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The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games are considered America's best highland games because guests find the Blue Ridge Mountain setting so reminiscent of Scotland.
Photo by Hugh Morton

Highland Games schedule - July 7 to 10

Thursday, July 7
• Picnic, torchlight ceremony and sheep herding

• 4:30 p.m. Picnic - food concessions are available at MacRae Meadows or you can bring your own

• Scottish entertainment - traditional Celtic music

• Sheep herding: Sheep herding with border collies on the field

• 7 p.m. The Bear: Assault on Grandfather - This five-mile footrace climbs 1,568 feet in elevation from the Town of Linville to the summit of Grandfather Mountain. More than 800 runners will start up Old Yonahlossee Road from Linville at 7 p.m., circle the Highland Games track around 7:15 p.m. and head up the Grandfather Mountain summit road
• Torchlight ceremony: Opening ceremony announcing each participating clan's arrival to the Games

Friday, July 8

• 7:30 a.m. The Grizzly Bike Race
• 9 a.m. MacRae Meadows opens: Preliminary athletic competition, sheep herding, music/dancing exhibitions

• Opening ceremonies
• Highland wrestling clinic for children
• Children's tent and field activities

• Harp workshop
• Sheep herding

• History and genealogy studies at clan tents

• Highland dancing pre-championship

• Lochaber trump competition in the harp and fiddling tent

• 3 p.m. Day events completed, preparation begins for Celtic Jam

• 7 to 11 p.m. Celtic Music Jam Concert tracing the evolution of Celtic music from the ancient to the contemporary at MacRae Meadows

• 8 p.m. to midnight – Scottish Country Dance Gala - Williams Gymnasium at Lees-McRae College ($25 dancers/$10 spectators. Tickets sold only at the door)

Saturday, July 9

• 7 a.m. Mountain Marathon begins in Boone. Runners will arrive at Games track around 9:30 a.m.

• 7:30 a.m. MacRae Meadows opens

• Amateur heavy athletic qualifying

• Competition for Atlantic International Highland Dancing Championship, piping, drumming, Scottish athletic events, track and field events, Scottish country dancing, Scottish fiddling and Scottish harp

• Children's highland wrestling competition

• Sheep herding

• Massed bands on track

• Opening ceremonies

• History and genealogy studies at clan tents
• Children's Tent activities
• Celtic Grove music
• Highland wrestling
• Harp competitions

• Pre-Premier Highland Dance Competition

• N.C. Provincial Gaelic Mod
• Scottish fiddling workshop and jam session

• 7 p.m. Celtic Rock Concert at MacRae Meadows ($15 adults/$5 children age 5 to 12)

Sunday, July 10

• 8 a.m. MacRae Meadows opens

• Scottish heavy athletic demonstration and clinic

• 9 a.m. Scottish worship service and Kirkin' of the Tartans

• Children's border collie demonstration
• Celtic grove entertainment
• Parade of Tartans

• Scottish fiddling competition
• Atlantic International Highland Dance Championship competition

• Scottish athletic events, sheep herding, kilted miles, children's events, Scottish country dancing, Scottish harps and clan tugs-of-war

• History and genealogy studies at clan tents

• Sheep herding demonstration
• 4 p.m. Closing ceremonies

For more information, click to

Originally published: 2011-06-01 14:16:16
Last modified: 2011-06-03 17:34:05

Countdown to 56th annual Highland Games begins

Justin Grimes / (

Who’s the fastest runner in the village in case we need to send an urgent message to a distant clan? Or hundreds of years ago, the invitation may have read: great hunt planned, meet us on the mountain and don’t forget to bring your musical instruments and dancing shoes for the feast.

Oral tradition suggests that some version of the Highland Games has been in existence within the Celtic/Gaelic community since before the dawn of Christianity. In those days, the gatherings were most likely war games designed to select the best warriors in each tribe or clan.

We do know that during the reign of King of Scotts Malcolm III (1058 to 1093), a fairly flat meadowland, the Brae O’Mar, along the river Dee, was used for a royal contest to find the swiftest and strongest in the kingdom ... fast, with the necessary stamina to carry Malcolm’s messages across the land.

Today, the meeting place for the feast and competition is MacRae Meadows on Grandfather Mountain, where the world’s largest gathering of Scottish clans takes place each July. Upwards of 40,000 people from all over are expected to travel to the High Country and enjoy the festivities this summer.

The Games’ field of competitors includes world champion highland athletes.

The caber toss is probably the best known and a popular event of the Highland Games. The caber (telephone pole) is a hewn tree that spans from 16 to 20 feet in length and weighs from 70 to 130 pounds. Athletes crouch and carefully cup the pole in their hands, pop it up as they stand, run as many steps as they deem necessary and then toss it into the air. The desired result is a caber that turns end-over-end and comes to rest directly at 12 o’clock in front of the athlete.
Other crowd pleasers are kilted men doing battle in highland wrestling and tug-a-war.

More typical track and field events are also held at the Games, which has its own 440-yard oval track at the Meadows.

To read the complete story, please pick up a copy of The Avery Journal-Times, available at more than 85 locations in Newland, Banner Elk, Crossnore, Spruce Pine and Roan Mountain, Tenn.