Aboyne gearing up for the return of Traditional Highland Games this weekend

This Saturday, Aboyne will be bustling with thousands of visitors as they make a return to the Aberdeenshire village, after a 2 year hiatus, to enjoy the 155th year of its annual Highland Games. Visitors are set to arrive from around the world – including some from as far as Australia.

Crowds watch the massed bands at the start of the 2019 Aboyne Highland Games - credit Harry Scott (Deeside Camera Club)
Crowds watch the massed bands at the start of the 2019 Aboyne Highland Games - credit Harry Scott (Deeside Camera Club)

Aboyne Highland Games attracts up to 10,000 visitors, with many travelling to the event from overseas. Held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly, the event kicks off the Highland Games season on Royal Deeside. This year the Earl of Aboyne, Alistair Aboyne, will attend as Deputy Chieftain in place of his father Granville Huntly, who is unable to attend as Chieftain.

Eight pipe bands including Ballater and District, Deeside Caledonia, Ellon Royal British Legion, the Gordon Highlanders Association, Huntly and District, Lonach, Newtonhill, and Towie and District will begin their march through the village from 11:00am and onto Aboyne Green for the opening ceremony at 12 noon.

Among the many spectacular and traditional events to take place throughout the day is a commemorative Highland Reel to mark the 70th anniversary of the Aboyne Dress which will be performed at 2.25pm before the Lord Lieutenant enters the arena.

Performing the special reel will be local dancers Rachael Walker and Michelle Gordon who will be joined by Hamish McInnes and Tristan Wainwright, both of whom have travelled from Australia to compete in the games. They will be accompanied by a solo piper.

An Aboyne Dress, courtesy of Margaret Ramsay who was presented with the dress in 1952 by the Marquis of Huntly, and press cuttings from the time will be on display in the overseas tent for visitors to view.

Proceedings on Aboyne Green commence at 10:30am and continue until after 5:00pm, with the games being officially opened this year at 12 noon by the Earl of Aboyne. Nearly 100 events will be staged with competitors vying for honours in piping, fiddle music, Highland Dancing, tug o’ war, the hill race and light and heavy athletics. Children’s races, a funfair and around 80 trade stands showcasing local crafts and produce also feature.

This year Aboyne Highland Games will host two Scottish championships events; the 800m race (3.00pm) and the 56lb weight for distance competition (3.30pm).

Among spectators, a perennial highlight of the heavy athletics programme is tossing the caber. The open caber event is expected to see close battles as the winner has the opportunity to throw the Aboyne Caber, which was dedicated by Her Majesty The Queen during her 2017 visit to mark the games’ 150th anniversary. This special event features a £700 prize and a Caber Quaich kindly donated by Dinnet Estates/Marcus Humphrey for the winner who can throw the caber successfully.

Visitors to the games will have the opportunity to learn more about the history of eleven Scottish clans and trace their ancestry in the Clan Village. This year Aboyne Highland Games welcomes a new clan to the village – Clan Baird – who are celebrating their 50th anniversary of the society. Clan Baird will be carrying out an installation of their new Commander and President of the Clan Baird Society Worldwide, Richard Baird from Rickarton, Stonehaven at around 3.15pm at the Baird Clan Tent.

This will involve a very ancient Scottish ceremony that is from the earliest days of the Clans, with the implements of office being presented, the White Rod of Authority, the Clan Sword, and a Quaich for the main Baird line leaders to drink from. The ceremony will be conducted with the ballad "Rickarton" at the beginning of the occasion and will end with the "Baird's of Auchmedden" march, on pipes.

Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said: “We’re looking forward to welcoming competitors and visitors from around the world once again to Aboyne Highland Games on Saturday.

“Seeing and hearing all the action back on Aboyne Green this weekend will be fantastic. The massed pipe bands march onto the Green is always a really special sight and sound at the opening of the games and it’s one we have missed for the last two years.

“I would encourage people to come along and experience the traditional Scottish spectacle of Highland Games and enjoy a fantastic day out for all the family. Alongside nearly 100 events in music, dancing and athletics, there is the tug o’ war, a large number of trade stands, the Clan Village and ever popular funfair.

“The support we receive from the local community is always greatly appreciated, whether that is through sponsorship or people volunteering their time to set-up and run the games. It’s a huge amount of work to host the games and we couldn’t do it without their assistance.”

Aboyne Highland Games takes place on Saturday, 06 August on Aboyne Green. Events get underway just after 10:30am and run throughout the afternoon. The official opening ceremony commences at 12 noon.

Founded in 1867 and held annually on the first Saturday in August, Aboyne Highland Games is one of north-east Scotland’s leading traditional events. In 2019, the games welcomed nearly 10,000 visitors – many from overseas – to watch a packed programme of events, including solo and massed piping, highland dancing, light and heavy athletics and fiddle competitions. This year the Earl of Aboyne, Alistair Aboyne, will attend as Deputy Chieftain in place of his father Granville Huntly, who is unable to attend as Chieftain.

Further information on Aboyne Highland Games can be found at www.aboynegames.com.