07 August 2007

Braemer Gathering - Sept 2004

I was lucky to be in Scotland in Sept …I got an opportunity to visit Scotland’s oldest and biggest highland gathering – the annual highland games in Braemer. It’s very popular and the Queen herself comes to take the salute here.

The bus ride from Aberdeen to Braemer has the most amazing scenery…it takes a lot to keep me silent…but that is just what the picturesque region did to me as I just eyeballed the spectacular Deeside scenery…native Scots pine and a variety of wildlife such as red squirrels and crossbills kept me engaged.

This drive is also known as the Royal Deeside as it follows the River Dee with some royal sights along the way, including the famous Balmoral Castle.

Passing through several pristine villages we finally reached our destination – Braemar… The whole place was dotted with good-looking men in skirts…the Scottish traditional kilts in green/blue/red-checked tartan…

Scots are a friendly lot and were more than happy to pose for photographs with us… One gentleman went to the extent of explaining in length the accessories like the Sporran and the headgear and the significance of the feather in his headgear.

Our photo session was cut short by the sound of the traditional pipes bands…The pipe bands are supposed to be the best and I have no doubt about that as I recall seeing them march down the road towards the field. It is known as the massing of the pipe bands because as many as 20 or more pipe bands will march and play together. The leader of the band – the Drum Major, carries a mace – a shoulder-high stick with large metal head - which at regular intervals he will toss up in the air and catch – without breaking a step

The play field is encircled by hills – one of the events is the Hill Race where the participants have to run up the hill and back – it is a unique climb as it is the only one in Scotland, which starts from the centre of a town.

There were these huge logs in the field – like telephone poles – I was just wondering what they were there for when I saw a man pick it up and toss it around – Yessss…that’s Caber throwing – a traditional feat of strength!!!

The day provided a perfect contrast – as the men showed off their strength with events like Caber throwing, throwing the hammer, the shot putt and tug-of-war, pretty Scottish girls continued with their highland dancing in the background.

A quick walk around the village and even quicker shopping… and then we rushed to get on to the last bus back to Aberdeen!!!

Photo courtesy: Sudip Saha

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