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Visit some Highland Games!

This time of year, there are lots of Highland Games taking place. Over the summer (from May to September), you have the chance to visit over 80, taking place on islands and in towns, villages and cities across Scotland.

It’s the place best to see a combination of international athletes, local communities and visitors coming together in a super family-friendly day out!

For the Games, you will see traditional heavy athletic events like the caber toss and the hammer throw.

An athlete throwing the hammer

The hammer throw

There’ll also be track and field events for local participants, Highland dance competitions and bagpipes and marching bands!

A marching band dressed in red tartan with bagpipes

Marching bands

There are usually food and craft tents too.  And if you want to see local Clans wearing their kilts, these events are the place to visit!

We recently went to the Games in Inverness; one of the biggest in the Highlands.  There were over 10,000 spectators in Bught Park which saw the Games kick off with an exhibition Shinty match. Shinty is like field hockey, but much more brutal! One of the highlights was when spectators got invited to take part in the Mass Highland Fling – traditional Highland Dancing.

For us, we loved watching the athletes take part in the fiercely contested Games, and it was one of the most thrilling climaxes in years!  Three athletes were battling for the Championship, but ultimately Daniel Carlin emerged the victor by a single point.  The day ended on a super high as Aarons Monks of Australia stepped forward to become only the 9th man in the modern era to complete the daunting 252lb Stonemasons Stone over the Bar Challenge. This is basically picking up a super heavy stone ball and throwing it over a high bar!!

Despite the rain, we all had a great time and already look forward to next year’s Games on Saturday 21st July in Inverness.  Why not plan to go along and stay at the Steading! Or if you want to visit some Games sooner, check out Nairn on the 19th August or Glenurquhart, near Loch Ness on 26th August.

An athlete tossing the caber, a very long heavy piece of wood

Tossing the caber

Visiting Glen Affric and Walking to Dog Falls

We’re lucky to be able to share wonderful photographs taken by a recent guest when they went to Glen Affric.  They took a walk around Dog Falls, which is a beautiful forest stroll through ancient Caledonian Pines. This type of forest is considered to be one of the few truly natural landscapes in the UK.

A view of the green Caledonian pines at Glen Affric

Dog Falls itself is a dramatic waterfall in a rocky gorge.  If you do an extended walk here, you can find a wonderful small lochen (Coire Loch). This is a great spot to find rare dragonflies. Climbing back up to the main path there are excellent views.

The paths are all well marked and laid out, with three options to take. Combining all three makes a great circular walk. The river itself (River Affric) is wide and very pretty, bordered by pinewoods.

Fast flowing river, tumbling over rocks

You’ve got a good chance on these walks of spotting roe deer. You may even see pine martens (which you can also find in the garden at Pinewood!)  If you’re a bird watcher, watch out for the rare crossbill and rarely seen capercaillie.

The Scottish Highlands in Spring

We love the Highlands of Scotland all year round, but Springtime holds a certain charm for us.  We feel blessed to bask in the glorious colours that this season brings with it.  From the blue bluebells, to the yellow gorse and fields full of rapeseed.  And when you get a couple of those sights together, it’s even more magical!

Mixed colour cows near a yellow field of gorse near Abriachan

There are lots of rapeseed fields wherever you go, especially around our area near Inverness as it’s quite agricultural. And we are very lucky to have some beautiful bluebell woods near Pinewood, let alone all the hedges along the small roads are covered in them right now.  For woods, we love to do the River Beauly Circuit and pop along into Croiche Wood.

Blue bluebells in a green wood near the River Beauly

I wrote about this walk in one of my recent newsletters – have you subscribed?  The wood is ablaze with a carpet of bluebells at this time of year.  It’s wise to remember that if you’ve travelled up from further south, we usually get our seasons a little later than you. So while the bluebells have all gone now in the south of England, they are still a riot of colour up here.  They only popped their heads out only a few weeks ago.

And as for yellow of the gorse – well, we don’t need to go much further than our own garden to get a sight and a whiff of that!

Yellow gorse in the foreground with dark mountains behind from our garden at Pinewood

Do you know what smell the gorse gives off? It’s coconut! Most folks consider gorse a nuisance, as it’s very widespread!  And most gardeners up here spend a lot of time cutting it down.  It’s a large, ever-green shrub covered in prickly needles (watch out!) Very interestingly enough, we just found out that you can in fact eat the yellow gorse leaves!  We had it at Nourish Inverness where Capability Browns held their first vegan Supper Club (look that up, that’s a must go to!)  She used the gorse flowers to decorate a pearl barley risotto with AVVA Gin spiced butternut squash. Other garnish was rocket, dandelion leaves, all drizzled with sweet fig vinegar.  Anyway, I digress….

Come up north during Spring time and savour some of these colourful sights for yourself.  Next stop – Summer!