The Highland Games

4 Nov

July 2017


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.


Next Up:  Wrapping up the Highlands and Slapping a Bow on it

7 Replies to “The Highland Games

  1. WOW! Penny you write sure interesting stories of your adventures!
    I can’t believe all the two of you are seeing and don’t! Amazing😊
    (And I always 5hought I was adventuresome.) Not!!!
    Are you still living in the teepee?
    Those were great pictures too. I’m so glad you were there at the right time to see The Highland Games. But, if I know Jo, she planned it that way😊
    You two take care….Keep up seeing things and stay safe!
    Love you guys❤

    • Thank you so much, Pat!! Hell yeah, you’re adventurous! Just look at all those years you bravely traveled solo, everything you’ve seen. So Jo tells me. 😉 You’re amazing! I’m more adventurous than Jo is. She’s too worried she’s gonna crash the car or I’m going to get hurt. She’s a helicopter mom. I have to remind her to loosen up a bit sometimes. 😀 And, yes, Jo did plan that day to a T. Haha!

      No, we froze our asses off in the teepee and had to stay inside the house instead. Brrr! We actually just left Edinburgh and arrived in London a few days ago. Playing some major catch-up on the blog this weekend, that’s for sure!

      Hope you had a spooktacular Halloween, Pat – we love you bunches!

  2. OK. I should proofread my comments before I hit post!
    I meant.. I can’t believe all you are seeing and doing.
    I can’t wait until Jo gets your adventures published into children’s books😊
    Love, Pat

  3. Well Penny, you did it again. Great stories on your adventures. And I love your far away gazes while daydreaming of running wild in those vast pastures. Got to admit though, you look like “Flash” in those short takes your Mom sends of you running like a fullback through the greens. Just be careful ‘ol girl. And by the way, what’s up with the ringers in the games? Thought I saw a person that looked of asian decent holding bagpipes. And did they recruit “little people” to enter in the tabor toss? Something’s not right. Fixed games I’m thinking 😉 But glad you two had a good time. That little shopping center looked king of freaky with no people around. Cute but scary. Was waiting for zombies to pop out from around a corner and make you there next meal. Geez! And by the way Pennywise. What Pat said: Can’t wait until Jo gets your adventures published. Bite her ankle or something would ya. Just kidding about the ankle part (sort of). Anywho, can’t wait to see your next misadventure. Take care of your lesser half Penster and love you guys.

    • Jo snorted at the “lesser half” reference. Haha! We think the adults at the games were the real ringers. The kids kicked ass and truly stole the show! Once again, you read our minds about “Flash.” I’m writing the next blog post right now and just made a reference to him! I am quite the looker with those faraway gazes, aren’t I? Just thinking about putting a squirrel in a headlock. There’s just something about Scotland that brings out the beast best in me! I like it well enough here in London, but you won’t find me running in the park here. Still biting Jo’s ankles though. We’ll see if anything comes of it! 😉 The shopping center WAS eerie! Jo thought we might stumble upon some plaque victims or cannibal children. I shudder at the thought!

      Thank you so much, Gpa! We love you bunches!!

  4. Love you girls and all of your adventures!!!!! Penny, you are the bomb! Love all the pics and can’t wait to see you (and Jo too)! Am filling your Christmas stocking. Love you both so much and will see you soon – XXXOOO

    • Jo says, “Sure, sure you love me too.” It’s okay if you don’t, Gma. It will be our lil secret. She says she better have her own damn Christmas stocking though. Just kidding, just pulling a Gma! 😉 We love you, too, and can’t wait to see your crazy ass and Gpa in December!

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