Grandfather Mountain Highland Games!
This view alone is worth it…
North Carolina is one of those places that I go to and get that “I’m home” feeling. My great-grandparents lived in Blowing Rock, NC for many years and we spent summers there until they moved back home. (Home to me, I guess. They were both born in North Carolina so I guess it was home to them.) We haven’t spent as much time there in recent years, but when my daughter found out about the Highland Games in North Carolina it became a must-do on the summer bucket list!
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Personally, I have been obsessed with Scotland (most especially the Highlands) since I read my first historical romance novel in my teen years. (I recommend Jude Deveraux and Julie Garwood if you need some reading material.) I’ve read about it, dreamed about it, and it’s at the top of my list of places I want to visit. Then Outlander came along. Oh my. Sadly, I’ve heard that there are no real Jamie Fraser-like men out there, but my husband probably wouldn’t appreciate that anyway! (I also highly recommend the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon and what I’ve seen of the television series doesn’t disappoint either.)
My daughter has yet to read the Outlander books or finish the series. It is not exactly child appropriate, so I opted to wait until she was an adult to watch it with her or recommend the books. Honestly, she said I’ve told her so much about what happens in both that she’s not sure she even needs to finish them. Oops! However, Brave is still one of her favorite movies and Merida is probably her favorite Disney princess. She is much like Merida in that she is quite confident and not boy-crazy. She also does a great Scottish accent (second only to her Australian) and when she’s not calling me “mam,” it’s “muther” with a burr.
Some years, taking a long summer vacation isn’t a possibility so we take short trips here and there. The Highland Games on Grandfather Mountain was one such trip. If you have never been there, it needs to go on your list immediately. Such a gorgeous place!!
The actual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games go from Thursday to Sunday with various events like the caber toss, sheaf toss, track and field competitions, dance competition, Piping, Drumming, sheep herding, bike race, marathon run (up the mountain…shew!), wrestling, fiddling, harp competition, and Gaelic lessons.
There are also various concerts and demonstrations, as well as all kinds of vendors with food, clothing, weapons, jewelry, tartans, and things too numerous to mention. Plus, various clans are represented and you can often find out if you are related to any of them!
We weren’t really sure what to expect, but we had a wonderful time and met some really great people. We also got to see Graham McTavish from the Outlander television series and The Hobbit movies. Spizzie had a rare moment of shyness and wouldn’t go up to have her picture made with him, but most of the 30 and older set didn’t suffer from that same shyness! We did snap a pic and get a chance to hear him speak. Like butter, that one. (In case you don’t know, that’s a big compliment at our house!) Also, the Super Trooper has decided he wants to compete in the Highland Games next year. I’m a little interested to see what he looks like in a kilt.
Update: Even after all this time, my baby girl REALLY regrets not talking to Graham McTavish.
Graham McTavish (from Outlander) and a random warrior woman (maybe Boadicea??).
It is definitely something that everyone should visit at least once and I did learn a few things while we were there.
- The mountains of North Carolina are beautiful and the temperatures are so much more pleasant than most Southern places in July! I already knew this, but it’s been a long time and I had forgotten.
- Not just everyone can pull off a kilt. They will give it heck trying though!
- The people who can pull off a kilt do it incredibly well. : )
- Haggis is gross. I will try it again someday, but I’m pretty sure that I want to wait until we can get to Scotland and have the real deal. I’m also pretty sure it’s still going to be gross.
- When a Scottish man says “my pleasure” in that lovely, incredible, sublime accent, you tend to believe he means it. It is also quite possible that you will request that your husband learn how to say it with a Scottish accent and repeat it over and over, to which he will reply “not likely.” *sigh*
- Some people feel the same way about the Highland Games as others do Renaissance Fairs and ComicCon…i.e., they really get into it! We not only saw people in various “Highland” garb, but there were also fairies, warrior women, and even Braveheart. Twenty men coming at you with blue faces might be intimidating. One is just a Blue Man Group audition.
