Up to 10,000 people are expected to flock to the Mey Highland Games today where a special guest is to serve as the games chieftain.
Prince Charles, The Duke of Rothesay, is to take up the role after spending the past week at Castle of Mey – the only home his grandmother the Queen Mother ever owned.
The Duke will attend the event in John O’Groats, where he is expected to run the rule over the tug-of-war event.
And his appearance at the games come as two paintings, never before seen by the public, go on display at the Society of Caithness Artists’ exhibition at Thurso High School.
The Mey Highland Games was first held in the village of Mey to celebrate the Queen Mother’s 70th birthday, and such was her delight that she encouraged organisers to hold it every year.
To honour his grandmother’s memory, Charles has been known to attend the games on a regular basis, but not every year has gone to plan.
In 2008, after enduring a gale-lashed day, the prince was unable to judge the tug-of-war because the man who was due to bring the rope failed to turn up.
That did not put the prince off and has been back regularly to support the event, which has grown in size – and moved venue in recent years.
The funding of the Mey Highland Games has also received a boost thanks to their famous chieftain, with The Duke’s charitable fund contributing a “significant sum” towards the running costs of the event.
Robert Lovie, director of outreach for The Prince’s Foundation, said: “His Royal Highness is well-known for his love of Caithness and its traditions.
“Mey Games forms such a significant aspect of the cultural calendar and, as chieftain of the games and patron of the Scottish Highland Games Association, The Prince has always championed participation of competitors of all ages.
“Through his charity The Prince’s Foundation, His Royal Highness has aided and advised local people to breathe new life into an event that, until a couple of years ago, was struggling to attract competitors and spectators.
“Now, through this donation by The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund, he hopes to help secure the future of the games and ensure that the fantastic new organising committee is equipped to help the event go from strength to strength.”
Andrew Sinclair, chairman of Mey Highland and Cultural Games, welcomed the donation.
He said: “We are very humbled to hear about this extremely generous donation from The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund. It highlights the longstanding support and commitment our chieftain has for the Mey Games.
“Looking towards the future, we would love to see this money go towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of the event, which will inevitably mean investing in new equipment and wider resources.”
The Mey Highland Games includes all the favourites of a traditional Highland Games, including throwing and lifting contests such as the shot put, tug-of-war, caber toss and hammer throw – as well as Highland dancing, piping and local crafts.