Visitors from across the globe travelled in their thousands to sun-drenched Aboyne this weekend for the start of the Highland Games season in Royal Deeside.
More than 10,500 people attended the 152nd annual Aboyne Highland Games on Saturday – up from last year’s attendance of 9,500.
The festivities commenced with nine massed pipe bands marching through the Deeside village and onto the green, before the performers filled the grounds with resounding traditional Scottish music for the rest of the event.
International visitors from as far afield as Kenya, New Zealand and Hawaii met in the clan tents to find out more about their ancestry.
One of the special guests this year was Duncan Mackintosh, the American great-grandson of William Mackintosh, the Lord Provost of Aboyne and chairman of the village’s inaugural Highland Games in 1867.
Mr Mackintosh made the 3,000-mile journey from his home in New England to Scotland with his family after discovering his ancestor’s connection to the historic celebration of Scottish culture last year.
To commemorate his attendance, the committee presented Mr Mackintosh with a special plaque during the opening ceremony.
Mr Mackintosh said: “It felt as if my great-grandfather was standing right there with me, and it was a real honour.
“I may be born in America, but I feel as Scottish as any American can be, and being able to take part in this event has been completely remarkable.
“I have not only discovered the history of my great-grandfather, but I have discovered so much more.”
He added: “It was a very special moment that I won’t forget.”
Crowds of enthusiastic fans packed out the stands surrounding the arena to enjoy watching traditional dancers, athletes and musicians give their all throughout the day.
While the visitors were able to catch a tan and bask in the glorious sunshine, the sweltering temperatures provided an additional challenge for those taking part in events such as the hill race, the tug o’ war and, of course, the most iconic highland game challenge of tossing the caber.
Alistair Grant, the chairman of the games, said: “Aboyne has shone today, there has been a fantastic buzz around the green all day long.
“We’ve welcomed a big crowd, one of the largest in recent years, and the weather has been glorious.
“The standard of competition was again high, and there was some lovely music coming from the solo piping and fiddle competitions.”
As the games drew to a close, a very special performance brought the festivities to a sombre end when the Somme Battlefield Pipe Band played poignant music as the chieftain’s banner was lowered.
The French band, who visited Aboyne as part of a two-week tour of Scotland to mark its 30th anniversary, were clad in traditional military attire to honour the men from Deeside and beyond who gave their lives during the First and Second World Wars.
The group’s pipe major Yves Holbecq said: “Today was very lovely, because most of the guys have never taken part in the Highland Games before, so to do so today under a lovely Scottish sun was really nice.
“We have great links with many of the bands here, including Ballater and Huntly, so we really enjoyed ourselves.
“Many of the people wanted to welcome us in the French language, which we appreciated very much.
“People were very happy to see we don’t forget our ancestors who took part in the war, so we wear the uniform of that period to keep their memories alive.”
The chairman of the games added: “It has been an honour to have the Somme Battlefield Pipe Band join us today, which has allowed us to pay tribute to those local men who fought for their king and country during both World Wars.
“The beating retreat was conducted beautifully, and provided a very poignant moment for reflection as a successful day drew to a close.”