Countryfile – Highland Games Compilation

Countryfile - Highland Games Compilation

Countryfile – Highland Games Compilation – During the warm summer months in the picturesque landscapes of Scotland, the essence of Caledonian culture comes alive in the form of local highland games and spirited gatherings. Acting on a dream he had harboured for years, Hamza Yassin sets out on a journey to Royal Deeside, drawn by the allure of perhaps the most distinguished event on the highland calendar – the Braemar Highland Gathering. Here, visitors are treated to a non-stop display of competition, each moment punctuated by the thrill of athletics races, exhilarating field events, and the mesmerizing twirls of vibrant highland dancers.



As Hamza dives deeper into the festivity, he engages in a conversation with the games vice-president, Willie Meston. Their discussions unearth the deep-seated traditions and the remarkable 1,000-year lineage of clan gatherings that have flourished in the heart of the majestic Cairngorms, forming the backbone of these games.



Amidst the resonating sound of bagpipes that engulfs the arena, Hamza finds himself in the company of historian Jack Davidson. Jack peels back the layers of history, shedding light on the origins of one of the games’ most legendary events – the art of tossing the caber. The vibrancy continues as Hamza steps over to the highland dance stage, where he meets Eilidh, a passionate 13-year-old dancer. With eyes gleaming with ambition, Eilidh shares her hopes of earning the title of champion, especially in the esteemed presence of King Charles III. But the excitement doesn’t stop there. Hamza also has the privilege to meet the formidable military personnel, their energy palpable as they gear up for an intense round of tug of war.

In between these riveting events, Hamza finds moments to reminisce, delving into the rich Countryfile archives. Among the cherished memories, he recalls when Charlotte Smith undertook the challenge of selecting and eventually tossing a caber, and the nostalgic visit by John Craven to the historic grounds of the Battle of Killiecrankie.


Countryfile – Highland Games Compilation


Every summer across Scotland, Caledonian culture is celebrated at local highland games and gatherings. Fulfilling a long-standing ambition, Hamza Yassin takes a trip to Royal Deeside to sample perhaps the most prestigious of them all – the Braemar Highland Gathering. In a spectacle of continuous competition, surrounded by athletics races, field events and colourful highland dancers. Hamza meets games vice-president Willie Meston to discover the 1,000-year history of clan gatherings in the heart of the Cairngorms that make up the games.

As the sound of the pipes swirls around the arena, historian Jack Davidson reveals to Hamza the origins of the games’ most iconic – tossing the caber. Over on the highland dance stage, Hamza meets 13-year-old Eilidh, who is hoping to be crowned champion in the presence of King Charles III. Hamza also meets the military muscle lined up for battle in the tug of war. Between the events, Hamza dips into the Countryfile archive, including when Charlotte Smith took a lesson in selecting and then tossing a caber and when John Craven visited the site of the Battle of Killiecrankie.


A Millennium of Highland Gatherings

The Highland games held annually in the heart of Royal Deeside are far from just a modern sporting event. Their origins lie deep in Scotland’s ancient past, a celebration of strength and skill amongst the mountain clans. Hamza Yassin meets games vice-president Willie Meston, a fount of knowledge on the history of the Braemar Gathering, which has run for over 200 years.

Willie reveals that Highland gatherings emerged around a thousand years ago as a way for clan chiefs to choose their best warriors through competitive trials of ability. Held annually, they drew in clansfolk from across the district in a show of kinship and community. Events tested skills handy in battle and farming alike – tossing stones, throwing hammers and wrestling. By the 11th century, such gatherings were commonplace across the Highlands. They were occasions to revel in Highland traditions, speak Gaelic, wear the tartan, compete in athletics and music, and renew bonds within the clan. When law banned Highland dress and gatherings in the 18th century, Highlanders stubbornly maintained the tradition, keeping their heritage alive.

Braemar Gathering itself descends directly from those historic clan gatherings. Though legends tell of King Malcolm III presiding over such games in Braemar in the 11th century, the first documented Braemar Gathering was in 1818. Ever since, it has been a highlight of the Highland calendar, even earning royal patronage from 1848. Through the centuries, Braemar Gathering has kept the original spirit and form of those medieval Highland gatherings alive – a celebration of all things Caledonian. From the skirl of the pipes to the flying hammers to the dancing maidens, it immerses all in ancient Highland traditions.


