The first Games held in 1996 had an attendance of about 4000 people mostly residents of North Berwick and the surrounding towns in East Lothian.
Today, the Games continues to attract considerable support from the local community but with more and more visitors coming every year an attendance of about 10,000 (spectators and competitors) throughout the day has become the norm. It is therefore starting to gain respect as a ‘National Event’. Visitors come from elsewhere in Scotland, from throughout the United Kingdom and from all over the world. Many appreciate not only the spectacle of the Highland Games itself, but also the opportunity to visit the charming town of North Berwick situated on the coast of the Firth of Forth just 25 miles from the centre of Edinburgh.
The international visitors are not confined to spectators as many of the competitors, particularly in the Pipe Band competitions come from abroad. The visiting pipe bands have included the New Zealand Police, the City of Blacktown (Australia), the 78th Fraser Highlanders (Canada), the Royal Army of Oman, Benoni-McTalla (South Africa), and not forgetting local support from the North Berwick Pipe Band and many others.
The Pipe Band competitions last throughout the day with the junior bands competing in the morning and the senior bands competing in the Grade 1 Competition in the middle of the afternoon. Our event includes the Lothian and Borders Pipe Band Championships, and during the day there is a separate competition for all the Drum Majors from the different bands to display their prowess in Formal Dress, Marching and Flourish. The Pipe Bands compete under the auspices of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association.
Whilst the main arena and its environs echo to the sounds of Scottish music, there are other events taking place in different corners. For example, no Highland Games would be complete without a Heavy Events competition which takes place to one side of the main arena. Our competition includes six separate events including throwing the 16lb Scot’s Hammer and Tossing the Caber with the overall winner being the competitor gaining the maximum points combined from all six events. To see the huge, heavy timber caber being tossed is perhaps the most dramatic highlight of any Highland Games.
Although the Pipe Band competitions command particular attention during the day, you will also hear the highland bagpipe played at its best by the members of the Competing Pipers Association in the Solo Piping competitions for both the March, Strathspey and Reel as well as the traditional and very demanding Piobaireachd.
In the south corner of the ground you will also hear the sound of the pipes but this time as an accompaniment to the Highland Dancing. On an elevated platform you will be able to watch youngsters of all ages performing the intricate steps of the Highland Fling and Sword dances, whilst the older dancers complete in the even more demanding dances of the Scottish Lilt and Flora McDonald’s Fancy.
At the end of the day all the Pipe Bands parade into the main arena to salute the Chieftain of the day. After the presentation of trophies they march down to and along the High Street where many other spectators welcome the bands.