The Highland Games were originally used as a test of skill
and strength when recruiting clan warriors. The events range
from putting the stones, to throwing the hammers,
to tossing the caber. Putting the stones is similar
to shotput in the Olympics, however the ball is bigger, and
true to the name of the game, it is made from stone. The hammer
is more or less like a real sledgehammer with a ball on the
end and a wooden shaft. The caber is a tree trunk that's been
cut down from up around about 20 feet and weighs around 150
pounds. All in all, this isn't a game for the meek and mild.
No one knows exactly when the games began, perhaps many hundreds
of years ago as a gathering between Scottish Clans, but the
games were revived in 1821 and received funding to make them
the spectacle they are today. Piping and dancing competitions
are also there for those more flighty than mighty, as well
as more modern track and field athletics and fun events like
the kids 'mini tug of war', traditional crafts and even sheep
shearing competitions. Activities vary, but it usually costs
a few pounds to get in and you're guaranteed a very traditional
and fun day out for all the family.
You don't need to be a professional or dedicated athlete
to participate in the games (although many of the winners
are), anyone who is fit enough can take part. Celebrity participants
include Robin Williams and local boy Billy Connolly
who invites the Lonarchs (local men) of Strathdon to his home
for a wee dram of Whisky!
The Strathdon Festival begins at the crack of dawn
with the men dressed in traditional highland dress of kilts,
sporan and tartan marching with battle axes through the glen
and culminates in the main sports and dances.