The Iconic Caber Toss

Of all the traditional Heavy Events at the Braemar Highland Gathering, none captures the imagination more than the caber toss. Hamza Yassin wants to discover the origins and technique behind this iconic test of strength. Local historian Jack Davidson unravels the mysteries of the caber. The caber is an upright log, some 20 feet long and weighing around 100 pounds. The competitor must hoist and flip it so it turns end over end. Jack explains the event emerged from the need to toss logs across chasms in the old Caledonian pine forests to bridge them. It became a way for clansmen to display their strength.

The technique lies in the run-up. You need just enough speed so that as you thrust the caber upwards with cupped hands, your momentum carries it vertical. Too slow, and it won’t flip. Too fast and you lose control. The aim is to have the caber land as straight ahead as possible rather than to the side. The straightest flip wins. It requires immense power and precision. Crouch low to lift the end off the ground, then use your legs and hips to drive yourself upright, flicking your cupped hands to toss the caber skyward. Keep your palms facing the target so the caber slides off them as it flips. Time it right and you’ll send the caber soaring 180 degrees head over heels – the mark of a true Scottish athlete.

Fans worldwide come to see the caber toss at Highland gatherings. Its origins may be ancient, but it still tests strength and skill today. As an iconic event, it represents the spirit and traditions of the games. When you hear the caber thud down with a roar from the crowd, you know the Braemar Gathering is in full swing!


Highland Dancing Tradition

The Highland games feature more than heavy events – they’re also a celebration of traditional dance. Hamza heads to the dance stage, where young hopeful Eilidh, 13, is competing. Eilidh gives Hamza an overview of Highland dancing’s history and discipline.

Highland dancing emerged in the 18th century from ancient folk dances like the Sword Dance. It was codified into its current form during Queen Victoria’s enthusiasm for Highland culture. Highland dancing displays both joy and control – the upper body must remain upright and poised, while the feet perform the intricate steps. Dancers wear special shoes with reinforced toes and heels that let them create crisp percussive sounds as they dance. Dances like the Highland Fling require springing steps and specific movements. Judges assess timing, posture and execution. Top competitors like Eilidh train for years to master the choreography.

Highland dancing is now its own competitive sphere at gatherings. Events range from beginner to premier levels, starting with the youngest up to senior dancers. Eilidh competes in the national dance competition that day – she’s determined to impress the judges with her poise and skill. As an ambassador for Scottish heritage worldwide, Highland dancing deserves its place alongside heavy events at gatherings. The fleet-footed ladies in tartan demonstrate the vibrancy and discipline of traditional Scottish culture.


Military Muscle in the Tug of War

While solo competitors take on the caber toss and Highland dancing, the tug of war at Highland games lets teams pit strength against strength. Hamza meets a squad of British soldiers who are competing that day. They explain how the tug of war became a classic Highland games event. The origins of tug of war stretch back to ancient rituals of pulling opponents across lines to achieve victory. By the 19th century, it was a staple of Highland gatherings. Teams stand on opposite sides of a central “tug” line and grip a long rope. When the referee shouts “pull”, each hauls back, digging in heels and hauling with raw grunting force.

The soldiers describe proper tug of war technique. The back foot braces in the ground while the front gives traction to heave backwards. Keep your spine straight, core tensed, and use leg power, not just arm strength. Pull steadily together as a coordinated unit, not in jerks. If synchronized, a well-drilled team can employ sheer force to slowly drag their opponents over the line. Tug of war tests camaraderie and stamina. Teams must strain together, digging deeply to keep the rope from slipping. Your teammate is counting on you. Crowds cheering add to the pressure. It becomes an addictive battle of wills to avoid that final fall into the mud. The soldiers value tug of war for its teamwork lessons – like warfare, it’s about morale, pacing yourself, and trust in your comrades.

At Highland games, tug of war represents unity of clan and kin – communities banding together in good-natured trials of strength. As it ends, the rope falls slack as contestants hug their rivals in solidarity.

An Iconic Gathering

What makes the Braemar Gathering so special in the Highland games calendar? As Hamza explores the events and speaks with organizers, he discovers three key factors: its heritage, royal connections, and spectacular setting. Firstly, Braemar traces an unbroken legacy back to medieval clan gatherings. Though founded in 1818, its events reflect centuries of tradition. Generations have gathered to compete in the caber toss and races here, creating a cherished sense of heritage.

