Strong men in kilts, flying logs, iron weights and bagpipe music are the hallmarks of the Highland Games. Scottish-style sporting competitions have existed in the highlands since time immemorial. Every spring and summer, Scotland hosts numerous Highland Games. The Cowal Highland Gathering, better known as the Cowal Games, is the largest of these events in Scotland. 3500 competitors present themselves in front of over 20,000 spectators. Every year, members of the British royal family are guests at the Braemar Gathering.
Scottish heavy athletics
The most popular event at all of the Highland Games is the showdown of strong men. The most famous competition is certainly the tree trunk throwing. The trunk is held at the thinner end and is thrown so that it rotates as precisely as possible by 180 degrees and comes up with the thicker end. How far the trunk is thrown is unimportant.
Iron weights are thrown in further competitions. Either as far as possible or over a pole at a certain height. Another competition is reminiscent of the shot put in athletics, only that a stone is used. In Scottish hammer throwing, the thrower is not allowed to move his feet and throws the hammer over his shoulder.
Music and dance
The Highland Games would be inconceivable without the numerous bagpipe players. At the opening, several groups play classics like Amazing Grace at the same time. Competitions are held for bagpipes and drums, for solo players and groups. Scottish folk dancing is also on the agenda at many of the Highland Games.
A visit to the Highland Games is sure to be one of the highlights of a vacation in Scotland. In addition to great competitions, visitors can also discover vibrant Scottish and Gaelic culture.
The elixir of life for the Scots
Since everyone, whiskey has been considered the elixir of life for the Scots. Connoisseurs swear by the single malt whiskey, which, in contrast to the blends, “blends” of different types, comes from a single distillery. It is made only with rolled barley and is stored for a very long time. Probably the largest concentration of whiskey distilleries is in the Speyside region, between Inverness and Aberdeen. There are around 50 distilleries around the River Spey – some of them only a few kilometers apart. The products from this area are particularly popular, as the spirits have little or no taste of peat. Eight of the most famous distilleries as well as a cooperage can be visited during a study trip through Scotland on the so-called Whiskey Trail – by coach, Rental car and of course on foot. The landscape of this trail is unique: you cross the Cairngorms National Park and the high moor and you may encounter golden eagles and capercaillie. The idyllic hotels and accommodations along the circular route have adapted to the needs of tourists, and so you will find, among other things, a bar where you can choose from 550 different types of single malt.
The stations of the whiskey trail
The eight stops on the whiskey route are made up of the distilleries Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, Glenlivet, Glen Moray, Cardhu, Benromanch, Strathisla, the now disused distillery Dallas Dhu, which is a listed building, and the Speyside Cooperage. There is also a visitor center at the last station – the only one of its kind in the UK. The trail is well signposted and it doesn’t matter which way you hike it. There are also plenty of malting houses, cooperages and bottling plants in the region. A visit to the famous Whiskey Castle is also worthwhile, where the hosts are happy to invite you for a whiskey tasting. The Glenlivet distillery near Ballindalloch is said to be the birthplace of the legal distillery, because before 1823 whiskey was illegally made in Scotland. The paths around them all bear the names of smugglers. Here, too, a visitor center awaits the guest, and the tour is free of charge.
The rugged coastal and mountain landscapes of the Scottish Highlands are among the most impressive holiday regions in the British Isles. A fjord-like, almost primeval landscape of unique beauty stretches here between the North West Highlands, the Outer Hebrides and the rugged wilderness of the Atlantic Ocean. Here you can still experience a particularly pristine, natural and tradition-conscious Scotland. Thanks to the North Atlantic Current, there is an unusually mild climate, especially on the coast of the northwestern highlands.
Ullapool on Loch Broom
One of the most popular destinations along the Scottish west coast, for backpackers, mountain hikers, trekking and nature lovers alike, is the small port town of Ullapool. The former fishing village, in which the traditional Scottish Gaelic is still the everyday language for many residents, is located directly on the east bank of Loch Broom, a spacious bay on the west Scottish coast. There is also a regular ferry service from Ullapool to the Isle of Lewis, the largest island in the Western Isles. Even the famous Austrian painter Oskar Kokoschka loved this unique Scottish landscape. The Viennese expressionist spent many summer months with his wife in Ullapool and created impressive landscapes, drawings and watercolors in the highlands and its coastal zones.
The Altnaharrie Inn on the Fort William to Cape Wrath Trail
The Altnaharrie Inn offers a beautiful and well-established accommodation near the lively little coastal town of Ullapool. The romantic little hotel is not only famous for its special Scottish hospitality, but also for its excellent cuisine. Until a few years ago, the traditional house on Loch Broom could only be reached by ferry. The Altnaharrie Inn is now also accessible by land: via the so-called “Fort William to Cape Wrath Trail”. The trail, popular with Scotland hikers from all over the world, connects Fort William with the northernmost point of Great Britain, Cape Wrath. The Altnaharrie Inn thus offers an excellent starting point for smaller and larger hikes along the trail or for extensive sailing and fishing tours in Loch Broom.