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Royal seal of approval for Ballater Games

The Royals at Ballater Highland Games
The Royals at Ballater Highland Games

For a century and a half, athletes of all descriptions have shown off their talents at the Ballater Highland Games.

But yesterday, the competitors were working extra hard to impress – as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay were among the bustling crowd celebrating the event’s 150th anniversary.

It is the first time in the history of the games that the royal family have attended, despite them frequently taking in the Braemar Gathering in September.

The Royals at Ballater Highland Games
The Royals at Ballater Highland Games

Prince Charles drove himself and his wife from Birkhall, on the Balmoral estate, to the arena at Monaltrie Park, where they were met by rousing cheers from the crowd.

Camilla, dressed in a green Roy Allen outfit featuring the Rothesay tartan, was presented with a posy of pink flowers and thistles by 11-year-old Highland dancer Abigael Gray.

The duchess’s grandchildren also made an appearance, running up to hug her.

Ballater Highland Games
Ballater Highland Games

After being welcomed by Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire, James Ingleby and members of the games committee – including chairman John Sinclair and secretary Ron Drever – the massed pipe band paraded around the field before the couple were given a tour of the various stalls.

Their first stop was the Homecoming Tent, where they viewed pictures of Deeside from days gone by, with Camilla taking particular interest in the images of Birkhall.

Alistair Cassie, chairman of the Ballater Local History Group, said afterwards: “She was very interested in Birkhall and said she wished she had her glasses with her.

The Royals at Ballater Highland Games
The Royals at Ballater Highland Games

“Prince Charles also liked the photos of Bob Shaw, he was a champion shot-putter from here.”

The pair signed the group’s visitor log, before moving onto the Clan Farquharson tent and out into the crowd of waiting spectators, all poised to snap their own photos of the occasion.

Ballater Highland Games
Ballater Highland Games

As they mingled with the crowd, shaking hands and chatting to visitors, they stopped to hear how Colin and Lesley Wilson make their leathered goods.

Mr Wilson stayed up until 11.30pm on Wednesday night and was up early again yesterday to finish off the range of sporrans and skean dhus on sale, but said: “It was all worth it. They were very interested in hearing how we made them by hand.”

Ballater Highland Games
Ballater Highland Games

Over at the Cambus O’May Cheese stall, Prince Charles sampled some of the produce before picking his favourite Auld Reekie to take home.

Noel Callaghan, from the firm, said: “I introduced him to Marie Aubert, our French student, and told him we were teaching the French to make cheese, which he liked.”

The Royals at Ballater Highland Games
The Royals at Ballater Highland Games

The duke and duchess eventually made their way over to the chieftain’s tent to take in some of the games, and watched several of the athletic races while the young Highland dancers performed the fling and swords as the heavyweights continued in the background.

Later in the day, the massed pipes – made up of Ballater, Towie, Ellon, Kintore and 47th Culter Boys Brigade bands – paraded around the field to welcome chieftain Captain Alwyne Farquharson, of Invercauld.

Ballater Highland Games
Ballater Highland Games

GM Drever said he thought about 4,000 people had turned out for the games.

He said: “It’s been a great day, really fabulous.

“Their Royal Highnesses enjoyed themselves so much they were here longer than they were meant to be. It’s the first time we’ve had any royalty visit us, and it’s nice they came on our 150th year, we’re really chuffed.”

The Royals at Ballater Highland Games
The Royals at Ballater Highland Games

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