Your Guide to Grandfather Mountain 2013

Grandfather Mountain and McRae Meadows – Home to the GFM Highland Games

Grandfather Mountain and McRae Meadows – Home to the GFM Highland Games

With only one week to go until the beginning of the largest Highland Games held outside of Scotland, this years gathering at Grandfather Mountain is shaping up to be one of the biggest. The games are held in the North Carolinian high country over four days attracting more than 50,000 punters, and coincide with the Council of Scottish Clans Association’s (COSCA) Clan Caucus. With so much to see and do, I’ve put together a handy highlights guide for all of our North American friends attending.

The first games were held in 1956, making this years celebrations the 58th annual event. North Carolina boasts a rich history of Scottish immigration, and the game’s location high on the slopes of Grandfather Mountain is said to closely resemble Kintail in the Scottish Highlands. Donald McDonald, co-founder of the first event, modeled the original games upon a 1954 souvenir programme he received from the Braemar Highland Games and included events such as highland wrestling, tug o’ war, shot put, tossing the caber and various running races. A piping and highland dance competition were also held. Small by todays standards, the games were an instant success and generated an enormous amount of interest in Scottish heritage, inspiring the formation of Highland Games in other American states.  Over the years more events were added to the programme including music competitions, a parade of the tartans, ceilidhs and the grueling hill-race known as ‘The Bear’.

The Games will be held from Thursday 11th till Sunday 14th July at MacRae Meadows on Grandfather Mountain near Linville, North Carolina. The opening ceremony begins at dusk on Thursday, with a torchlight ceremony where representatives of each of the 100 clans and 16 societies announce their family’s participation in the gathering. This ‘raising of the clans’ proclaims that they have once again come together to celebrate their heritage. In addition to the many sporting and music competitions held over the weekend, there’s plenty of other events including an open air scottish-market, ancestry and clan tents, sheepdog demonstrations, kids competitions, a Celtic rock concert, the parade of tartans and a country dance gala.

hammerHighland Games Events
At the centre of the gathering are the highland games events, where athletes will compete in traditional heavyweight events such as turning the caber, tossing the sheaf and the hammer throw. On Friday evening 800 runners will participate in a five-mile footrace, called “The Bear,” that climbs 1,568 feet in elevation from the town of Linville to the summit of Grandfather Mountain. The next test of extreme endurance is the 45th running of the Grandfather Mountain Marathon on Saturday. A clan tug o’ war will take place on Sunday afternoon.

danceMusic and Dance Events
The music and dance competitions begin on Saturday, with groups and individuals competing in piping, drumming, fiddle, harp and dance events. The highlight of the programme is the Highland Dancing Atlantic International Championship where the finest Scottish dancers will compete for the distinguished title. The Celtic Jam takes place on Friday night and features performers that blend the traditional Celtic sounds of the Isles with the traditional bluegrass sounds of the Southern Appalachians. Performers include Tuatha Dea, Cutthroat Shamrock, Ed Miler and Barleyjuice.

coscaCOSCA Scottish Clan Caucus – Thursday 11th July
Held over one day prior to the opening of the games, the Clan Caucus is a forum for clan societies and organisations to make their voices heard. This years theme centres around finding the best way forward for Scottish America and features an impressive array of speakers including:

  • Sir Malcolm MacGregor of MacGregor – Convenor of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs and Chief of Clan Macgregor
  • Jamie, Lord Sempill (Keynote Speaker) – Coordinator of the 2009 Clan Gathering
  • Rt. Hon. Henry McLeish – Former Scottish First Minister
  • Dr. Bruce Durie Ph.D, FSAScot, FHEA FIGRS FCollT OLJ. – former head of Genealogical Studies at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow and Chair of the Ancestral Tourism Steering Group for Scotland

Topics up for discussion on the day include the future of international clan gatherings, what Scotland can do to make ancestral tourism even better and sustaining Scottish heritage in America. COSCA’s AGM will take place at the games on Saturday at 2pm under the chieftan’s tent on McRae Meadows. Following this, you can join the caucus special guests for an informal open ‘field discussion’ led by Sir Malcolm.

In the days immediately following the games, COSCA will formulate and publish a Grandfather Mountain Scottish Clan Caucus Summary Report 2013. This report will chronicle the discussions, disagreements and areas of consensus reached during the caucus and will provide a useful starting point in figuring out the way forward for the American diaspora.


Information regarding ticketing, accomodation, parking and directions to Grandfather Mountain can be found at the Games website –

And for information on the Clan Caucus, head on over to COSCA’s website for all the latest updates, including the finalised agenda –


About Nadine Lee

Originally from New Zealand, Nadine is a documentary researcher now based in the north east of Scotland.

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One thought on “Your Guide to Grandfather Mountain 2013

  1. Peter Munro

    I’ve not heard of Grandfather Mountain before but the description on Wikipedia and views here make it look like a spectacular setting for a highland games and clan gathering.

    I just wish I could be there.

    I hope that any of your visitors who come to Scotland for the 2014 Gathering will come and attend one (or more) of our talks.

    Peter Munro

    Borders Family History Society
    Scottish Charity no SC005531

    Keep up to date with our blog on

    Follow the Society @BordersFHS on Twitter.


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