They are the highlight of the social calendar for many communities across Scotland, showcasing sporting prowess, traditional dancing, piping, tug o’ war and good- natured banter about ancient clan rivalries.
But now the heatwave sweeping the UK has led to the first cancellation of a Highland games because the farmer whose land it is due to be held on cannot harvest his hay.
The 2018 Invercharron Highland Games, near Bonar Bridge in Sutherland, which attracts thousand of visitors worldwide every year, was due to be held on 15 September, but farmer Peter Campbell very reluctantly made the decision on Sunday night that he could no longer offer his field and had to give priority to winter feed for his animals.
The game’s website posted a notice saying “It is with severe regret that the Invercharron Highland Games has had to be cancelled this year. The farmer, whose field we use, grows his winter feed hay crop in the field and because of the exceptionally dry weather we have had, the crops are growing too slowly and as a result he will not be able to harvest before the games and the feed is urgently needed.”
It then explained that there was not enough time for organisers to find another field and apply for a new public entertainment licence.
With Invercharron being the final games of the year many of the Scottish Highland Games Association league results are determined there, making the events a cliffhanger for many competitors and spectators.
It is also located on the North Coast 500 route, meaning it brings much-needed business for local businesses such as hotels and bed and breakfasts.
Mr Campbell, of Balblair Farm in Bonar Bridge, who needs to ensure he can feed his 40-strong horse stud, said: “We’re awfully sorry this has happened but something’s got to give. During the games we usually put the horses elsewhere but we don’t have sufficient grazing elsewhere this year. Public events are not usually held on private land, so it is quite unusual to hold them on farms.”
Sally Macintosh, secretary of Invercharron Highland Games, said every effort was being put into contacting those due to attend.
“It has been a really difficult decision for the landowner who has helped us for over 20 years. But his crops are only around 60 per cent of where they should be and it’s either he feeds his animals or gives us the field.
“We are disappointed, but life gets in the way. The hot weather has been enjoyable for many but it has been quite traumatic for farmers. It’s no-one’s fault.”
Michael Baird, from Bonar Bridge, one of the judges on the Highland games circuit, said: “We have a Highland Area Heavy Games Association and decided the heavies (such as shot put and caber) and track and field events will be finalised at the Glenurquhart Highland Games in Drumnadrochit, by Loch Ness on 25 August. The cycling will be decided at the Grantown-on-Spey Games the following day.”