Celebrations at 175th Lonach Gathering

Atholl Highlanders march in the arena.
Atholl Highlanders march in the arena.

The history and heritage of one of Scotland oldest and most iconic highland games was celebrated on Saturday, August 27 in Bellabeg.

The Lonach Highland Gathering and Games took place for the 175th time and thousands of visitors from across Scotland and further afield travelled to the event to mark its milestone anniversary and witness the unique and emotive march of the Lonach Highlanders.

An estimated crowd of around 9,000 packed into Bellabeg Park in Strathdon to watch the day’s proceedings, which enjoyed warm dry conditions with long spells of bright sunshine.

To mark the 175th anniversary games, the Lonach Highlanders, believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain, were joined on their marches by Europe’s only private army, the Atholl Highlanders.

In total, 210 individuals dressed in full highland regalia, which included members of both highlanders’ pipe bands, took part in the day’s marches.

There were 170 members of the Lonach Highlanders armed eight-foot long pikes and Lochaber axes, and 40 Atholl Highlanders carrying Lee-Metford rifles.

Crowds packed the grandstands and stood up to six deep in places around the main arena to watch proceedings, with the heavy events, the hill race and highland dancing receiving enthusiastic support.

The Lonach Highlanders, the Atholl Highlanders and the massed pipe bands received rousing welcomes.

However, the loudest cheers were reserved for Socks, the Lonach horse, who made his second appearance at the games pulling the traditional ‘cairt’.

Six pipe bands from across Scotland performed at the gathering - Lonach Pipe Band was joined by the Pipe Band of the Atholl Highlanders, Ballater and District, Huntly and District, Towie and District and the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Guard from 2 SCOTS.

The gathering featured a full programme of traditional highland events, including solo and massed piping, highland dancing, children’s races, and light and heavy athletics, with some of the country’s leading athletes competing.