing

Highland Dancing is a highly technical style of dancing usually performed in traditional outfits to bagpipe music.  The dancers are judged in various age groups and it is similar to ballet style dancing with the dancers being light on their feet.  The performers are judged on timing, technique and interpretation.

Pipe Band Music

Every Highland Games event has some pipe band music, traditional a pipe band will open the games.  There are both solo and group pipe band competitions with traditional Celtic music played by a number of different performers from different levels with different grades and juvenile catagories.

Map of Highland Games in Scotland