Plans are taking shape in Braemar to create Scotland’s first Highland Games Discovery Centre.
Braemar Royal Highland Society plans to provide an insight into the rich history and traditions of Highland Gatherings.
Braemar is arguably the most famous Games but each year thousands of spectators and competitors turn out to enjoy piping, dancing, athletic competition and the popular heavy events, such as caber tossing, in arenas and fields all across Scotland. The ambition for this new centre is that it will reflect the cultural significance of these occasions to Scotland.
President of Braemar Royal Highland Society, David Geddes says: “Legend has it that the first sporting Highland Gathering was held in Braemar. In the 11th century, King Malcolm Canmore had a hunting lodge here and it’s said that he called the clans to Kindrochit Castle so that he could, by ‘keen and fair contest’, select his best soldiers. Since this is where it started, Braemar seems the right place to showcase Highland Games.”
The Glamis Consultancy from Angus has been commissioned to explore a conceptual design for the centre and will work with the Highland Society and with the community to develop an interactive centre to complement and strengthen other tourism offerings in the area including Braemar and Balmoral Castles.
Mr Geddes added: “We want to give people the chance to experience what it’s like to be a competitor on Games day and to understand the skill and hard work it needs. It’s also important to encourage youngsters to get involved, so the centre will have lots of opportunities to have a go. We now hold a junior version of the Games in July each year and we want to build on what’s been achieved. All highland gatherings are rooted in their local communities and run by local people and this centre will enable visitors to discover the authentic Scotland.”
The origins of the modern Games in Braemar go back to the founding of the Wrights’ Friendly Society in 1815 which was then reconstituted as the Braemar Highland Society in 1826.
The first athletic competitions were held in 1832 and now Highland Gatherings are held all over the world from San Francisco to Sydney.
Secretary of the Society, William Meston, believes the centre will appeal not only to Scots but also to overseas visitors.
“The biggest Games in the world are held across the ocean in North Carolina. The Grandfather Mountain Games is modelled on Braemar but such is the interest that it lasts for 4 days. We hope the new centre will be able capitalise on this sort of world-wide enthusiasm.”