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Balls of stone and really big poles…

“It’s the apogee of the Island’s social year.” My friend Steven was incredulous when I asked what all the bunting lining the waterfront was about. “You can’t miss the Brodick Highland Games.”

We had just returned from a month away but perhaps the unpacking could wait. A quick GFC (Google Fact Check) yielded the information that these Highland Games have been held on Arran almost every August since 1866, barring the occasional World War when, presumably, all of Scotland’s strongest men were otherwise occupied. When Steven sealed the deal with the loan of his parking place, I nipped home for the Hub and the dog, ready for whatever the Highland Games might offer.

The ferry arrived with the pipe bands, and right on schedule the heavens opened. It was raining so hard I wondered if we should gather up pairs of animals and head for the nearest ark, but the pipers and most of the audience lining their route were Scots, and thus dismissed a little torrential downpour as a fact of life. Sure enough, by the time the pipers reached Ormidale Park, the sun was shining as if rain had never happened.

We walked in past the obligatory bouncy castle and a huge wading pool where kids in big inflated balls bounced and rolled like giant hamsters, and then through a gauntlet of temptations including the Arran Dairy ice cream stall, the Frying Scotsman fish and chips, and other gastronomically enticing tortures. But the pipe band we were following lured us to the field where the actual games were already in progress.

Sadly, we’d already missed the Highland Dance competitions, although the adorable little dancers were everywhere. But we’d really come to see VERY large kilt-wearing men with names like “Wee Davie” spend the day running along a football field carrying a telephone pole, which they then attempted to throw into the air with the goal of a complete end-over-end spiral before landing (caber toss).

Sorry–I was on the other side of the field trying to take this shot. But if you look carefully across the field, you’ll see a very strong person tossing a telephone pole. As one does…


Others carried boulders.

Some lifted stones (ranging from 200 to 400lbs ) onto whisky barrels.

Still others (presumably those who already have enough children) swung 75lb hammers BETWEEN THEIR LEGS to build up momentum and then tossed them backwards up in the air to try to clear goal posts.

And all around there were marching pipe bands (bag, of course), whisky tasting, Arran beer, the usual games and face painting for the kids, plus at least one dog for every two people.

Just as they were announcing the pillow fight, one of the little dancers pulled politely at my sleeve. “Excuse me, but your wee doggie just ate something disgusting off the ground.” The doggie in question turned who-me? eyes up to me, an innocent pose spoiled by the fact that she was still obviously chewing said disgusting item. Knowing the inevitable results to come, I summoned the Hub and we beat a hasty retreat to the bagpiped strains of Amazing Grace.

But I was happy to have one question answered at least. What do you wear under your kilt when you’re going to swing a 75-pound hammer between your legs? Why, pink gym shorts of course. Duh.

As we left, the sun came out and I heard one woman assure her companion that it was the best Highland Games ever. “Aye,” he agreed thoughtfully. “Since last year at least.”