September 3, 2011

0 Braemar Gathering: We Saw Queen Elizabeth II!

Going to a Highland Gathering was one of the first Great Britain "musts" to make my list after we found out we were moving here.  (Yes, my Scotland obsession was already well-grounded before I ever saw the country.) I looked into a few, and the most popular is the annual Braemar Gathering, located near Balmoral Castle, the Royal Residence in Aberdeenshire.
The Queen attends this gathering every year.
 I promptly ordered tickets.

The day started out cold, wet, and overall miserable- but my excitement wasn't tarnished.  We drove to the site, parked, and joined the crowd.  Instead of feeling like a major-sporting event, the whole day unfolded like an adult Field Day (Sports Day, in the U.K.).  It was organized chaos, with multiple events happening simultaneously and people setting up, breaking down, and milling around the events.  

Laird Cawte and Lady Banknock of Middlebank.
I have no idea why they are important, but they are in our guidebook and walked around the grounds in their tartan the entire day.

The stage was mostly occupied by Highland dancers, who were enviably skilled and quite entertaining.

The stage faced the judges and the Royal box, so we mostly got the rear view.

You can't have a Scottish celebration without drums and pipes!

This competition involved throwing a weight over a high bar.  Doesn't seem so hard, right?  The weights are 28, 42, and 56 pounds. 

The Hill Race is the big event for the day.  Competitors run a set route looping up the hill in the back ground of all the images.

If you look for little white dots in a diagonal line bottom left to upper right of the hill, those are the runners. 

A flare gun lets us know the first runner has reached the top!

Here the winner is, crossing the finish line.  

The Royal box was abuzz with security and setup all morning long.  The boxed was framed in blooming heather and lavender from the region.

These gentlemen set up the arrival route of the Royal party.

Here she is, Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh!

One of the dancers brought Queen Elizabeth a wreath.

The events continued- check out how huge the competitors are, and- kilts!

Tossing the caber is another unique event.  The caber is 16' 4"  99 lbs, 20' 1"  121 lbs, or 19' 9" 132lbs, depending on the event.

The distance of the toss is not the most important factor- the caber must fall away from the competitor and the goal is to have it land at a perfect 12:00, as if a hand on a clock.

The long jump.

There were some purely fun events- a sack race!

Of course, there were many presentations both to and from HRH.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, also attended, with his wife, Samantha (she's seated on the far left).

We, along with a host of other spectators, checked out the Royal box after the day was over.
Here we are!  Paul's in Queen Elizabeth's seat!

side note: September 3 was also UGA football's opening day, so we had to represent our alma mater!

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