In communities first settled by Highland Scots, the first hint of fall chill in the air is announced with the melody of bagpipes and drums, the rhythm of ghillies pounding a wooden stage, and the thud of a 17-foot tree trunk striking the ground after a mid-air flip — the music of the Highland Games.

Residents of nearby Scotland County are as familiar with these sounds as the name of their home suggests. And on Saturday, Oct. 1, locals and visitors from across the country will revel in the Scotland County Highland Games’ return to the grounds of the NC Rural Heritage Center — which includes the historic John Blue House, several Scottish-American homesteads, a working antebellum cotton gin and a general store. Together, the grounds and the games provide an immersive look at the lives of some of the region’s earliest settlers, and the Scottish-American experience.

The Entertainment:

Pop open your camp chair for piping and drumming competitions, with musicians from across the region performing solo and in concert formation. Main stage musicians include acclaimed soloist Colin Grant-Adams; pipe-centric Celtic trio Sound of Sleat; high-energy Celtic fusion band North of Argyll; and fiddling duo The Glenco Lads.

Contestant

Don’t miss the fancy footwork of the sanctioned Highland Dance competitions, featuring performers of all ages from across the U.S.

Witness the parade of Tartans, honoring Scottish clans. Watch musicians display their talents on the Scottish harp and fiddle and demonstrate Gaelic song in the Currie Cultural Village. Find a spot along the fence of the grounds to watch professional sheep dogs at work, with demonstrations throughout the day.

The Games:

A test of skill, the athletic games are a chance for athletes to showcase their strength and agility with events like the Turning of the Caber, which requires participants to throw a tree trunk or telephone pole ranging in size from 17-21 feet end over end — vertically. Sanctioned athletes will also participate in events that include tossing a bundle of twine over a raised bar with a pitchfork and tossing a hammer or stone for distance.

The Food:

With everything from haggis to hamburgers, no one who attends the Scotland County Highland Games will go hungry. Offerings include items from Chick-fil-A and local food truck Krazy Kousins; plus meat pies and bridies from Camerons British Foods and Bakery, and peat-smoked barbecue from The Scottish Cottage. Beer from Highland Brewing and wine from Cypress Bend Vineyards will also be available for purchase.

The Education:

Sheepdogs

The Currie Cultural Village will be home to educational opportunities and introductions to lesser-celebrated Gaelic traditions. Learn to speak or even sing a few words of Gaelic, find out more about traditional fiddle music and the Scottish Harp, or Clarsach.

COVID Precautions:

This year, all volunteers and vendors are required to be either vaccinated, pass a temperature check, or display negative COVID test results. COVID testing and vaccines will be available on-site, hand sanitation stations will abound, and face coverings are required indoors and on the parking shuttle. Attendees will be required to pass a temperature check for entry. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for kids — children 5 and under are free. Advance discount tickets are available.

For information or to buy tickets, visit carolinahighlandgames.com

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