Grandfather Mountain Highland Games returns July 8-11 with four days of fun and competition


Athlete Aslynn Halvorson of Anderson, SC, spins the caber during the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Foundation for Mountain Stewardship

In summer, Grandfather Mountain is known for its lush greenery and the kaleidoscopic colors of its myriad flowers.

In July, however, guests can add an entirely different palette to this mix: the plaid. And a lot.

From July 8 to 11, Grandfather Mountain will host the 2021 Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.

Meanwhile, MacRae Meadows, located at the foot of Grandfather Mountain, will be packed with bagpipes, Scottish athletics, Highland melodies, Celtic cuisine, crafts galore and tons of tartans.

“The Games are a reminder of Scotland’s rich cultural traditions in a setting that is not all that different from the mountains and valleys some 3,600 miles away,” said Frank Ruggiero, Marketing and Communications Director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates Linville Nature Park, North Carolina.

Managed and organized by Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Inc., the Highland Games begins Thursday afternoon, July 8, with demonstrations of border collie sheep rearing, Celtic entertainment, “The Bear” uphill run. and the opening ceremonies.

“The Bear” pits hundreds of runners up the steep switchbacks of Grandfather Mountain in a five-mile race that climbs 1,568 feet from the town of Linville to the top of the mountain.

It is followed on Saturday by another extreme endurance test as the Grandfather Mountain Marathon winds its way from Appalachian State University in Boone to the Games venue in Linville.

But the Games kick off in earnest with the torchlight ceremony Thursday night, where representatives of more than 100 clans announce their families’ participation in the rally. The “Raising of the Clans” proclaims that they have come together again to celebrate their legacy.

Participants in the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games can enjoy volumes of Celtic music, ranging from rock to classical and all points in between. Photo courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are packed with competition at traditional Scottish heavyweight sporting events, Highland dance competitions, bagpipe parades, bagpipe, drum and harp competitions, demonstrations of sheep breeding by Scottish border collies and live concerts.

The country’s top Scottish athletes face off on Saturday in traditional heavyweight events such as ‘turn the caber’ and ‘throw the wreath’.

In the caber throw, athletes flip a log the size of a telephone pole. The wreath throwing challenges athletes to lift a 16 pound hay sack above a bar over 20 feet high.

Other old tests of strength await the contestants, including highland wrestling, hammer throw and various shot put.

The events are repeated on Sundays for amateurs and athletes 40 and over, in addition to the kilt racing, clan caber throw and clan tug of war.

For the little ones, the Games will once again host highland clinics and wrestling competitions for young people, foot races and fierce battles.


For 2021, event organizers are tweaking the musical offerings of the Games, with live performances from Chambless and Muse, Ed Miller, Wolf Loescher, Jennifer Licko, Piper Jones Band, Reel Sisters, Tune Shepherds, Strathspan, Will MacMorran Project , Emerald Rae, Seven Nations, Jiggernaut, McLeod Brothers, Marybeth McQueen and Colin Shoemaker.

Ancestry in action

Throughout the weekend, visitors can learn about their own Scottish ancestry and genealogy in clan tents or peruse the open-air market for Gaelic and tartan gift items.

Customers can sample the tradition with a variety of concessions including haggis, Scottish meat pies and more.


To learn more about admission to the 2021 Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, including parking and shuttle information, visit


When it comes to COVID-19, Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Inc. follows guidelines from the State of North Carolina and other government agencies, as well as advice from health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control.

In addition, shuttle passengers will have to wear masks when queuing and when taking the shuttles. Games staff will have a limited number of masks available if needed. Drivers will also be asked not to allow anyone without a mask to board a Games shuttle.

According to a statement from GMHG Inc., “Everyone at the July 2021 event will be required to follow all posted safety instructions while attending. By visiting the 2021 Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, you will voluntarily assume all risks associated with exposure to COVID-19. “


For more information on the Games, visit or call 828-733-1333. For more information on accommodation and travel, contact the High Country Host Visitor Center at 800-438-7500 or

The non-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation works to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325 or visit to plan a trip.

A parade of pipers circles the field at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. The Games return from July 8 to 11. Photo courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Athlete Brent Miller of Lebanon, Tennessee throws games of the 20 pound wreath in the Scottish Men’s Heavy Track and Field competition at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Foundation for the Stewardship of the Mountain
A tactful border collie locks up sheep during one of the many sheep breeding demonstrations at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, returning to MacRae Meadows July 8-11. Photo of Greg Culpepper | Grandfather Foundation for Mountain Stewardship
Thursday night’s torchlight ceremony kicks off each Highland Games, as representatives from more than 100 clans announce their families’ participation in the rally. Photo by Jim Magruder | Magruder Photography
A Highland Games participant holds the torch at the ‘Changing of the Clans’, the traditional start of the annual gathering. Photo by Jim Magruder | Magruder Photography


Leave A Reply