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What You Should Know About the Celtic or Highland Games

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What You Should Know About the Celtic or Highland Games

The Highland games – sometimes known as the Celtic games – have been popular event around the world for decades. So, let’s take a look at the history, development, and different events of the games. 

How Did They Start?

The modern Highland games originated in Scotland in the 19th century, but the events themselves date back to to the first milenium. As the games have spread worldwide, many countries that have Gaelic and Celtic roots also join in with the Highland games – particularly neighboring Ireland. This shared Gaelic and Celtic culture is enjoyed throughout the UK and Ireland, and has become a popular theme for a wide range of entertainment. Online casino enthusiasts can find an array of Gaelic- and Celtic-themed games on platforms like Paddy’s online casino such as Gaelic Luck, Mystery Gold, and Celtic King, which riff off different elements of gaelic and celtic mythology and history to provide an authentic and immersive casino experience. 

However, the early Highland games were much less widespread than this modern media or indeed the modern games. In fact, sometimes they were just contests between clans or clansmen themselves. It is thought that the events were designed to test the skill of the competitors in order to find the quickest, strongest, and best fighters. The result of the event could then be used to inform key decisions such as who will become the next chief or be granted the opportunity to work for the king. That said, there is little historical evidence of the early games, which leaves much open to interpretation. 

International Developments 

After the Jacobite rebellions, traditional Highland outfits including the kilt were banned in Scotland. Due to this, an increased emphasis was placed on maintaining their historical and cultural roots. And so, the modern Highland games were born. These annual games included traditional events, encouraged traditional dress, and celebrated the history of the highlands with bands of bagpipes. 

After becoming widespread in Scotland, the games began to move abroad. One of the earliest international events, and the first in North America, was hosted in New York back in 1836. Today, there are over 100 Highland games in the US, with many still in the state of New York, which are often friendly competitions between the Irish and Scottish diaspora. Highland games are a key part of the annual Finger Lakes Celtic Festival, which is hosted by Finger Lakes Celtic Society on the third Saturday of May every year. The event has all nine heavy games events, as well as bagpipe bands, demonstrations, and other cultural exhibitions. You can also find very popular Highland games in Canada, Brazil, Norway, and New Zealand. 

The Games of the Games

As we mentioned before, the Highland games have events known as the heavy events. This is because they all involve the competitors pulling, throwing, or lifting something heavy. According to, tossing the caber has become the most famous of these events, often seen as synonymous with the games themselves.

In the caber toss, participants must lift and throw a full-length Scots Pine log in a specific manner.Other games include the hammer throw of a 22lb for men or 16lb for women, shot put of 20-26lbs, weight for height or weight over the bar, and tug o’war. You might notice that these games are all very familiar!

So, there you have it. All that’s left to do is check out your nearest Highland games to join in on the celebration of Gaelic and Celtic culture, or even sign yourself up to compete if you can hack it. 

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