Saturday, 1 August 2009

Day 19 - Scotland West Coast - Kinlochleven and Fort William - Don't mess with these guys!

While I was staying in Kinlochleven, I drove the 30 miles to Fort William, just to the north. I wanted to see the Braveheart Games. It’s a mini-version of the traditional highland games that are held every year in Scotland. Men resembling mythological Scottish giants - some say they are at least 8 feet high, and over 150 kg - compete against each other in one of the oldest competitive forms of sport known.

The events include:

- shot-putting (probably the best known event, and similar to the Olympic event);

- hammer throwing

-“over-the-bar” throwing (which involves hurling a 26kg weight with one hand backwards over a bar set at about 13 feet. The presenter at the games – himself once a competitor - liked to compare the weight to that “of a seven year-old child”). The record is an amazing 18 feet 7 inches, thrown by Dutchman Wout Zylstra in 2000.

- caber-tossing, the most popular event for the crowds (the competitors throw a tree trunk end-over-end, weighing anywhere between 100 and 200 pounds and a length of between 14 and 22 feet).

The caber toss is won – not by how far the competitor throws it – but how accurately the tree trunk falls on an imaginary clock-face, once it’s gone end-over-end. Twelve o’clock is the goal, and minutes to and minutes after are judged by a referee. The closest throw to twelve o’clock wins! It apparently takes years of practice to get right – there’s obviously a lot of technique involved.

Check out the videos from last lasted three hours, cost only £5, and was entertaining all along. There were also girls performing Scottish highland dancing, and a bagpipe band, of course!

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