Saturday, August 23, heralds the 173rd Lonach Highland Gathering and Games, to be held in Bellabeg Park, Strathdon. The day begins with the procession of the Lonach Highlanders departing Bellabeg at 8am on their march along the glen, returning to the Lonach Hall for lunch at 11.30am.
Marie, the Highland pony from Johnshaven, will be pulling the cart this year at the rear of the march, led by owner David Duncan and Lonach Highlander Derek Gray. It’s always a spectacular sight to see in the early morning and members of the public are welcome to follow the march on foot.
Pibroch competitions start at 10.30am. Entertainment will be provided in the centre arena, with the Towie Pipe Band at 11am being the first of three bands to play throughout the day; Huntly and Ballater will follow at 11.30am and noon. There will be a demonstration from the Lonach Society School of Highland Dancing on the local dance board at noon and this will be followed by the Highland dancing competitions, sponsored by Walkers Shortbread, throughout the afternoon on both the local and open boards. This year, there will be competitors from as far afield as New Zealand, Canada and Australia.
The Lonach Highlanders, almost 200 in total, led by the Lonach Pipe Band, will arrive back in the arena at 1pm and parade again at 3pm. Beating Retreat with the Lonach Pipe Band is at 5.30pm.
The hill race sets off just after the 3pm march, a 3.5-mile run through beautiful woodlands surrounding Strathdon. Once again, the hill race is sponsored by Subsea7, based at Westhill, Aberdeen.
Heavy events, sponsored by Glenfiddich and light events sponsored by Williamson & Dunn commence at 12.30pm and continue throughout the afternoon with a variety of children’s races taking place mid-afternoon. All competitors should register at the secretary’s office on the day (except for the hill race, where registration is at the information tent). Taking part in the heavy events this year are two athletes from Bressuire in France who compete all over Europe in the various Highland games held each year.
Over 50 trade stands, various catering food outlets and a beer tent are all available throughout the day.
Entry to the games is £7 for adults and £3 for children aged five to 15. Car parking is free. Some ringside seating may still be available on the day from the information tent.
There will be a licensed dance in the Lonach Hall after the games, with music by The Elaine Stewart Band.
Tickets are £10 each and must be pre-purchased either from Bellabeg shop or the secretary – no tickets will be sold on the night.
The annual Lonach Ball will be held on Friday, August 29, with dancing to the Graeme Mitchell Dance Band and a four-course dinner provided by Harry Fraser Catering. Tickets must be pre-booked and cost £40 each, available from the secretary. Inquiries to Jennifer Stewart, secretary, on 019756 51772 or e-mail Jennifer@lonach.org