Category: BLOG

History of the Highland Games

scotland highland gamesThe origin of highland games dates back to the 11th Century during the time of King Malcolm III of Scotland. As reported in various highland games programs, the king organized a foot race contest that was held during the Craig Choinnich summit. The reason behind the contest was to identify the fastest runner to be his formal messenger. Though this is a mythical tale, many people believe that it is the derivation of modern highland games. Basically, highland games originated in Scotland but today’s games are mainly a Victorian creation.

Highland games are usually held in summer and spring in Scotland, but they are also practiced in other countries as a method of celebrating Celtic and Scottish culture. The game has various aspects that trace characteristics of Scottish Highland culture. These aspects include the kilt, bagpipes, and heavy events such as caber toss. While they involve competitions in dancing, piping, drumming, and heavy athletics, highland games also include exhibits and entertainment events related to Scottish culture.

In every August, Cowal Games, also known as Cowal Highland Gathering, are held in Dunoon. It is said to be the largest highland games in the world as it attracts more than 3,000 contestants and around 20,000 fans from different countries. Apart from the huge fan base in Scotland, highland games are also popular in the United States, especially in North Carolina where more than 30,000 fans attend the better known Grandfather Mountain. The event takes place annually since 1866 and it is hosted by Caledonian Club in San Francisco.

Types of Highland Games Events

highland games in scotlandFor many centuries, sports and athletics have been the core competitions in highland games. Though there are other events incorporated in these games, many people consider athletics as the main component of highland games. This is simply because athletics are the ‘games’ while other events are normally entertainment festivities. For that reason, athletic competitions remain to be a major integral part of highland game events, especially the caber toss that is solely characterized as the symbol of highland games.

Below are a few of the standard events of highland games;

Caber toss

This involves balancing a long log (caber) upright whereby a competitor hoists it vertically while holding the smaller end. The competitor runs while attempting to toss the log to turn end-over-end so that the larger upper end strikes the ground first. The smaller end is expected to hit the ground in a 12 o’clock position, which is measured in regard to the direction a competitor is running. The athlete is said to have turned the caber if the tossing and striking turns successful.

Stone put

Stone put is almost similar to modern shot put in Olympic Games. Instead of using a steel shot, a stone of variable weight is used. The stone put techniques are two versions; Braemar Stone and Open Stone. For the Braemar Stone, a 20 to 26 lb stone is used for men while a 13 to 18 lb stone is used for women. On the other hand, Open Stone uses a 16 to 22 lb stone for men and a 8 to 12 lb stone for women.

Scottish hammer throw

It is almost similar to modern day hammer throw in the field and track competitions. The Scottish event uses a metal round ball of 16 to 22 lb and 12 to 16 lb for men and women respectively. The ball is attached to a 4 feet shaft, which can be of different materials such as bamboo, wood, plastic, or rattan. The ball is whirled about a thrower’s head and then thrown for a distance over the shoulder.

Weight throw

Weight throw is also referred to as weight for distance event. The event has two categories depending on the experience and ability of the player. One event is a lightweight throw, usually 28 lb and 14 lb for men and women respectively. The second event is for heavier weight of 56 lb and 42 lb for masters men and women respectively. The weights are metallic with an attached handle. The throwers must use one hand, but no restriction by which technique is employed while throwing.

Weight over the bar

Weight over the bar is also referred to as weight for height. An athlete attempts to toss a 56-pound weight using one hand. Every athlete is allowed to make only three trials at each height. Once an athlete clears a certain height, he or she advances to the next round (greater height).

In conclusion, many people who participate in the above games are the former field and track college athletes. These Scottish highland games allow them to continue pursuing their careers. However, the highland games have also become popular in the USA, which has led to the development of more heavy game classes.

Traditional Ceilidh Dancing at a Scottish Wedding

ceilidh dancingEven when the modern pop and rock music seems to overrun and eradicate Scottish cultures, many Scottish weddings must be spiced up with some traditional music and dance. Ceilidh is one of the most common music outlets in many rural hinterlands throughout the country. Some of the music is also mixed with modern pop music and blended with a Scottish country dancing, which involves special dance steps that alternate with the songs.

As a popular wedding party music, you can watch the dancers performing by an assortment of flute, fiddle, whistle, tin, or an accordion while guitarists and drummers complement the entire outlet. The music itself is lively and cheerful, and that is why any Scottish wedding will never go without it. The ‘prince’ and ‘princess’ can make their wedding a memorable with a Ceilidh couple dance that is performed in a ring. Interestingly, this couple’s dance can be enjoyed by men and women at the wedding party by moving towards each other at the end of each steps repetition. It is just amazing.

Ceilidh-DancingIn Scotland, privately organized ceilidhs are quite popular nowadays. Ceilidh bands are hired to provide incredible post-entertainment for wedding parties in order to provide versatile performances as well as flexible sorts of dances. Since the wedding couples are also ‘part of the dance’, as a sign of inclusiveness, they need to understand how these dancing steps are done prior to their special day. Nothing sophisticated beyond following a rhythm and music beat, and therefore anyone can do it for fun!

