The Cowal Highland Gathering is billed as one of the biggest and most spectacular Highland Games in the world. Staged in the west coast Scottish town of Dunoon, flanked by elevated green hillsides and the busy waters of the Firth of Clyde, the setting is certainly a picturesque one.
As I joined the meandering crowd heading to the stadium we were met with 'greeters' high fiving people with giant foam hands. This reminded me of my time at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games when I was welcomed by cheery volunteers at every venue and was certainly a first for any Highland Games I've attended. Once in the stadium I made my way around the various stands selling food, gifts and clothing although I was a little disappointed that there wasn't a wider choice of Scottish products available.
Being a Highland Games pro I whisked out my trusty picnic blanket and joined the many spectators on the hillside overlooking the main arena. Thankfully the weather was kind and this was a perfectly pleasant place to enjoy the action. Many people even more prepared than me (or maybe just more pessimistic than me!) had brought tents to keep sheltered from any rain which thankfully never materialised.
Highland dancers, pipe bands, heavy athletics and wrestling were the main activities taking place in the arena below. Personally heavy athletics is my favourite element of any Highland Games and there were some impressive competitors taking part.
For fans of Highland dancing the world championships with the best competitors from around the globe was a real highlight and the Cowal Hill Race is another draw with runners taking part in one of the toughest 5k races in the country.
I've been to many Highland Games over the years and the one thing that set the Cowal Gathering apart was the quality of shows and entertainment taking place around the stadium. I enjoyed traditional and contemporary Scottish music, a mountain bike stunt team and a duck and sheepdog show. There was plenty to keep children entertained from face-painting, storytelling, a funfair and a popular climbing wall. A Ceilidh tent with some excellent acts was very busy every time I passed and provided a fun Scottish touch.
I sadly had to leave before the event highlight, the massed bands parade through town and fireworks finale, however I have been reliably informed it is a spectacular sight to see. Like many Highland Games the Cowal Gathering brings together visitors and locals alike to celebrate the best of Scotland and I am sure it is an event that will be embraced for many years to come.
Find out more on the Cowal Gathering website http://www.cowalgathering.com/
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