Kilts, Ghillies and a Wee Hairy Coo

One of many wee Scotty-type dogs at the Games.

One of many wee Scotty-type dogs at the Games.

I went to the Colonial Highland Games near Elkton, Maryland, over the weekend to compete with my band in the pipe band competition.

We’ll dispense with the unhappy news first. My band, Philadelphia Emerald, placed 6th out of eight.

There was good news for one local band, though. Cameron Washington Memorial United came in second. And if this matters to you, an Irish band associated with an AOH division in East Islip, N.Y.—Roisin Dubh—came in first.

Congrats to Cameron Washington United.

Of course, this is an Irish Web site, and the Fair Hill Games are decidedly Scottish and a bit south of our normal coverage area. But Celtic is Celtic and, besides, lots of Irish pipe bands do compete (and, just as obviously, win).

If you have never attended Highland games, the experience is well worth it—for general, all-round Celtic cultural literacy, sure, but also because you’ll have a good time.

For me, of course, it is always about the food. And, yes, you can get bridies and meat pies and fish and chips—the lines for that heart-stopping stuff were lengthy at Fair Hill. But I also ran into a fella from a shop called the Highland Creamery in Oxford, Md. (on the Eastern Shore) who was dishing up Guinness and brown bread ice cream. I arrived at his stand too late in the day to snag some of that fabulous stuff. (I had some in Galway a few years back, and it’s pretty tasty.) But I was not too late for the raspberry and shortbread ice cream. That alone was worth the price of admission.

Highland games are also huge fun for kids. Most are thoroughly charmed by the border collies in the sheep dog trials. There’s Highland dancing as well which, while very different from Irish dance—no curly wigs, for one—is fascinating to watch. And if you’re into watching big dudes heaving telephone poles, there’s plenty of that to watch as well. (And a “wee hairy coo”—or “cow,” if you’re not Scottish—to pet as well.)

There are a bunch more Highland games throughout the summer, most no more than a couple of hours’ drive away. Here’s a list:

We captured some of the spirit of Fair Hill in the accompanying photo essay.

Author: Jeff Meade

Jeff is one of the founding editors of More details.

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