The origins of the Braemar Gathering are believed to have
been in the 11th Century, when King Malcolm Canmore (King
Malcolm the Great Chief) visited Braemar. We know for certain
that it was customary since medieval days for Clan Chiefs
to gather their followers together in the autumn, when the
deer were fat, for a hunt lasting for several days. During
that time there would be competitions to select the strongest,
the fleetest, and the most skilful warriors. Hundreds of tinchel
(beaters) would be employed, and the deer killed by dirks
or deerhounds. It was quite common for men also to be killed
during this gory climax. In the evenings, sennachies (storytellers)
would vie with each other, and pipers would display their
skill on the great Highland bagpipe. The host Chief and his
guests would watch and listen from the comfort of a rustic
bower or lunquard, built specially for the occasion, and decorated
with heather, fir boughs and rowan berries.
The best known of such gatherings was that held in the Forest
of Mar by the Earl of Mar in 1715, the huge hunt being a pretext
for a conference to plan a nation-wide Jacobite uprising,
and culminating in the raising of the Standard on 6th. September
1715, on a knoll where the Invercauld Arms Hotel now stands.
After the carnage and barbarity which followed on Culloden,
all such gatherings were banned for a time, but could not
be completely supressed. In Braemar, on a prearranged autumn
day, a piper would make his way down Glen Dee, gathering followers
as he went. At the end of the lesser glens, folk would join
the procession, then in Auchindryne (Field of the Thorn),
the villagers would tag on. Up Glen Clunie they would go,
steadily gaining numbers, then down the other side to the
Market Stance in Castleton. The games would then begin, with
exactly the same sort of competitions we see today. This was
to become the Braemar Gathering, and it was well established
by the year 1800, with the procession being known as the Vrichts'
Walk, because of the many wrights in their white aprons.
In 1832 the Highland Society resolved to give £5 for
prize money at the Gathering, and this marked the start of
regulated competitions. Ever since then, the Braemar Highland
Society (Royal since 1866) has organised the Gathering, which
has been held at various venues, including five times at Balmoral,
by Royal command.
1848 marked the first of Queen Victoria's many visits to
the Gathering. The Duke of Leeds at that time leased much
of the shooting on Mar Estate, and he required all of his
staff to wear highland dress, an example followed by Invercauld
and Balmoral. These three contingents of highlanders were
paraded as a Guard of Honour for the Queen, who was delighted.
Thus commenced a Royal patronage, which has continued to this
There are now 66 events, the prize money totals over £12,000.
The all-time record crowd was in 1952, when over 31,000 people
came over the hills to see their new Queen. In 1953, Coronation
year, there was a crowd of over 19,000, and since then the
numbers have stabilised at around 18,000.
The Gathering is always held on the 1st Saturday in September.
Booking enquiries should be made to The Secretary, Braemar
Royal Highland Society, Coilacriech, Ballater. The Society
regrets that accommodation bookings can not be dealt with.
The Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial
Park on Games Day
The Royal Pavilion