Aboyne Highland Games Hill Race Virtual Route

History of the Aboyne Games

During the era of the Clan system in the Highlands it was the custom of the chiefs to summon their clansmen to periodical gatherings for hunting, the practice of military exercises and the transaction of clan business generally.

In 1703 the Laird of Grant sent a summons to 600 of his people to be ready to go to a gathering in August, and the matter was considered of sufficient importance for a report to be made by the intelligence officer at Inverness to the Governor at Fort William. The records of the summons are preserved in the court books of the regality of Grant, and among other details, it is recorded that those who summoned the Laird of Grant for his “hoisting and hunting” shall provide themselves with “Highland coates, trewes and short hose of tartane of red and greine sett broad springed, also with gun, sword, pistol and dirk.”

Readers of Waverley will recall Sir Walter Scott’s account of such a gathering and of the impromptu athletic competitions that followed the military exercises. Such competitions must have taken place on the Aboyne Green when Mar’s Highland army camped there after marching down from Braemar where they had raised the standard in 1715.

The abolition of the powers of the chiefs which followed the defeat of Culloden and the accompanying banning of all things Highland put an end to such gatherings, but at the beginning of the nineteenth century when the proscription of the tartan and the bagpipes had been lifted, and the nation, thanks to Sir Walter Scott, was beginning to take a keen interest in all things Highland, the gatherings were revived, and since then have spread in every place where there are descendants of the Clans.

The sports which accompany such gatherings still show their links with the past, in the competitions for dancing and bagpipe music, in the granite balls which are used for putting the stone, and in the wooden shafts of the hammer which replace the flexible steel handles, though the conventional head of the blacksmith’s long-handled hammer has been replaced by a metal ball.

Though, in point of age, the Aboyne Games cannot compare with their sister gatherings of Braemar, Ballater and Lonach, they are of respectable antiquity, having been instituted in 1867 and continued without a break, except for two world wars, ever since.

The programme, originally a comparatively simple one – there were only two flat races, 100 yards and quarter mile has grown till it now includes many of the events seen at major athletic competitions. Since time and space are limited it takes considerable organisation and effort to crowd in all the events.

Although money prizes are given, the events adhere to Amateur Athletic Association (A.A.A) ruling – with some minor variations – which allow amateurs to compete without their amateur status being affected. It is the object of the Games Committee to encourage local talent, particularly in the heavy events. Time unfortunately does not permit the running of a parallel series of open and local events, but to encourage locals to enter the open events, prizes are given to any of them who in the competition break a standard laid down.

A great deal of ceremonial and colourful pageantry always accompanied clan proceedings, and at the Games an attempt is made to revive and maintain this.

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This 360 route is a very early build so is not the best but will give an idea of the race.