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 lingering clouds and had a fantastic day.
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!
A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a UK travel expert – while I grew up in Scotland, as an adult I now return to visit almost every year – there’s so much to see! Shout (or comment below) if you have any questions about your next trip and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
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Highland Games tours from Edinburgh
If you’re visiting Scotland when a Highland Games is on and you would like to hand over the driving to someone else take a look at this trip!
Dates are limited so check in advance!
Table of Contents
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.
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!
2023 Highland Games Dates
Here are the current dates for some of the Highland Games events happening in 2023 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.
- Blair Atholl Gathering and Highland Games – Sunday 28th May 2023
- Dufftown Highland Games – Saturday 29th July 2023
- Isle of Skye Highland Games – Wednesday 9th August 2023
- Ballatar Highland Games – Thursday 10th August 2023
- Stirling Highland Games – Saturday 19th August 2023
- Oban Games – Thursday 24th August 2023
- Braemar Gathering – Saturday 2nd September 2023
- Peebles Highland Games – Saturday 2nd September 2023
- Pitlochry Highland Games – Saturday 9th September 2023
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.
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.
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🏴 Scotland Travel FAQ 🏴
Do I need insurance for traveling to Scotland?
YES! I always recommend people take travel insurance when exploring the world!
Check Travel Insurance Master for quote comparisons from different providers.
Do I need a car for visiting Scotland?
YES – If you’re wanting to explore Scotland fully then a car is worthwhile. It will get you to all the best sights and on your own timetable
I recommend DiscoverCars to compare car rental prices in Scotland
How to book accommodation in Scotland?
For hotels I recommend Booking.com
For apartments and cottages check out VRBO
Will my phone work in Scotland?
Perhaps – it depends if you have roaming enabled and beware this can be an expensive way to use your phone.
What to pack for Scotland
Keep yourself dry be prepared for any weather is my motto for Scotland! A rain jacket and comfy shoes are a must.
See my post about what to pack for Scotland
Do I need midge spray for Scotland?
YES – if you’re traveling in the summer months to any of the west coast, highlands, islands or lochs it’s recommended.
Locals swear by Avon’s Skin So Soft!
If you’re sticking to the cities or traveling in winter, early spring or late fall then you likely won’t need it.
What’s the best guidebook for Scotland?
I really like the Lonely Planet Guidebooks
Where to get flights for Scotland
Skyscanner is my first port of call for finding cheap flights to Scotland.
Do I need a visa for Scotland?
Many countries don’t need a visa for visiting Scotland as tourists (USA, Canada, Aus, NZ and Europe) – it’s always best to check first though.