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The New Hampshire Highland Games and Festival

If shorter days and cooler mornings are sapping your energy and sense of adventure, The New Hampshire Highland Games and Festival is just what you need to reclaim your smile and bid summer a proper farewell. I had the pleasure of attending this festival last year with my wife and some good friends, and it brought back a flood of wonderful memories of my paternal grandparents. Johnny and Mary Darroch used to regale me with their tales of growing up in Scotland, speaking and singing with their lilting Scottish brogues that hadn’t faded in the fifty years they lived in Brooklyn, NY. Thanks to them, my appreciation for this festival comes from a very deep and personal place.

Groups of pipers can be found practicing around every corner.

Photo/Art by Elie MacLennan
Groups of pipers can be found practicing around every corner.

That said, you don’t have to own a kilt or know what haggis is to have a great time at this Scottish-themed festival at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, NH. The New Hampshire Highland Games is as much about enlightening fun seekers from all walks of life as it is about stirring the pride of direct descendants and distant relatives of Scottish people.

Pemigewasset River

Photo/Art by Elie MacLennan
Pemigewasset River

An exhilarating blend of music, pageantry and raw power, this annual festival has entertained legions of guests since 1975. You’ll feel the excitement the moment you step off the shuttle bus (parking is offsite in Lincoln) and the distant sound of bagpipes, punctuated by bass drums, invites you to join in the revelry. The walk across the Pemigewasset River Bridge is short, but it may as well be the Atlantic Ocean itself for all the Old World sights that await you at Loon Mountain Resort.

Burly men hurl heavy objects across the field in a display of concentration and strength.

Photo/Art by Elie MacLennan
Burly men hurl heavy objects across the field in a display of concentration and strength.

The festival area is an organized and expansive sea of distinguished looking gentlemen in dress tartans, country dancers high-stepping between crossed swords, and burly men in kilts tossing a variety of heavy objects on the athletic field.  And then, of course, there are the pipe bands—dozens of them. Twenty-five or so bagpipers can be seen marching in unison with snare drummers, tenor drummers, and bass drummers. Music is everywhere—from concert tents, pubs, and lodges to the open air. There are sheepdog trials and music competitions, clan parades and cultural seminars. You can do as much or as little as you like, and for an extra fee, indulge in whisky tastings, mixology evenings, and beer tastings.

Sooner or later, you’re going to get hungry and that’s where the New Hampshire Highland Festival really shines.  You’ll find a wide variety of authentic Scottish fare including lamb stew, shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, and pastries, plus more adventurous offerings like meat pies, sausage rolls and yes, haggis. (If you’re unfamiliar with that traditional Scottish dish, I highly encourage you to Google it before deciding whether you want to sample some.)

Sheep herding dogs have work to do at the festival.

Photo/Art by Elie MacLennan
Sheep herding dogs have work to do at the festival.

There’s an endless array of sights, sounds, and activities for little ones (this year, children under the age of 14 are admitted free with an accompanying adult) and multiple pubs and beer tents for folks 21 and over—all with the White Mountains providing the perfect scenic backdrop.  The full schedule of events is on the Festival Web site so you can choose the day(s) that interest you most and plan ahead. That said, the true beauty of the New Hampshire Highland Games and Festival is found in idle wandering, people watching, and just taking in all the culture, talent and dedication on display.

People watching is one of the highlights of The New Hampshire Highland Games.

Photo/Art by Elie MacLennan
People watching is one of the highlights of The New Hampshire Highland Games.

So if you’re like me and want to spend a few days immersed in the customs and memories of your grandparents; or you’re just looking for a different kind of late summer adventure, check out The New Hampshire Highland Games and Festival. It’s as close as you can get to Scotland without leaving New England.

The 2014 New Hampshire Highland games run from September 19-21.

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Jim Darroch

Author:

Jim Darroch

Biography:

As Brand Communications Manager for Eastern Mountain Sports, Jim reports on events and activities around New England. When he's not in the office, you can find him kayaking, hiking, and mountain biking around the Monadnock Region and throughout the region with his wife Brenda and his dog Brewski. !
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3 Responses to The New Hampshire Highland Games and Festival

  1. Vinnie - Glasgow September 7, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    You cannot beat Haggis. For all you Folk in the States it’s a meaty, spicy delicacy although not for the faint hearted.

  2. Judy Morley September 13, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    For all the Scot’s in our family and anyone who wants to see some Scotch fun!!

  3. sally rives October 30, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

    Always wanted to go but too far away. Have been to games in Ventura and Long Beach. Ca. And Wick. Scotland

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