Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain Date Back to 1956

The caber toss at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill

On August 19, 1956, the first Grandfather Mountain Highland Games were held near Linville.

The Grandfather Mountain games were conceived by Agnes MacRae Morton and Donald MacDonald. Already active in with several Scottish-affiliated organizations in the U.S., MacDonald was inspired to start games in North Carolina after attending a similar event on a trip to Scotland. Morton heard of a similar gathering in Connecticut and thought that Grandfather Mountain would be the perfect setting to try something comparable in North Carolina.

The pair chose the August 1956 date to commemorate the anniversary of an important event in the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion against in Scotland, though the event was moved to the second weekend in July two years later.

The Avery County event quickly gained international fame, and its competitions in athletics, bagpiping, drumming and dancing are recognized worldwide. The games also have the distinction of being the largest “clan gathering” in the world since it draws so many Scottish family heritage groups.

The tradition of highland games across North Carolina is owed to the face that the Tar Heel State had the largest settlement of Highland Scots outside of Scotland until well into 1800s.

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