The Ottawa Highland Games

By: Travis Persaud

July 30, 2014

The North Lanark Highland Games “” set in the Ottawa Valley, just an hour east of the capital “” celebrates Scottish heritage with more than a wee bit of fun. With dancers, pipe bands and athletes, see why the Ottawa Highland Games is well worth a trip to Canada.

Location, location, location

Mississippi River, which serves as the backdrop to the North Lanark Highland Games | Ottawa Highland Games

A section of the Mississippi River, which serves as the backdrop to the North Lanark Highland Games © Brent Eades

The North Lanark Highland Games sure know how to set a scene. Held at the North Lanark Agricultural Society in Almonte, just a short drive from Ottawa, the Games feature gorgeous scenery, highlighted by the Mississippi River, which acts as a natural border for the grounds. The historic site is the perfect backdrop for the traditional games, music and fun to come.

Heads up!

Heavyweight athletes competing | Ottawa Highland Games

Let the feats of strength begin! Heavyweight athletes compete in everything from hammer throws to the caber toss © Brent Eades

Find a spot close (but not too close) to the heavyweight athletes to see their mesmerising strength up close. (Note: get there before noon if you want a seat in the grandstands or bleachers. Or bring lawn chairs and find a spot on the grass.)  Hear their grunts and screams as they throw hammers, take on the caber toss (throwing tree trunks!) and participate in the main event – the 58lb and 28lb stone throw.

Kids activities at the games | Ottawa Highland Games

Your wee ones can get in on the Highland fun at the kids mini-games section © Brent Eades

Bringing your kids to the Highland Games? Well, there’s a kids mini-games section so they can try out some of these events, scaled to their weight and size (of course). Maybe one day they’ll return to compete in the adult competition.

Please don’t stop the music

This wouldn’t be a proper Scottish celebration without some music. The opening ceremonies kick off the Games with Massed Bands ushering in the start of the festivities. And the Pipe Band competition raises the bar as 20 pipe bands go head-to-head, challenging each other in the mastery of this Scottish tradition.

78th Fraser Highlander Musket Squad | Ottawa Highland Games

The Pipe Band competition is a musical highlight during the Games © Brent Eades

The 78th Fraser Highlander Musket Squad, based in Ottawa, performs a special 20-minute demonstration, complete with narration. The band is often called upon to act as a Guard of Honour during special events. They earn extra cool points for using the Brown Bess Musket, which is fired during their set.

Before the Massed Bands return to close out the day, witness some of the best drummers face off in three competitions: drum majors, bass drum and tenor drum. The beats are so good that you’ll be on your feet marching along in no time.

And if dancing is more your thing, then you’ll want to stick around for the dancing competition, which features the Hornpipe, Fling and Seann Truibhas.

Header image © Wiseman Photography

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Have you been to the Ottawa Highland Games? What did you make of it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Written by Travis Persaud


Travis Persaud

Travis Persaud is a writer and editor who splits his time between Toronto and Ottawa. He writes on a variety of topics including automotive and travel for Zoomer Magazine and CAA, and dabbles in music writing for Exclaim!

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