Braemar

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Unveiling Braemar's visitor centre

As the Highland Games get underway and Braemar’s anticipated visitor centre nears completion, we discover what makes the Games such a cultural institution

With this year’s Highland Games promising a summer of memorable events across Scotland, the Deeside village of Braemar prepares to unveil a world-class update ahead of September’s iconic Braemar Gathering. The purpose-built visitor centre, supported by The Prince’s Foundation, is rapidly taking shape. Once finished, it will champion the Games’ 200 years of history, with a gallery, exhibition space – showcasing medals, trophies and memorabilia – café and gift shop making it a destination for those within Scotland and beyond. Ahead of this year’s Braemar Gathering, Charlie Murray, President of the Scottish Highland Games Association, reveals what make the Games such a key part of Scotland’s heritage.

What makes the Highland Games relevant today?

It’s a central part of Scotland’s summer events calendar and is also important to the wider tourist industry – it’s worth tens of millions of pounds to the local economy each year.

How do the Games differ from place to place?

The Games have not changed much over the years and follow traditions set at early events. The biggest difference between the Games are the unique settings in which they are held – village greens and historic castles, some in view of some stunning scenery – and the drive through Scotland to the events is something special.

An photo of Ballater Station Work underway at Braemar

What makes the Braemar Gathering unique?

It’s seen by many as the most famous Highland Games, with the best athletes, pipers and dancers from around the world. The annual visit by Her Majesty the Queen and other members of the Royal Family also helps make the Braemar Gathering special.

What impact will the Braemar visitor centre have?

It will be the focal point for Highland Games across the globe, giving people the opportunity to discover the Games’ origins, the history of the tartans and the royal links to Braemar. There has been a lot written on the Games’ heritage but this will be the first place where our proud tradition and culture can be witnessed.

What’s your favourite memory of the Games?

I started out with the Forfar tug of war team in 1978 and have served as president of the Scottish Highland Games Association for the past five years. Standout memories include being part of the Braemar Party at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, being made an honorary member of the Lonach Society in 2016 and taking part in the 2017 March – something I will treasure for the rest of my life.

The Games are on from 13th May -15th September, with the Braemar Gathering commencing 1st September. Contact the Scottish Highland Games Association shga.co.uk for full information.

Words Ben Olsen

Photography by Lisa Boyd