It's game on for Highland Games in Scotland this summer

Bapipes are coming out their cases, bands are meeting, athletes are in training and organisers of Scotland’s Highland Games are getting to grips with new technology.

Following a three-year break due to Covid, more than 60 towns and villages across Scotland are getting ready for the annual extravaganza, with the season as much a part of summer as a punnet of strawberries, a surprise flash of sunburn or a rainy afternoon.

Covid taught us a lot about what is important and what can also be shed quietly from our lives. The return of an annual event, which brings families and communities together in a traditional, familiar setting while driving phenomenal sums for the economy, must surely be welcomed by most, even if the sound of the pipes and drums is far from being your thing.

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A history of the Scottish Highland Games
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Of course, Covid has affected the way everything functions and the Highland Games are no exception. In this largely cashless era, committees are experimenting with contactless technology so that guests don’t need change at the gate to pay. For more rural communities where signals are an everyday challenge, mobile satellite technology is being considered. Websites are being improved so that tickets can be bought online – and carried over once again if arrangements are scuppered once more by the virus.

Many counted heavy losses as the Games disappeared from the calendar and planning of large scale events became possible. The prize pot for the athletes is worth around £250,000 a year with sportsmen and women travelling from across the world to compete. The pandemic also brought a different type of pain for athletes, who were unable to train in the normal way. A couple of weeks ago, the Royal Scottish Highland Games Association ran a training day in Crieff to help with the transition back to the arena.

Crucially, the supply chain that supported the games – from the chip vans to the crafts people and the portable toilet providers – will soon be back in business.

Keeping morale up among the local organisers has been a key issue for the RSHGA given commitment from volunteers can become fragile. But, with around 60 events planned for the summer, it’s game on for the Highland Games this year. It might just be that a pipe band never sounded so good.

The Highland Games circuit will return in full force this summer after three years since the large scale events were put on in towns and villages across the country. Smaller events were held to mark the games season, such as in Airth (pictured), where a piper and dancers made a symbolic nod to the summer event. PIC: Michael Gillen.