However, I would like to remind you about the right dancing shoes. Of course, you might be quite busy choosing the wedding attires but don’t forget to consider the aspect of dancing. In most weddings, a princess will want to give their guests an occasional peek of an exquisite pair of shoes. That is very true because your shoes must not be boring, but they should combine both style, fashion, and function. If you really admire dancing the Ceilidh music during the evening entertainment, here are the tips to help you choose the best pair of shoes.

Choosing the Right Shoes

Pick the right shoes for your day

While shopping around for the best wedding shoes, you will come across many mind-blowing options. Perhaps, you may like a pair of skyscraper heels – this is fine! However, you need to figure out the ease of walking down the aisle in them. Remember, you will pose for endless photographs and dance in them too. Trembling around in too high heels may not look good, not to mention the embarrassment of catching your dress.

Wear them first

Many couples will buy their wedding shoes and keep them until that special day. This is not bad, but it is necessary to wear them a week before and walk in them around the house – on the carpet. They will be molded appropriately to fit your feet without unwelcoming discomforts during your ‘big’ day. Wearing them around the house does not spoil them either! If you have problematic feet, you might want to check yourcomfyfeet.com

Ask about the venue requirement

Ceilidh dancing shoesThis is very important because there are some venues that ban some types of high heels, especially the stiletto ones, to protect the wooden floor. If you are going to dance some Ceilidh music, such high heels are not fit for a wooden floor. Apart from destroying the floor, you may tip easily while dancing or walking!

Check the season

For instance, if you are having a wedding during a winter season, you need some wedding boots so that you can walk through the puddles easily. This means you will wear your wedding heels while in the venue, but switch to wedding boots when in the outdoor grounds.

Match the shoes and the wedding dress

This can seem too obvious to consider, but it can be awkward if your shoes and dress do not match perfectly. Take a swatch of the wedding dress fabric while searching for the shoes to ensure that it matches up well. In short, make sure the color does not clash!

Last but not least, if you have a traditional wedding dress, your shoes can help you to make a statement. No need to wear ivory, instead, scarlet heels can splash some visual fancy color. Also, do not forget to have a pedicure before the wedding day!

Dry Stone Walling

Dry Stone WallingWhen it comes to aesthetic, every setting has its own characteristic. Whether it is urban or rural, there are structures that complement well with a certain surrounding. A club or a social facility in a city will definitely be fenced using bricks, glass, or steel. Let us take an example of a proposed football stadium that is supposed to be constructed in one of the cities in Scotland. Perhaps, it must be fenced using permanent materials such that any future changes will only be made within the facility.

Alright, let us look at another example of may be a proposed caber toss game center in Scotland. This is one of the highland games whereby a facility may be better located in the outskirts of the urban areas, or simply in the countryside. A rural setting is featured by vegetation and other natural phenomena, which are not found in urban areas. Therefore, it will be more sensible to match the natural beauty of the rural area with a simple fence that does not degrade its existing aesthetic value.

Now, which is that simple and less expensive fencing option? Okay, it is a dry stone wall that is constructed by stacking stones without the use of concrete to hold them together. Even though they are not held in place by mortar, a dry stone wall is generally strong and can last for many years. Unlike brick walls, it is relatively cheaper in terms of money to stack the stones even a mile after another. In case changes are required in future, taking the stones down and transferring them to a new place is also cheaper and less time-consuming.

If there is a plan to construct a small recreational center somewhere in the urban periphery, consider fencing it with a dry stone wall unless you want to build a permanent border. If you like the idea, probably you will want to know how it is done. Dry stone walling is something you can do on your own as long as you have the resources (stones). You don’t need to be highly skilled to stack the stones but it is also advisable to have a basic knowledge, anyway.

How to Build a Dry Stone Wall

recreational center with dry stoneThe first step is to prepare the ground by clearing any bushes and thickets so that you can make a foundation. Before starting to lay the foundation, the stones should be sorted based on sizes, from small, medium, to large stones. Mark the area where the wall should be built using taut lines of strings, chalk drawing lines, or wooden stakes.

Estimate the wideness of the wall, but it should be reasonable so that you don’t use too many stones. Once you have identified the width and marked the area properly, you can start piling the stones in layers. Ensure every layer is tightly packed with stones, but there should be a few larger stones packed with their longest edges spanning the wall’s width. Other many smaller stones should be also included in between the larger ones.

Ensure very few gaps are left so that the layers can appear tightly packed like jigsaw joined pieces. Remember, a dry stone wall can take a relatively long time to complete. Therefore, spare your time to do a perfect job. Once a layer is finished, you start the next one. However, you can alternate a layer of large stones so that it compensates the gap in a previous layer.

Dry Stone Walling Apparel

recreational centerThis is something you should not overlook while you prepare to build your dry stone wall. Your safety is very important when handling stones, which may fall on your feet or cause abrasive injuries on your hands. So, you need proper builders gloves that can resist abrasion, cut, tear, and puncture. There are many gloves including those palm coated options, though they come in a variety of prices. You can as well find high-quality cheaper gloves in the market.

Last but not least, you need working boots used in construction sites. There are many types of work boots, but you need to check the features based on the job. For dry stone walling jobs, you need boots with high-quality toe protection, impact resistant material, comfortable cushioning, and sweat absorption features.