At long last, today was the day. The day Jo and I had both been waiting for since arriving to Scotland (well, mostly Jo). The day when Highlanders come together to show off their prowess and virility by tossing their extremely heavy balls and wood into the air, battling to the death till one remains because…well, “There can be only one,” according to the Highlander film. 😉
Okay, not really. Kidding aside, we were stoked to be able to cross yet another thing off our bucket list and be a part of this amazing tradition!
* Did you say we’re going to the Highland Games?!
FUN FACT: Did you know that art competitions were part of the Olympics from 1912-1948? Yeah, me neither. ‘Cause I’m a dog. All I know is when I lick my paws, they taste gross. And I’m convinced that squirrels want to make dogs their slaves.
It’s true though. Medals were awarded in categories of Architecture, Literature, Music, Painting, and Sculpture…as long as the piece of art centered around a sport-related theme. So, Jackson Pollocks and Irma Rombauers of the world need not apply.
And, at the 1912 Summer Olympics, a certain Baron de Coubertin won gold for his poem Ode to Sport. This same gent is considered to be the founder of the modern Olympics, and so impressed was he by some Highland events at the 1889 Paris Exhibition, it nearly blew his prodigious mustache clean off his kisser. Thereafter, he introduced the hammer throw, shot put, and tug o’ war to the Olympics.
* Wow, he really did have an epic ‘stache. Photo via Wikimedia
Baron de Coubertin: “The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
Ahh, yes…getting untangled from my leash, picking up my poop after running out of bags, and trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans after drinking one too many beers – Jo knows the struggle well.
* For these festivities, we headed to Cairngorms National Park, to a wee place called Tomintoul (the highest village in the Highlands) for their 176th year of the games!
* Inside Cairngorms National Park
The games took place in a clearing surrounded by trees, quartz, mushrooms, and cow patties. And when the wind blew across the field, the tall blades of grass elbowing each other sounded like muffled cheering, as if they were spectators at their very own Highland games.
* Jo was beside herself with grief when she realized the men wouldn’t be flashing their goods today. Damn you, undergarments!
Jo’s absolute favorite part – the caber toss! There is no standard length or weight (although I read up to 20 feet long and 175 pounds), and the tosser attempts to flip this Lincoln Log on steroids end over end.
Whaaa?! Jo has trouble opening a jar of pickles, and here these guys are pantomiming effortlessly tossing the Beanstalk Giant’s after-dinner toothpick into the trash.
* Check this guy out! Caber tossing in 1929. For more of these amazing vintage game photos, check out 1900-1962 Highland Games
* These guys kilt it on the bagpipes! See what I did there? 😉
In addition to the “heavy” events, there are “light” events, dance competitions (including traditional sword dancing), piping and drumming competitions, tug o’ war, and silly competitions such as The Barrel Race (pushing an empty whisky barrel uphill with only a broom handle), “pillow” fighting on a log, and Tilt the Bucket (a jousting game while riding in a wheelbarrow, and if you miss your target, you get doused in water). Apparently, we either arrived too late or left too early to see those last games. Bummer!
* Don’t think the judges liked Jo taking their photo… Judges are alwaaays judging.
* Sorry, no good photos of these guys because of the netting. And believe me, it came in handy, since we did witness a few rogue flying objects
* These handsome fellas were practicing in the wooded area outside of the clearing
* This lil drummer boy was so cute, I could have eaten him up. But Jo said I can’t just go around eating kids. That’s how horror movies start.
* Standing in line, waiting to stuff our faces with fish n’ chips, we were lucky enough to see these guys up close n’ personal!
* Snagged some fudge to go: Including whisky n’ raisin and Irn-Bru (a Scottish soda)
Jo was having a blast! I was bored outta my mind. It was rainy and muddy, and I wasn’t having it. I gave her the ol’ squinty eye the whole time…or I embarrassed her by lunging at other dogs.
Jo distracted me with a venison burger and fish n’ chips…and she distracted herself from my sketchy behavior with a dram of whisky!
* Oh, good – another bored dog!
* Thanks, Tomintoul, for an amazing day!!
* On the way home, we stopped off at a quarry to hike for a bit – that’s our car to the right of my head!
At the top, we found this crazy Stargate thing – I just knew they existed! I played the part of James Spader’s character, and Jo played the part of Kurt Russell’s. We theorized how to open a portal to another dimension, preferably one with a restroom because we REALLY had to go. But alas! We two stooges couldn’t figure it out…so, hey, we relieved ourselves right there in the grass. Ahh, nature!
* Found this lovely place on the way back as well
* This is actually someone’s house! How cool is that?!
* Found this amazing lil shopping plaza too! Seemingly in the middle of nowhere really, down a small quiet road. It was closed by the time we arrived though. 🙁
* Hell of a day, Scotland! Hell. Of. A. Day.