Games centre opens its doors to public

L_R: Games President David Geddes, Lewis Mutch and Diamond MacKay of Braemar School with the  Duke of Fife.
L_R: Games President David Geddes, Lewis Mutch and Diamond MacKay of Braemar School with the Duke of Fife.

The new £2 million Braemar Highland Games Centre opened to the public for the first time on Friday.

Guests were welcomed to the Duke of Rothesay Highland Games Pavilion by the Duke of Fife, a vice-patron of the Braemar Royal Highland Society, and the current society president, David Geddes.

For the first time visitors will be able to experience a taste of the history and traditions of Highland games, including the world-famous Braemar Gathering and other Scottish games.

In magnificent picture galleries and exhibitions, the centre tells the story of events, their social significance, the competitors and the part that the Royal family has played in their evolution.

Designed to blend specifically with buildings in and around the Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park, which has been home to the Gathering for the past 110 years, the centre provides a major new tourist attraction for the village, the Cairngorms National Park and much further afield.

The idea of a new venue to tell the story of Highland games and those involved with them has been discussed in one form or another for many years.

The current project has been driven by the Braemar Royal Highland Charity, which owns and runs the Braemar Gathering, a favourite with the Royal family since Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made Balmoral Castle their retreat.

Victoria attended, and hosted, several Gatherings before, in 1866, commanding that the word ‘Royal’ be added to the Braemar Highland Society which ran the event.

The charity approached the Prince’s Foundation for assistance in design and planning the centre, its clear aim being to create a sustainable, year-round facility in keeping with the arena environment, Braemar, and the spectacular Cairngorms setting.

Centred around conserving and enhancing cultural heritage. the Duke of Rothesay offered financial support to the project as one of seven he agreed to back to mark his 70th birthday.

The Queen signalled the completion of the project during her visit to the games last September.

Incorporating a gallery, exhibition hall, cafe, gift shop and office along with temperature controlled storage facilities for exhibits, the new centre tells not only tell the Royal story of Braemar but those of the early beginnings of Highland games and how they were staged in villages and glens the length and breadth of Scotland.