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Scotland Highland Games

Throughout the summer across the Highlands and Islands you will find celebrations of the Highland Games. Pipe bands come to march and play. Dancers compete in offering their versions of traditional Scottish Highland dances. Sheep dog exhibitions and demonstrations of falconry are common. But the central attraction is always the competition of the “heavies,” that is, athletes who compete in a variety of strength events.

They have three contests for distance. The Clachneart (Stone) Toss is very similar to a modern shot put except the shot is not an iron ball but a stone weighing 16 pounds. In the Weight Toss the athlete spins about in a circle on the ground and then throws a 56 pound weight for distance. In the Hammer Throw the athlete also spins about but this time holding to the end of a four-foot long wooden handle with a 16 pound weight attached to it as the hammer head. After a few spins he launches it into the air hoping that it sails in the right direction. The spectators ringing the field share his hope.

The athletic events also include the Weight Toss for Height in which the athlete swings a 56 pound weight between his knees and then tosses it up over a bar above his head that can vary in height much like a pole vaulter’s bar. Because the bar is straight above the athlete’s head, the trick is to launch the weight up as high as you can and then get out of the way before it comes back down. There is also a Sheaf Toss in which an athlete uses a pitch fork to toss a sheaf of hay wrapped in burlap and weighing between 15 and 25 pounds over a bar. The guy that tosses it over the highest bar wins.

And then, of course, there is the most popular Caber Toss, a contest that delicately balances strength with coordination and accuracy. A caber is an 18-foot long log that weighs between 100 and 120 pounds. Holding one end, the athlete first balances the caber as it juts straight up in the air. He then tosses it so that it flips end over end once, lands with the top of the caber hitting the ground and then falls away from him so that it lays on the ground with the end that he was holding pointing directly away from him. The athlete with the straightest toss is the winner. Distance has no bearing on the outcome.

  • A good introduction the the Highland Games can be found at...
  • One of the biggest and most popular games in the country can be seen in Inverness in late July.
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