Gaming with the Scots: Highland Games bring Scottish charm to the Cape Fear area

Mar 24 • EXTRA! EXTRA!, Feature, FEATURE SIDEBARNo Comments on Gaming with the Scots: Highland Games bring Scottish charm to the Cape Fear area

The Cape Fear Highland Games (CFHG) will host their inaugural games exhibition on March 28. North Carolina has one of the highest concentrations of Scottish lineage in the nation, making this event an exciting opportunity for Wilmington residents to gain an inside look at the heritage found in many of their fellow citizens. While several other Highland Games have taken place in North Carolina, including the 70-year-old Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, this is the first time the Highland Games have made their way to the coast.

highland games

Byron Hamilton, one of the participants in the Cape Fear Highland Games. Courtesy photo.

The Highland Games in Scotland are ancient, originating in Ireland in approximately 2000 B.C. The games came to Scotland with the immigrants who traveled from Ireland during the fourth and fifth centuries. The games are field events held throughout the year to celebrate Scottish heritage, as well as the Highlands. There are seven games in the event, each a test of strength. The games include the caber toss, stone put, Scottish hammer throw, weight throw, weight for height, sheaf toss, and maide leisg (lazy stick). Generally a festival surrounds the event, incorporating traditional Scottish music and food to add to the experience. CFGH will involve many of the same elements.

“Probably the most well-known event is the caber toss,” coordinator Ben Shaw says. “It basically involves a guy holding a telephone pole or trunk of a tree. What he has to do is flip the object end over end to try to make a complete circle. It can weigh up to 160 pounds.”

The games will run throughout the entire day. There will be approximately 30 men and 10 women clad in kilts, each competing in the events. Up to three people will compete at a time, except in the hammer throw; only one person competes in this event. The hammer throw will involve throwing a 12 to 22 pound metal ball attached to the end of a four-foot long shaft.

“Most of the athletes have competed in games from other areas,” Shaw says. “We have competitors coming from Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia.”

The object of each game will be explained before they begin. Later in the day, guests will be given an opportunity to test their own strength by lifting the weights used in the competition.

There will be a break in the middle of the day for lunch. Attending vendors include Rebel Baking, Momma Rock’s and Poor Piggy’s. Cape Fear Brewery and White Street Brewery (outside Wake Forest) also will be offering North Carolina craft beers, and Bud Light will be available, too. This is a family-friendly event and parents are encouraged to bring their children; plenty of activities will be on hand, including face painting, tug of war, and even a few of the Highland games, featuring miniature versions of the equipment.

There will be two live bands performing at the festival: The Blarney Brogues and Barrowburn Celtic Band. There will be a bag-pipe performance to open the ceremony. Providing entertainment along with the bands will be the reenactment of the Battle of Kursk by members the Moores Creek National Battlefield.

“There will also be several Scottish clan heads educating visitors on the history of the Scottish clans and the games as well,” Shaw divulges. “The Scottish Society of the Southeast will also be there to help educate people on the history of the Scottish heritage and the tartan, which is the plaid pattern of the kilt.”

CFHG will be raising money for the non-profit organization Raising Raiders. Raising Raiders aids in the personal and professional resiliency of Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) soldiers and their families. Raising Raiders was founded by four spouses of MARSOC soldiers, who work to provide programs that enrich and empower the children of MARSOC families. They are advocates of awareness in the areas of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injury in veterans.

Tickets will be $10 at the door, and they will be available beforehand at the Pour House Bar in downtown Wilmington and online ( The event takes place off Randall Parkway, behind the IRS building. Children ages 10 and under will be admitted for free.


Cape Fear Highland Games

3400 Randall Parkway (behind the IRS building)
Saturday, March 28, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tickets: $8 adv/$10 at door

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