Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, in Photographs


Pipe Major Gordon Warburton leading the opening procession
Pipe Major Gordon Warburton leading the opening procession (Photograph by Charlie Warden)

When the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of Scottish Clans was held July 8-11, Appalachian Places photo editor Charlie Warden was there to record the festive fun, music and competition. The games attract an estimated 30,000 people to Western North Carolina each year. Since the original event was held in 1956, founded by Agnes MacRae Morton and Donald F. MacDonald, the bagpipes have played and tartan banners have unfurled each July to call thousands of kilt-clad Scots to MacRae Meadows at the base of Grandfather Mountain in Linville, North Carolina.


Highland games are held in spring and summer in Scotland and other countries for celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture. It is believed that such games were originally part of training contests held by highland clans. Today’s events, however, are social festivals that celebrate highland culture and traditions. The stated mission of the Grandfather Mountain festival is “to foster and restore interest in traditional dancing, piping, drumming, athletic achievement, music and Gaelic culture, and to establish scholarship funds to assist students from Avery County High School to study at American colleges and universities.” Although the early European settlers in Appalachia represented many ethnic backgrounds, including English, German, Welsh, and others, a significant portion were of Scots-Irish ancestry.


See the full gallery here.