Day 23: Loch Lomond Highland Games

Saturday, July 18, 2015
How could I go to Scotland and not see authentic Highland Games?
Well… I couldn’t!

Loch Lomond logo (via llhgb.com)
Loch Lomond logo (via llhgb.com)

Balloch hosts one of the larger Games in Scotland: The Loch Lomond Highland Games.

Red line points to Balloch (via K. Emmons)
Red line points to Balloch (via K. Emmons)

The weather cleared out from the night before and we set off across the bridge to enter. There’s a sort of carnival-esque atmosphere with souvenir booths, food stands, and even a clown making balloon figures! Did I mention there are people in kilts EVERYWHERE?

*smiles* (taken by M. Emmons)
*smiles* (taken by M. Emmons)

Those men were a part of the Army… and were extremely kind enough to take a photo with me. 🙂

The events consist of Highland dancing, heavyweight competing, piping, tug’o’war, wrestling, running, and cycling. All are worthy taking a look at!

I started by heading to the Highland Dancing tent where the 4-15 year olds were performing in the morning. Due to UK laws I couldn’t take any personal photos of the underage performers, but I did find this one from the Loch Lomond website! (Note: it’s the 2014 competition photo, but is still representative…)

Highland Dancing (via llhgb.com; 2014)
Highland Dancing (via llhgb.com; 2014)

They. Were. Fantastic.
And adorable!

After watching several rounds of dancing I wanted to see some of the Heavyweight competition and headed back to the main arena. That’s where the big men are…

The events consist of 16lb and 22lb Ball (think shotput), 16lb and 22lb Hammer (a giant hammer), 28lb and 56lb weight (that’s a small child if you think about it), and tossing the caber (a tree trunk). It’s pretty dang impressive.

Example photo (via highlandgames.com)
Example photo of Ball/Shotput/Stoneput (via highlandgames.com)
Example photo of Hammer Throw (via capefearhighlandgames.com)
Example photo of Hammer Throw (via capefearhighlandgames.com)
Example photo of 56lb weight toss (via edinphoto.org.uk)
Example photo of 56lb weight toss (via edinphoto.org.uk)
Tossing the Caber (via llhgb.com; 2014)
Tossing the Caber (via llhgb.com; 2014)

My photos are from a distance, but so, so amazing to watch!

Pipe Band (via K. Emmons)
Pipe Band (via K. Emmons)
Highland Games selfie (via K. Emmons)
Highland Games selfie (via K. Emmons)

The final event that interested me was the Tug’o’War. It’s simple but, oh, so impressive… Teams of 5 and later 8 paired off to test their strength against each other by pulling opposite ends of a rope. Easy? Some battles were easily won, but others went on for minutes (a long time to keep pulling!).

Panoramic! (via K. Emmons)
Panoramic! (via K. Emmons)

This was the “battle” that interested me the most… let me set the scene…

The Army men from above have already competed in the 5-man tug’o’war and fairly easily beaten everyone else. They didn’t really stand a chance, because the Army team (aptly named Highlanders) had a strategy. They would hold their positions while the other team wore themselves out, then easily pull backwards to win. Now they’re competing with 8 of them!

Army 8-Man Tug'o'War (via K. Emmons)
Army 8-Man team(via K. Emmons)

Enter a new competitor. The Moffatt Builders. I would have to bet that the youngest man on that team was no less than 40 and the oldest was in his 70s. My mother thought it would be an easy win for the Highlanders (her favourite team), but I had a feeling that these Builders had a bit of experience on their side…

And, boy, did they show up! The Moffatt Builders had a perfect strategy and execution.! They wore heavy working boots and used the whole side of their foot to dig into the ground instead of just the heel. Then they laid back at a 45 degree angle and were SOLID. No budging! The Army group were pulling and yelling and couldn’t get those older men to move an inch… It was like a perfectly choreographed dance! The Builders used the same strategy of holding while their opponents wore themselves out… they just did it better than the Highlanders!

Moffatt Builders 8 Man Tug'O'War (via K. Emmons)
Moffatt Builders 8-Man team (via K. Emmons)

The Moffatt Builders ended up beating the Highlanders and everyone else to win… for the 12th year in a row!

Moffatt Builders (via llhgb.com; from 2014)
Moffatt Builders winning in 2014 (via llhgb.com)

Obviously brains defeated brawn here… why work harder than you have to? Another thing I learned in drum corps: work smarter and more efficiently.

I had a GREAT time and hope you all can attend a Highland Games in the future! The US and Canada even have competitions! Check out the official website here.

On to Day 24!

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One thought on “Day 23: Loch Lomond Highland Games

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