New Hampshire Highland Games

Visit Loon Mountain the third weekend in September and you’ll see kilts. Lots and lots of kilts.

This kilt is fierce
This kilt is fierce

You’ll see policemen wearing kilts. You’ll see babies wearing kilts. You’ll see dogs wearing kilts. You’ll see plenty of kilts, is what we’re saying.

So why the kilts? Each year during the third weekend of September, Loon Mountain plays host to the New Hampshire Highland Games, one of the largest Scottish gatherings in the country. Running from Sept. 20 to Sept. 22, it’s an incredible three-day celebration of (you guessed it) kilts, caber tossing, and all things Scottish.

If you’ve never been to the Highland Games, your first visit will blow you away. Walk up the ski slope above the Governor Adams Lodge and you’ll see dogs herding flocks of sheep across the steep hillside. These are the Sheep Dog Trials. It’s serious stuff.

A sheepdog vies for herding supremacy.
A sheepdog vies for herding bragging rights.

Look down the same slope and you’ll see big guys – some former NFL players – tossing the caber, hefting massive stones through the air, and performing other athletic feats that would give hernias to lesser mortals. It’s called ‘Scottish Heavy Athletics,’ and after watching it for a few minutes, you’ll understand why.

Don't let the kilts fool you. These guys mean business.
Don’t let the kilts and hay bale fool you. These guys mean business.

But the festival is about way more big guys in tartan. The whole event feels like someone crammed the entire country of Scotland – all 30,000 square miles of it – against the base of the mountain.

Walk across the festival grounds and you’ll be able to stroll through a clan village, watch a fiddle or harp competition, and listen to innovative Scottish bands like the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Albannach. If you’re looking for more traditional music, park yourself by the parade grounds to watch massed pipe bands from across the country strut their stuff.

Albannach: not your grandfather's pipe band.
Albannach: not your grandfather’s pipe band.

When you’ve had your fill of music, you’ll probably want to grab something to eat. You could get a regular sandwich, but why? You’re in sort-of-Scotland, so make the most of it! Vendors will be there serving haggis, cock-a-leekie soup, lamb, and pretty much every Scottish dessert you can imagine. We saw haggis potato chips last year, so you can rest easy knowing that even the junk food is Scottish.

Haggis-flavored potato chips. Bet you can't eat just one.
Haggis-flavored potato chips. Bet you can’t eat just one.

And don’t forget to swing by the shopping village, where, among other Scottish mementos, you can buy yourself a genuine tartan kilt. Everybody needs a kilt, even if they’re not Scottish.

You can purchase tickets to the New Hampshire Highland Games in advance here

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