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This Guest Blog, compares Cobourg Highland Games with the world famous Braemar Gathering - Highland Games in Scotland.
Thanks to Katie Mullen of Best Scottish Tours for this blog
Braemar Scotland.jpg

The Scottish village of Braemar

The Cobourg Highland Games vs the Braemar Gathering

The Cobourg Highland Games & Scottish Festival in Canada and the Braemar Highland Games in Scotland are both steeped in history and culture. Well loved by locals and people from all over the world, these events draw the crowds, raise spirits, and allow us to enjoy our wonderful Scottish heritage.

Why are we comparing the Cobourg Highland Games to Braemar Gathering specifically?  The Cobourg Highland Games Society, endorses the Town of Cobourg's  own tartan, which is based on the Balmoral tartan, and the Braemar Games are Balmoral's local Games. It is also one of Scotland's biggest and best Highland Games.


Cobourg Highland Games & Scottish Festival

Firstly, let's talk about Cobourg Highland Games & Scottish Festival. Held annually in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. The event is organized by the Cobourg Highland Games Society, a non-profit organization that aims to promote and preserve Scottish heritage in the region. The first Games were organized by Davey Carr in 1963 and they were a huge success! The event has grown year upon year, and today around 4,000 people attend the games annually.

The Braemar Gathering

The Braemar Highland Games are held annually in the village of Braemar, Scotland, and are one of the most well-known and prestigious Highland Games in the world. The Games are attended by members of the Royal Family, with Queen Elizabeth II  herself attending on several occasions.

Highland gatherings have taken place in Braemar for nine hundred years, since King Malcolm Canmore's rule. The first official Braemar Gathering, however, took place in 1832. Some years see 15,000 or more people attending the Games.

So, let's dive into the various events and competitions that take place at both Games.


Is there anything better than the sound of the bagpipes? Both the Cobourg and Braemar Games feature a variety of pipe and drum bands, with competitors coming from all over to showcase their skills.

Highland dancing is another integral part of the Games, with dancers performing intricate steps to the sound of traditional Scottish music.

Cobourg puts on a real show, with around 25 Pipe Bands performing every year. At the opening cerempnies, attendees are treated to three waves of Pipe Bands marching onto the field, followed by 100 dancers, mostly youngsters,, performing a mass fling! The Clans then march on behind them.

The Braemar Gathering also features the "Massed Pipes and Drums", a spectacular display of over 400 pipers and drummers performing together. 


All Highland Games feature a variety of races, including, sprint, relay and long-distance races. The most iconic of these races is the hill race, in which competitors race to the top of a nearby hill, and back down again. At the Braemar Games the race is known as the "Creag Dhubh" and is one of the most challenging events of the day.

Strength Events

Perhaps the most famous of all Highland Games events is the caber toss, in which competitors attempt to flip a large wooden pole end over end. Both the Cobourg and Braemar Games feature caber tossing, as well as other strength events, such as the hammer throw and the weight over the bar. The Stones of Strength series is particularly popular at Cobourg. This includes the Dinnie Stone competition ( walking as far as possible with 2 stones weighing 425 lbs and 318 lbs ) and the Ardblair Stones, which is lifting 9 stones onto the top of barrels. The stones start at 40 lbs and go up to 335 lbs. This is also a timed event. 

Other Events

Highland Games also feature a range of other competitions and activities. These can include baking competitions, craft competitions, tug-o-war, and even competitions for the dog with the waggiest tail. One of Cobourg's big attractions is the busy Beer Tent. 

Difference between Canadian and Scottish Highland Games

 While both the Cobourg and Braemar Games feature many of the same events and competitions, there are some notable difference between the Canadian and Scottish Highland Games.

Each has its own unique events. For instance, the Braemar Gathering has a "Tilt" event, a horseback competition in which riders aim to hit a small target with a lance, while galloping at high speed.

The Cobourg Highland Games has a Military style Tattoo to honour the country's armed forces.. They also run a fantastic set of events for the children, known as the "Wee Highlanders" events, which includes sword fencing lessons, dancing, face painting and dressing up. Children are also given "Passports" which they take to different Clans to get stamped, while learning about each of the different Clans. They even have a Jacobite site where the youngsters ( and their parents ) can enjoy a re-enactment.

Canadian Highland Games tend to have a wider variety of dancing competitions, compared with the Scottish Highland Games. The Canadian troupes are some of the best in the world! Expect to be treated to the Highland Fling, Sword dances, the Seann Truibhas and more.  Scottish Games tend to focus more on running and throwing events.

Another difference is the weather. Scotland is known for its unpredictable and often rainy weather, while the Cobourg  Games usually ( but not always ) take place in the sunshine. This can effect the nature of some of the events, such as the Braemar hill race, which becomes much more challenging in wet and slippery conditions. The  Cobourg Games don't actually include a hill race, as the local landscape isn't particularly hilly.


The Braemar Gathering is a large event drawing in huge crowds every year. The Cobourg Highland Games and Scottish Festival is a more intimate event that includes lots of other activities, alongside traditional competitions. Both events are an excellent opportunity to experience Scottish Culture and tradition and are well worth attending Braemar or Ontario.


This article was kindly produces by Best Scottish Tours ( ) a small group tour company that loves touring with visiting Canadians! 

The above picture is the village of Braemar, in the Heart of the Scottish Highlands

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