- Write this down. Post it where you can see it. You will need it later, I promise. It is impossible–I repeat, impossible–to please a hungry and tired teenage girl. Give her a sandwich and a place to lie down. It’s best for everyone.
- There is something about the sound of bagpipes echoing through the hills. Oh, my heart.
- It is possible to drive a school bus on a curvy, narrow, dirt road in the mountains at a rapid speed.
- There are a whole lot of Scottish clans in the United States. There is believed to be a higher percentage of Highland descendants in the United States than in Scotland. That seems weird to me, but when you consider how many migrated to Ireland early on and then to the U.S. after the Highland Clearances, I guess it makes sense.
Welcome to the Highland Games. They couldn’t help us find our clan, but I think mine is still there. I should probably visit!
Clan Tents and Competition Field
Couldn’t find Jamie anywhere. Bummer.
Sheep. Because why not.
A t-shirt. Also, why not. Look closely.
I also have a few recommendations for anyone visiting the area.
- Take cash to the Highland Games. They will sell tickets in Linville if you have a debit/credit card, but on-site you will need cash. Most of the vendors appear to take cards, but cash is just easier. Always check the website or their Facebook Page before you go.
- Don’t miss out on Blowing Rock. It is a gorgeous little town and there is always something going on. There are concerts and art shows and they will loan you tennis rackets, volleyballs, and other sporting equipment in the park. The scenery alone is worth it!
- While in Blowing Rock, make sure to eat at Foggy Rock. Oh Em Goodness! It is probably one of the best restaurants that I have been to in a long time. Spizzie recommends the Notorious P.I.G., but I think the Fried Green Tomato Sliders with Pimento Cheese are the bomb! Make sure to ask for Bacon Jam instead of just bacon. If you are really hungry, try the Appalachian Peach Marmalade. It is soooo delicious! The Super Trooper was amazed that they were so generous with the pita points. He says it’s rare to go anywhere that gives you enough chips or bread to dip in something! I wanted to try dessert, but we were just too full. Update: The menu has changed since last we were there, but I think it would be worth it to ask if they can still make these dishes!! The worst they can say is “no”!!
- We stayed in a chain hotel and it was fine, but if you can get a reservation I recommend staying in a cabin or one of the local inns/B&Bs. (We thought about camping, but I just wasn’t ready for that.) The inns and cabins are just so much homier than the hotels though. One of the accommodations on my bucket list is The Ridgeway Inn. When I was a little girl, my great-grandparents actually owned the main house that their office is in now and the cottage out back is where my great-great grandmother lived. I spent a lot of happy times in that house, so I’d love to see what the inside looks like after all the remodeling. Even though it’s very pretty on the outside, it’s totally different from the house I spent time in and nothing could compare to all of Granny’s flowers. People used to stop all of the time and compliment her. I definitely didn’t inherit her skill!
- Stop by Capone’s in Boone for a pizza fix. They taste amazing and they are so generous with their Garlic Knot appetizer that you almost don’t need anything else. Sorry, there are no food pics. We were a little hungry!
- If you happen to be a geocacher (like my husband and kids tend to enjoy), make sure to have a handheld GPS and buy extra batteries for it. Also, the ones in Boone were hard to find (especially near Appalachian State).
- Travel at least a little way on the Blue Ridge Parkway…just to say you’ve been there!
- No matter why you go, take time to enjoy the mountain scenery. It is breathtaking.
Is this cool or what?? We aren’t sure what this particular peak is called (maybe Table Rock?), but it looks just like a face! I believe the “face” that gave Grandfather Mountain its name is on the side of the mountain and not lying down like this one. I tried to search for it, but I couldn’t find anything. It’s awesome though!
We are hoping to take a larger family trip this fall and I will be able to explore more then. Hopefully, I will have some great restaurants and things to do that I can share with everyone. If you need more suggestions, I can definitely say that Weaverville and Black Mountain are also cute little towns and of course, everybody loves Asheville! Check out VisitNC.com for more info. (I’m not being paid for that, I’m just trying to be helpful!!)
Do you have any North Carolina travel suggestions?