Scottish Highland Games, Part 1: Stepping Into the Other World

The first thing you hear is a bagpipe crying up over the hill out of sight in the direction you plan to go. If you hadn’t planned to go that way you’d be drawn to the sound out of curiosity and because it seems to call you home.

Kilts are simply another form of trousers. Well over thirty clans were represented and the tartans reflected subtle and striking variations, from bright yellow to deep green and black. Insiders recognize the clan from the kilt. Sporrans were silver or black leather or fox tails or bear-paws, unique as their wearers. Dirks and other knives were worn decently and in order, either on the belt or tucked in the sock.

Serious competitive enjoyment is bass accompaniment to the pipes. The athletic area sits downhill from the beer garden and the two seem natural together on a hot day when the men and the women compete in the weight toss for height and for distance, hammer throw, braemar stone, and caber toss (known also as “tossing the telephone pole”). Professional athletes on Saturday only!

Music runs the gamut from Celtic to loudly tribal Celtic. The didgeridoo, while not native toScotlandis deep and old and tribal. That’s Celtic music: deep and old and unashamedly manly and warlike.

Good beer and Guiness are important to the playing and the listening of the music. Whiskey, too, though less so on a very hot day (next time I shall recommend they keep the bottles on ice, ready for tasting).

The Other World is kilts, knives, fierce competition, vigorous music, beer and solid good food. The only hard part of the day was stepping back from that world to this.

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