Secondly, Braemar Gathering has longstanding royal associations. In 1848 Queen Victoria attended, starting a tradition of royal patronage ever since. The reigning monarch typically attends if possible, underlining its prestige. Having King Charles III preside adds to its cachet. Finally, its incredible Cairngorms setting lends Braemar Gathering a special atmosphere. Against the breathtaking backdrop of mountains and glens, the calls of pipers echo as hammers swing and dancers leap. The landscape immerses you in the Scottish spirit. Thanks to its history, royal blessing, and dramatic highland stage, the Braemar Gathering represents the pinnacle of traditional Highland games. Small wonder enthusiasts like Hamza Yassin count attending it as a true Scottish highlight.


Delving into the Archive

Between Braemar Gathering events, Hamza dips into the deep Countryfile archive to showcase previous segments related to Scottish Highland games and culture. Two segments highlight the caber toss and 18th century Jacobite history.

Charlotte Smith decided to test her own caber-tossing abilities with coaching from an expert. She dons full Highland outfit to try her hand – or hands. After a few lifts to practice technique, Charlotte manages to toss the caber cleanly, though it falls a bit askew. It’s a solid first attempt – flipping and tossing a large wooden pole uses muscles you rarely work! The coach awards her the equivalent of third place in a competition for her efforts. Charlotte gains newfound respect for the power and control the caber toss requires.

In another segment, John Craven explores the site of the famous Battle of Killiecrankie. Fought in 1689, it was a crucial battle in the Jacobite uprisings in which Highland clans supported James II in fighting William of Orange’s forces. Thanks to clever use of terrain, the Highlanders soundly defeated the government’s army in a surprise night-time ambush. John describes the race down the Garry Pass by charging Highlanders that broke the enemy ranks in bloody hand-to-hand combat. The battle affirmed the fighting prowess of the clans against regular troops.


Athletic Prowess

The Highland games arose from tests of strength, agility and speed valued in clan society. At Braemar, Hamza takes in various track and field events that recall those origins – feats requiring power, precision and stamina.

The stone put involves throwing a heavy rounded stone from over one’s shoulder. It tests explosive power and technique. The stone ranges from 16 to 26 lbs for men based on age. Athletes get three attempts to put the stone as far from the toeboard as possible. Hamza watches stone putters grunt with effort as they spin and thrust the weight skyward. In the heavy hammer throw, athletes whirl and release a metal ball on a handle, aiming for maximum distance. The rhythmic, balletic spins disguise the technique and strength required. Each athlete gets three attempts, using the same specially adapted spot for balance. Top throwers can hurl the 22 lb hammer over 70 meters from the cramped stance!

The hill race is a short-distance run up and back down a steep slope. This grueling race came from youths dashing up mountains to lit signal fires. The race requires surging uphill stamina then controlled descent. Any slips and you’ll tumble down the slope. The winning time is under 3 minutes – staggering given the gradient. Watching these track and field events, Hamza appreciates why they became part of the games. Lifting stones, tossing hammers and running hillscapes were key skills for life in medieval Scotland. The games preserve these feats of strength and speed for all to admire.


Women and Children Events

While heavies like the caber toss are reserved for adult men, other events at Highland games enable women and children to participate. Hamza meets some of Braemar’s female and juvenile competitors who carry on the gatherings’ spirit of engagement.

Young girls take part in their own Highland dancing competitions, from novice to premier levels. Girls as young as 3 first learn the lightshoe dances then progress to more intricate choreography over time. Like the grown women, girls train intensely for solo and group dance events, competing for medals and improving their techniques. Boys get to compete in various track races designed for their age, from short sprints to longer middle-distance runs. Lining up to race in Braemar’s arena, the boys’ faces are etched with determination to give their all. Medals go to first through third place, lending excitement. Races teach good sportsmanship too.

Women also compete in track and field events, including various weight throws. Though not as heavy as the men’s weights, the 9-13 lb women’s hammer and 8-9 lb weight throw still require skill. Women’s hill races are also fiercely contested. While not in heavies, female and juvenile events continue the participatory spirit and camaraderie of Highland gatherings. Girls dancing and boys racing upholds the games’ spirit of challenge and tradition.


A Day to Remember

Taking in the sights, sounds and action of the Braemar Highland Gathering, Hamza reflects on what makes it so special for spectators and competitors alike. Though tiring, the day provides unforgettable memories. The gathering offers a feast for the senses. The skirl of massed pipe bands transports you to a different era. The meadow throngs with athletes and clansfolk in bright tartan waving banners. The mountains soaring overhead lend drama while birds wheel over the river Dee beside the field. And that’s before the action even starts!

