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Grandfather Mountain Highland Games? Kilts, pipers and more

By John Bordsen
Travel Editor

More Information

  • Grandfather Mountain Highland Games: The MacDetails

    Basics

    Distance from Charlotte: about 112 miles.

    Most popular day: Saturday (July 13 this year).

    Parking: Thursday and Friday, general public parking allowed at MacRae Meadows.

    Satellite/shuttle parking available from Linville (bottom of the hill at N.C. 105), Boone (Caldwell Community College) and Newland (Avery County High School, Friday-Saturday only).

    Worst event traffic: 9 a.m.-noon Saturday.

    Least traffic: Friday, before 3 p.m.

    Admission

    Four-day pass (in advance, only): $75; $20 for ages 5-12; 4 and younger, free.

    Daily admission: $15 Thursday and Sunday, $20 Friday, $30 Saturday. $5 any day for ages 5-12.

    Celtic Jam or Celtic Rock concerts only: $15 each. (Admission to both concerts included in that day’s admission). Check daily event schedule at www.gmhg.org. Scottish Country Dance Gala: $10 and $30.

    Elsewhere on the mountain

    Grandfather Mountain and its attractions – such as the Swinging Bridge and nature museum – will be open during the games, with separate admission ($18; $15 for 60 and older; $8 for ages 4-12; 3 and younger, free).

    Resources

    Highland games info: 828-733-1333; www.gmhg.org.

    Grandfather Mountain info: 800-468-7325; www.grandfather.com.

    Area lodging info: High Country Host: www.mountainsofnc.com.



The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games will be July 11-14 at the famed peak/park 2 miles north of Linville, near Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 305.

The games are a nonprofit entity separate from Grandfather Mountain. The purpose of the event, now in its 58th year, is to celebrate Gaelic culture, especially Scottish music, dance, athletics and heritage.

It’s one of the most popular Scottish heritage events in the world, attracting roughly 30,000 to MacRae Meadows and a satellite site at Lees-McRae College in nearby Banner Elk.

Here’s some of what’s offered:

Entertainment

Famed Scots folksinger Ed Miller will perform Friday through Sunday. Other acts include Barleyjuice, Rathkeltair, Chelsea House Orchestra, Colin Grant Adams and Cutthroat Shamrocks.

Celtic and Celtic-inspired music - stage and tent concerts, competitions and workshops – will be offered daily. Major events include the Friday night Celtic Jam (exploring Celtic-Appalachian links) and the Saturday night Celtic Rock concert. In addition to the games’ individual performers and small groups, bagpipe and drum outfits will compete Saturday.

The formal processions that open and close the games are awe-inspiring. At dusk Thursday is the Torchlight Ceremony, where about 120 clans assemble and announce their participation. At the Parade of Tartans closing on Sunday, the clans march behind massed bagpipe bands.

Athletics

There are two mass-participation endurance competitions. At 7 p.m. Thursday is The Bear, a 5-mile uphill run from Linville up Grandfather Mountain that attracts about 800 participants. On Saturday is the 45rd running of the Grandfather Mountain Marathon.

Other competitions over the weekend involve throwing heavy objects (16-pound stone, 22-pound hammer, a 28- and 56-pound weight toss, and an enormous log) and wrestling. The big event Sunday is a clan vs. clan tug-of-war.

Other activities

There are daily demonstrations by border collies of sheep herding (formal competition is Sunday).

There will be about 170 tents at the event. Various clans have their own; others offer music, history and/or culture.

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