Inveraray and the Highland Games
We made the relatively short drive from Crieff to Inveraray and made our way to the B&B in the small village of Argyll & Bute. This little community is walking distance from the market, downtown dining and the Inveraray Castle where the Highland Games were happening. It was a little intimidating driving up to the address, looked pretty much like we were staying in someone's townhome in a family neighborhood. Our concerns quickly subsided when we met Anne our host. She was friendly and accommodating and the room was lovely. Views from the bedroom looked over a grassy field that led to town and neighbor's backyards. Like most of the B&B's they had an attached greenhouse for breakfast.
We did our best to find a place to eat that night using Google Maps and Trip Advisor. I was convinced I almost knew how to get there and we started down the road walking in the wrong direction. We ran into a local couple walking their dog and they got us quickly turned around and pointed to a different place to eat. The woman was working the gate at the Highland Games too so she gave us all the info we needed to be prepared for the next day.
In the end they gave us great advice because the Cottage ended up being the best meal we had so far in Scotland.
As instructed by our friends, the next morning we headed down to the Town Hall for the bagpipers and marching band to open the games. Based on all the campers in the parking lot, the games here draw a regional crowd. We also got treated to a beautiful view of Strachur Bay on our way there.
Everyone lined the street as the bagpipers warmed up their pipes. The police closed the street and the band marched by. Once they passed you by we all joined the parade and processed up the street to the castle grounds. It was great fun and very festive.
Robyn and I have been to some Highland Games before, but this was very different. It was much more like a track meet on grass with footraces, high jump and bike races.
The track was surrounded by a ring of tents for Piper competitions. This was serious business with two judges and separate tents for different skill levels. Contestants varied in age from young boys to old men ( and a few women too). While waiting to compete the pipers warmed up in the open fields surrounding the event. Robyn and I were taking a walk to the castle and ran into one area with five pipers practicing at the same time all playing different tunes....my ears are still ringing!
The other serious competition was the highland dancing. Three stages, six judges, nine kids dancing at a time ( with yet another piper playing a tune). Ages ranged from 8 or 9 year olds to young women. I assume there were boys too later in the day.
The people watching was even more interesting. Just like Swim or Gymnastics, rows of tents with mom's and grandparents cheering their daughters on. Some had rubber mats in front of their tents and were running through routines with their child. The outfits are uncomfortable on a hot day and most of the girls wear a sports bra or undershirt with a lace dickie pinned on it to complete the outfit underneath. The minute the routine is over they unbutton the blouse, put on the rubber wellies ( rubber boots) over their dance slippers and tromp around and "talk shop" with the other girls. Amazing to watch.
And of course the traditional "strong men" sports like the cable toss, rock toss and anvil toss among others. This was considered the national championship so real money was at stake. There were competitors from Scotland, England, United States and Canada.
Plenty of food and craft vendors too. The shot below gives you a sense of how popular an event it was. And yes they even had the infamouse smoked kippers, although these look more cooked than what I bought earlier in the week.
Finally, only in Scotland would you have owl petting as a prime attraction ( Harry Potter fans eat your heart out). Robyn got into the action and still has all her fingers.
We had a great time and it was a wonderful way to spend the day with my 100% Scottish Wife on our 36th Wedding Anniversary!
Tomorrow is our last touring day, we drive through Glasgow on the way to Edinburgh. Day after that back to the States. We miss our furry beasts and talking to our children but it has been a grand adventure.