Each event provides enthralling spectacle – the sheer power of the hammer throw, the precision footwork of highland dancers, the back-and-forth struggle of the tug of war. Cheering home competitors you’ve met adds to the camaraderie. And knowing it’s all inspired by centuries of tradition enhances the experience.

By day’s end, feet are sore but spirits are soaring. Athletes celebrate or commiserate together, bonded by the day’s endeavors. Medals gleam on triumphant necks. Locals and tourists alike revel in memories to last until next year’s gathering. Thanks to its special atmosphere, the Braemar Highland Gathering becomes a highlight of any summer.


A Step Back in Time

Why do Highland games like Braemar Gathering remain so popular not just with Scots but visitors worldwide? Hamza discovers a universal human desire to step back in time and immerse in heritage helps explain their enduring appeal. Modern life often feels detached from the past and over-reliant on technology. Surrounded by concrete and gadgets, people can feel disconnected from their roots. Games let you physically inhabit history, bonding with a community’s ancestral traditions.

Donning tartan, hearing bagpipes and Gaelic, watching athletic feats barely changed over centuries – it’s like time traveling to the feudal Highlands. The ageless mountains overlook games as they have for a millennium. You can lose yourself in a realm more heroic, filled with tests of strength and skill. Beyond escapism, games have a nation-building role. They let Scots and those of Scottish descent worldwide celebrate their distinctive culture. Gatherings strengthen cultural identity and belonging. Maintaining heritage through changing times creates continuity.

By the closing ceremony, you feel replenished. Time among kin, immersion in history and the bonds of sport refresh the spirit. With muddy shoes and cheers ringing in your ears, you return to modernity – but bring something of the ancient games spirit with you.

Looking Forward

Over 200 years, Braemar Gathering has maintained its ancestral traditions while evolving with the times. As the gathering concludes, Hamza asks organizers about its future direction and lasting significance.

Vice-president Willie Meston sees Braemar remaining faithful to its roots while appealing to new generations. Children’s active involvement keeps traditions thriving. Outreach through media like Countryfile enhances understanding worldwide. And the timeless sporting and communal spirit resonates regardless of era. Jack Davidson believes Braemar must adapt prudently to continue inspiring pride in Scottish identity. New events or competitions should still reflect Highland heritage. Limiting commercialization keeps the gathering’s authenticity intact. Respecting all who take part remains paramount.

Eilidh hopes Braemar forever provides a stage for celebrating the vibrancy of Scottish culture through sport and music. She’s proud to represent the new generation of Highland youth keeping old traditions relevant today. Fellow young athletes feel similarly, seizing the chance to embrace their Scottishness. However it evolves in years ahead, Braemar Gathering will always evoke the original spirit of Highland kinship and culture. As an treasured tradition over 1,000 years old, it remains an unbreakable bond between Scotland’s landscape, history and people.



The Braemar Highland Gathering offers a poignant chance to experience Scottish heritage firsthand. Athletes channele centuries of tradition through iconic strength tests like tossing the caber. Girls in tartan uphold Highland dance’s grace and skill. Bagpipes, mountains and camaraderie transport you through time. Though exhausting, the gathering renews pride and spirit. By celebrating the best of Highland life, Braemar Gathering keeps Scotland’s treasured traditions alive.


FAQ – Countryfile – Highland Games Compilation


When did Highland games like Braemar Gathering originate?

A: Highland gatherings emerged around 1000 years ago as clan chiefs tested warriors’ abilities through competitions of strength and skill. They were a chance to celebrate Highland culture and kinship.

Why is the caber toss such an iconic event?

A: Tossing the long, heavy wooden caber originated from tossing logs across chasms in old Caledonian forests. It became the ultimate test of strength and control. Fans worldwide recognize it as a classic Highland games feat.

How long does the Braemar Highland Gathering last?

A: Braemar Gathering runs all day, typically from 9am to 5pm. There are individual and team events happening continuously throughout the day. The closing ceremony features massed pipe bands.

Who attends Braemar Gathering?

A: Attendees include athletes competing in events, musicians, Highland dancers, local villagers, Scottish clansfolk, and tourists from worldwide. If possible, the British royal family also attends.

What is the future of Braemar Gathering?

A: Organizers aim to maintain its heritage and spirit while appealing to new generations. Adaptations may happen but its core traditions will remain to inspire pride in Scottish culture.

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