Light the Signal Fires to Raise the Clans in NC

Tree Langdon

Come to MacRae Meadows to celebrate your Scottish roots.
Sound the Alarmschleuderzunge/Pixabay

“A wee bit of Scotland in the High Country of Western North Carolina.The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.

Our Celtic ancestors beckon, inviting you to enjoy some Scottish music, dancing, foods, costumes, field games, and much more.

This year, the Games are being held on July 8–12, 2021.

With shopping for tartans and kilts in the vendors’ tents, and the Family Day fun, there’s something for everyone. There’s an open-air market in MacRae Meadows where visitors can find Gaelic gift items, sample Scottish meat pies, and other treats.

You’ll be longing for the mother country (even if you aren’t Scottish).

Thursday evening (July 8th) is the beginning of the 2021 Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.

The opening Torchlight ceremony is to Raise the Clans.

As a chosen member of each Clan comes forward they announce the presence of the Clan, and a torch is placed in a Saltire Cross formation. This living cross of light is used to cover all points of the compass where they have come from.

The torches burn in the gathering darkness and the sound of pipes brings memories of times past, as the gathering begins.

This ceremony has deep roots in rituals of the past where the Lords would call supporters to his side in times of great need. The Games have chosen to remember the ritual as part of calling the people to join the gathering.

They come to remember and to share their wealth and hospitality. 

The clans have come to join in a friendly competition, to dance and play music and celebrate together. 

Sheep Herding

One of the first events the next day is a demonstration of the famous collies herding sheep in the meadow, The Bear, which is a 5-mile endurance race to the summit of the mountain, up 1500 feet, and Athletics, Scottish Sports in strength competitions.

Music galore, with highland dancing, and bagpipe band parade. Every day visitors can hear lots of piping, drumming, and harp music.

Dance Events

Highland Dance

The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games is pleased to host the 2021 Atlantic International Highland and Nationals Competition Series.

Competitors will be performing outside in this 3-day competition.

Participants compete in various different dances. These might include The Sword Dance as well as the Highland Fling, Scottish Lilt, Sean Triubhas, Flora McDonald’s Fancy, Irish Jig (Scottish Version), and the Hornpipe.

Each competitor is judged for technique, timing, and deportment during the dances.

Scottish Country Dance

Traditional ballroom dancing of Scotland is both lively and elegant with a variety of tempos. The dances include reel and jig time dances and elegant strathspeys ( a reel played at a slightly slower tempo, with slightly more emphasis on certain beats.).

It’s the ballroom dance of the country, and worth learning more about.

Scotland has a rich cultural heritage and this is one piece of its magic that isn’t familiar to many.

Gaelic Music

Learn about Scottish Music

There will be short sessions of Gaelic singing, followed by teaching moments where you can learn easy-to-say expressions in the Gaelic language.

Song sheets and English translations are provided.

Gaelic Mòd

This singing and recitation competition has deep historical roots. A Mòd was a judge’s court, held by the Lord of the time. We use the word ‘moot’, which is used to indicate that something is up for debate, or decision. (a moot point, for example.)

The 2021 Gaelic Mod will be an online competition.

Piping and Drumming

Piobaireachd means pipe playing. It describes the classical music of the Great Highland Bagpipe. It’s also called ‘ceòl mór’ or the ’big music’.

Marches, Strathspey/Reel, Jigs, ‘ceòl beag’ — the little music.

This weekend celebration is full of opportunities to watch the piping and drumming events. The Eastern United States Pipe Band Association sanctions events held here and players come from all over the world to compete.

Bring a blanket and settle down to enjoy the entertainment.

Scottish Drumming Techniques

Slam tap, single drag tap, and the use of dynamics are only a few of the skills you can learn.

Here’s a great explanation of the differences between several types of strokes in Scottish drumming.

Scottish Fiddling

The lowly fiddle saved Scotland's musical heritage.

When playing bagpipes and wearing the kilt were banned after the 1745 uprising, this instrument was how the people continued to play music and share their songs and stories.

The fiddle came over with immigrants to the U.S., and you can still hear roots of Scottish jigs and reels in mountain bluegrass and old-time music today.

Workshop & Jam

It’s always exciting when a group of talented musicians get together and play. 

This “All Instrument Jam”, led by accomplished fiddlers, is a chance to play along. Bring your favorite instrument and your singing voice for a wonderful time sharing music.

Clarsach Competition

One of the oldest musical instruments in Scotland, the Clarsach is the ancient word for the small (non-pedal) harp.

The sound of the Clarsach was prized by royalty and harpers were frequently called upon to play. Over the years, they fell out of favor and the tradition was kept alive by traveling musicians. They would essentially busk for payment, much like musicians do today.

In the ’70s there was renewed interest in this historical instrument, and now it’s become more popular.

It’s very much alive today.

June 12, 2021, was the final recital of the famous Princess Margaret of the Isles Clàrsach Competition. 

This competition and prize are named after Princess Margaret of Scotland, the daughter of King Robert II and the wife of John, Lord of the Isles, who was a great patron of the arts.

“Fraya Thomsen was awarded the 2021 Princess Margaret of the Isles Memorial Prize for Senior Clarsach at the competition held online on Saturday 12 June. The other three finalists in the open competition were Karen Marshalsay, Pippa Reid-Foster, and Loreleï Tochet.” Armadale

Here is Princess Margaret of the Isles Clàrsach Competition (US) 2021 — Winning Set 

Fraya Thomsen, 2021 winner of the Princess Margaret of the Isles Memorial Prize

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.
2050 Blowing Rock Hwy, Linville, NC, US

The Shuttle buses leave from our dedicated GMHG parking lots. Passes are available to purchase at the shuttle lot from the attendants.

Sources: Rove, The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, Armadale Castle

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