Thursday, 22nd August 2019

Strathdon Set To Welcome Thousands For Lonach Spectacle

Preparations are being finalised in the Aberdeenshire community of Strathdon as it gets ready to welcome thousands of visitors to the 178th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games on Saturday.

Volunteers have been hard at work over the past 10 days laying out the games field at Bellabeg Park for the annual event, which is one of the oldest and most iconic Highland Games in north-east Scotland.

The team has erected grandstands, marquees, fencing and signs, put up hundreds of metres of bunting, rolled out cabling for the sound system, and marked out the field for competitions and trade stands.  Their hard work will be enjoyed by the 7,000-strong crowd – including visitors from across the UK and overseas – which is expected to attend Saturday’s Lonach Highland Gathering and Games.

First held in the 1830s, the traditional event provides a significant economic boost for the Aberdeenshire village of Bellabeg and the surrounding area.  Many of those attending stay in the local area for the weekend.

A major draw for visitors is the unique march of the Lonach Highlanders, a 220-strong body of non-military men drawn from the local area.  Dressed in full Highland regalia and carrying eight-foot long pikes and Lochaber axes, the men follow in the footsteps of their forebears, completing a six-mile march through Strathdon, setting off from Bellabeg at 7:50am.  Their route leads them to the games field, where their arrival at 1:00pm officially opens proceedings.

The Lonach Highland Gathering and Games features a packed programme of over 70 events which run throughout the day.  Activities on the games field commence at 10:30am with the piping competitions, before the light and heavy athletics events and Highland dancing get underway from noon.  A number of pipe bands will also perform throughout the day.  At 3:00pm the massed bands will lead the Lonach Highlanders on their second circuit of the games arena.

A hill race, children’s competitions, tug o’ war, a funfair, a whisky tent and around 80 trade stands selling a range of food, local produce and crafts, provide interest for all of the family.  The gathering has again teamed up with children’s health initiative The Daily Mile and Active Schools Aberdeenshire to hold The Daily Mile Lonach event for primary age school children at 12:30pm.  Up to 75 youngsters are expected to take part in the non-competitive event.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said: “A huge amount of work goes into setting up any Highland Games, transforming a grassy field into a hive of activity.  All of this is done by people who give up their time to make the event happen.  At Lonach, we are very grateful to everyone who has helped to get Bellabeg Park ready for Saturday and the wider community for its continued support.

“The spectacular march of the Lonach Highlanders is a tradition which attracts visitors due to its uniqueness.  Lonach is the only Highland Games in Scotland that has a march featuring around 200 men dressed in full Highland regalia, carrying ceremonial weapons and led by a pipe band, and who complete a six-mile march through the local area before parading round the games field in the afternoon.  It is a wonderful sight to experience.

“As ever, there is a busy programme of events lined up for the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games, meaning there is plenty for everyone to enjoy.  It is shaping up to once again be a great day out for the whole family.  If people wish to bring their dogs, we are a dog-friendly event.  Owners should be aware that it can be noisy and that dogs should remain on a lead at all times.”

The 178th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games takes place in Bellabeg Park, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire from 10:30am on Saturday, 24 August.  Tickets cost £10 for adults, £5 for children aged 5 to 15, while children under the age of four receive free entry.  Car parking is free.

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