Highland games are events that take place in Scotland and other countries with a large Scottish diaspora every year in spring and summer to celebrate Scottish and Celtic culture. The first historical reference to the Scottish Highland Games dates back to the time of King Malcolm Canmore (c. 1031 – 1093), when he summoned men to race up Craig Choinnich overlooking Braemar to find the fastest runner for the King’s Messengers. Later, Clan Chiefs organized running and jumping competitions to find the fleetest of their clans for sending orders and bringing news. It is believed that there were also events where the strongest and bravest soldiers were tested. However, these gatherings were not just about trials of physical strength. Musicians and dancers were also encouraged to reveal their abilities and thus gain further recognition for the clan they represent
The kilted ‘Heavies’ are the main attraction of each Highland game. The Heavy Events in Braemar include the century-old traditions of Tossing the Caber, Throwing the Hammer and Putting the Stone, and more recently the Throwing Weight for distance and over the Bar for height. The Light Events are also a key part of the Gathering tradition, including track running and jumping competitions. Moreover, Hill Running is an unmissable traditional event. The Braemar hill race covers a distance of about 5 kilometres and climbs 370 meters to the five cairns just visible on the horizon above the village. Finally, the Services Events involve top military athletes competing in both Tug of War and Medley Relay races for the prestige of winning a silver trophy from Her Majesty the Queen.
The Massed Pipe Bands at the Braemar Gathering are an iconic part of the event and are renowned internationally. Over the years, bands from all over the world have come to take part in this spectacle. Solo Piping Competitions are also held in different categories. Keeping the piping tradition alive is strongly supported in Scotland. The Highland Dancing Competition is also an integral part of the day. Highland Dancing is a style of competitive solo dancing developed over the centuries in the Scottish Highlands, accompanied by Highland Bagpipes. For many years, this was a male-dominated competition, but with the introduction of the Aboyne dress, female contestants were encouraged to join. It is now dominated by female competitors.