The Braemar Gathering returned in the usual flurry of pipes and pageantry this Saturday – for the 200th year.
This year’s gathering took a special bi-centenary theme as more than 10,000 spectators from across the globe arrived in the small Deeside community, made up of fewer than 1,000 residents, for the annual highlight in the highland games calendar.
A total of 12 pipe bands took to the field during the day of celebration with traditional tunes ranging from Cock O the North to A Scottish Soldier.
And it was also a memorable year for the patron of the games, Her Majesty the Queen, who is just days away from becoming the UK’s longest reigning monarch on Wednesday.
Rumours had circulated that the Earl and Countess of Strathearn, Prince William and Princess Katherine, would attend the gathering but they proved unfounded.
However, the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Mark Philips, along with various other members of the royal household, did make the-15 mile journey from Balmoral for the annual spectacle.
The games take place on the first Saturday of every September in the village’s Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial park, and attract visitors from around the world.
Queen Victoria first attended in 1848 and since then it has been a regular holiday highlight for the reigning monarch and other members of the Royal Family.
The year, the clouds at the park parted just in time for the Royal party’s arrival, making way for bright sunshine.
Her Majesty, radiant in a cherry red dress, received a bouquet of flowers from 11-year-old Amy Hall before a rousing rendition of God Save The Queen was sang without musical accompaniment by Robert Lovie.
The party were met by Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire James Ingleby and the president of the Braemar Royal Highland Society David Geddes.
Addressing the Royal party, Robbie Shepherd, who has been commenting at Braemar since 1981, recognised the solemnity of the bi-centenary.
He said: “Once again on behalf of the Braemar Royal Highland Society, it is our privilege to welcome you to the gathering.
“It is also for your Majesty a very special year as we offer our congratulations on the forthcoming landmark in becoming our longest reigning monarch, a service of outstanding devotion to duty and ably supported by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.
“May you all find peace and contentment during your stay with us as neighbours midst the splendour of the heather-covered hills and glorious glens of Deeside.”
The speech was met with rapturous applause before the Athol Highlanders and Lonach Highlanders took to the field to the rousing strains of Scotland The Brave.
The Lonach men and women, armed with 5ft pikes and Lochaber axes, had set off on Friday from the ancient Ringing Stone in Glengairn to mark the 200th anniversary – the first time the march had taken place in 25 years.
The day’s programme was packed with events, including the hill race up Morrone, involving a 3,000ft ascent of the heather-coated Corbett which looms behind the village.
Highland dance competitions, track and field races, and an epic tug of war battle between soldiers, airmen and sailors also proved popular with the crowd.
Vice patron of the games, Captain Alwyne Farquharson of Invercauld M.C, said: “It’s a very special day. It’s amazing to think historically that it’s been 200 years since the founding of the society as it now is.
“With the Athol men and Lonach men marching over, it really is a great day. It’s an occasion I don’t think we will forget.”
Braemar Royal Highland Society secretary Willie Meston said: “It’s a great occasion and great celebration.
“The Royal association has been fantastic, its almost 170 years, since it started and it’s still going on.
“I think people come back for the tradition, people like to see things as they were and that’s the attraction.”