AN AUTUMNAL blaze of sun through the windows, antlers and armoury bristling from the walls, majestic strains of piobaireachd sounding through the ballroom… it can only be the Glenfiddich Piping Championship.
The de facto world championship of solo piping, "the Glenfiddich" sees the ten top pipers in the year's competition circuit invited to compete at Blair Atholl in two classes, one for piobaireachd, the "big music" of the Highland bagpipe, the other for ceol beag, the "little music" of march, strathspey and reel (MSR).
Taking the coveted Glenfiddich trophy on Saturday was Stuart Liddell, who came third in the piobaireachd and second in the MSR section, his accumulated marks making him overall winner.
His piobaireachd was The Earl of Seaforth's Salute which, with its stately procession of ascending phrases, honours the eponymous 5th Earl, exiled in Spain following the collapse of the 1715 uprising at the Battle of Sherrifmuir. Liddell's MSR set was the march The Duke of Roxburgh's Farewell to Blackmount Forest, and the strathspey Atholl Cummers, which slipped neatly into the characterful reel The Little Cascade.
Liddell, a 36-year-old piping teacher and piano tuner from Inveraray, described his win as "the absolute pinnacle of my piping career".
First in the piobaireachd class was Roderick MacLeod MBE, principal of the National Piping Centre in Glasgow, who won the Highland Society of London medal, while the PLM Redfearn trophy for the MSR went to another seasoned competitor, William McCallum, with McCallum and MacLeod coming second and third respectively in the overall results.
On Sunday on the same platform, below the Raeburn portrait of the great Perthshire doyen of 18th-century fiddle music, Niel Gow, the Glenfiddich Fiddle Championship was won by Rebecca Lomnicky from Oregon, in the US. Second and third places went to Nicola Auchnie of Turriff and Gillian Ramsay of Kirriemuir.