Highland Games in Scotland: your guide to visiting

This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you buy or book after clicking, I may get a commission.
This is at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Visiting the Highland Games in Scotland is a bucket list item for many heading to the country on vacation. They are a culture filled day out where you can see traditional Scottish sports in action as well as bag pipe playing, highland dancing and food eating!

We visited our first Highland Games only a few years ago, despite me growing up in Scotland. We lucked out with the weather despite a few malingering clouds and had a fantastic day.

Highland games in scotland

Highland Games are family friendly days out which are great if you’re exploring Scotland with kids, and if you are lucky that the weather is on your side you can have a wonderful time too. Let’s take a look at Scottish Highland Games, answer your questions and help you visit one this summer!

What are the best Highland Games?

There isn’t just one single highland games, they are a little like country fairs and celebrations that happen all over Scotland (and not just in the Highlands either – you’ll find some in central Scotland, on the islands and in the borders too).

Some events are larger than others with some, such as Braemar, which is the biggest event and the one that the Royal Family attend each year.

Pipe bands are an incredible sight and sound at Highland Games

When are the Highland Games in Scotland?

Normally the Highland Games take place in the summer months from as early as May through to September. Most of them happen in July and August and almost all will take place on a weekend, normally a Saturday.

It gives the best chance of good weather in this country that’s known for rain!

2022 Highland Games Dates

Here are the current dates for some of the Highland Games events happening in 2022 throughout Scotland, but it’s far from exhaustive – I’ll keep adding as I find dates.

Please do check listings (I’ve linked each Games to their website) in case dates change or in the event of cancellation.

What happens at the Highland Games?

Scottish Highland Games are a celebration of culture and sport. Whatever you think of as traditionally Scottish will probably be there!

You’ll find highland dancing competitions with all ages competing while dressed in their finery and traditional dress.

highland dancing

You’ll also hear bagpipes and Scottish pipe bands marching throughout the day. An amazing sound that will make you all tingly!

Different sports also take place throughout the day. Sometimes just the traditional heavy sports listed below but also sometimes athletics events as well.

You’ll be able to discover local business and food producers with plenty of stalls around with produce to buy, snacks to consume and souvenirs to treasure and take home. There’s probably some whisky and local brews too that you can sample!

I definitely miss Scottish food when I’m not there – you won’t be disappointed!

What sports are played at the Highland Games?

There are a few different sports that people compete in at a Highland Games including:

  • Caber Toss
  • Tug of War
  • Hammer Throw
  • Shot Putt
  • Weight for Height

Best way to get to the Highland Games for overseas visitors

Highland Games are normally attended by locals and non-locals alike. They are often held in villages or in towns around the country.

Having your own car is going to be the best way to enjoy a Highland Games, especially if it’s a smaller event or if there is no local transport. If you’re flexible in your arrival times in the country you might look at timing your trip with one of the bigger Games like Braemar.

Check out DiscoverCars.com if you’d like to explore options for renting a car while in Scotland.

If you’re based in Edinburgh and you’re sure you don’t want to drive yourself then a tour could be a good idea. They’ll likely only go to the bigger events but it’s a great way to enjoy it, get the benefit of a tour guide on the way up to point out the scenery you’re driving through, and enjoy the day there with no worries. Here’s a tour that goes from Edinburgh.

What should I wear to the Highland Games?

The Highland Games tend to be informal affairs, certainly for those attending and not participating. In saying that, you won’t be out of place if you decided to wear a kilt or your families tartan on the day. Personally, I’d advise to wear something comfortable, whatever that is!

No matter what you decide to wear, a rain jacket is a great idea and perhaps an umbrella too. Often there are no covered areas in cases of bad weather.

I’d also take along something to sit on – either a small picnic blanket with a waterproof backing or a seat pad. Many of the games are simple affairs in a field without proper seating so you’ll be sat on the grass and if it’s a little damp you’ll regret it!

How much are tickets to the Highland Games?

Some Highland Games are free to watch, some you can pay when you arrive and some need tickets in advance.

For the more popular locations you may wish to purchase tickets in advance but many don’t have a cap on visitors as they are outside events.

Ticket prices range from free to up to £35 for a covered grandstand ticket at Braemar.

Photo of author

Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for 10 of those. She loves to explore the UK and Europe and has a particular penchant for historical sites.

1 thought on “Highland Games in Scotland: your guide to visiting”

  1. Sometimes those splurges are worth it! After all isn’t that what travels about? It sounds like a great day and would love to see the highland games. By the way, love the picture of James and his whiskey bottle.

    Reply

Leave a comment