As family days out go, this one ranked among Scotland’s very best.
Thousands of people from across the world gathered in Dunoon today for the spectacular climax of the Cowal Highland Gathering (CHG).
Competitors and spectators alike joined forces to ensure the event’s finale was a day to remember for everyone involved – as it always is.
From the hundreds of dancers and pipers to the heavy athletes, runners, ceilidh bands, stunt cyclists and many other entertainers on show, every participant contributed to what was a fantastic day’s entertainment.
The standard of competition was breathtaking, with many of the world’s top competitors giving their all in a bid go home with the silverware.
Overseeing the action was this year’s Chieftain, former Sky chairman and Cowal resident Nick Ferguson CBE.
One of the highlights of the Gathering’s final day – and one of the most fiercely contested – was, as always, the Cowal Pipe Band Championship.
This year, Inveraray and District Pipe Band managed to hold off the challenge of Johnstone Pipe Band to be crowned winners of the Grade 1 Cowal Pipe Band Championships 2016 and take home the famous Argyll Shield.
In the other sections and grades, the Cowal Pipe Band champions were:
Novice Juvenile B – Kintyre Schools
Novice Juvenile A – Oban High School
Juvenile – Oban High School
Grade 4 – Lanark and District
Grade 4 MSR – Lanark and District
Grade 3 – Kintyre Schools
Grade 3 MSR – Kintyre Schools
Grade 2 – Johnstone
Grade 2 MSR – Johnstone
Inveraray and District won the Best Band on Parade. The champion juvenile drum major was Rowan Murdoch of Denny and Dunipace, and the champion adult drum major was Campbell Gillies of Rothesay and District.
The event also saw the Argyllshire Highland Dancing competitions (for dancers who live in Argyll and Bute) which turned out to be a real family affair. Top honours in the Under 13 category went to Eilidh Gammons from Helensburgh, with her sister Catriona picking up the top prize in the Under 16 category. Rhiannon Charles, also from Helensburgh, triumphed in the 16 years and over class.
Then came the biggest Highland Dancing competition in the world – the World Championship finals - with dancers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA pitting their skills against the best the UK has to offer.
Throughout the afternoon, four of the world’s hottest traditional music bands entertained the crowds in the now-famous ceilidh tent.
Leading the pack once again was Oban-based Skipinnish, who brought the house down when they headlined the show over the last two years and who also wowed the crowds at last night’s Gig at the Gathering.
For the first year ever, there was a new International Heavy Athletics Team competition as well as the traditional individual contests. Four-strong teams (three men and one woman) from Scotland, Germany and Iceland battled it out throughout the afternoon, with Iceland eventually carrying off the new team trophy.
This year, there was a bigger and better selection of entertainment for all ages than ever before.
One of the most popular draws proved to be the Xtreme mountain bike stunt team, which performed three gravity-defying shows to packed audiences.
Cowal Highland Gathering chair Ronnie Cairns said the success of the weekend and the enthusiasm of everyone involved would ensure that this famous event will continue to go from strength to strength.
“Judging from the feedback we’ve been receiving over the last three days, the vast majority of people who have taken part this year – whether competeting or spectating – are going home having had a brilliant time,” he said.
“We very much look forward to welcoming everyone back to Dunoon for the 2017 Gathering.”
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “Scotland is known worldwide as the perfect stage for events and, over the last three days, the 2016 Cowal Highland Gathering has proven how important highland games are to this reputation.”
Dunoon residents and visitors are already starting to line the streets for the event’s show-stopping finale this evening – the massing of the bands and their march down Argyll Street.
A full list of the results of all of the action will be posted on the website (www.cowalgathering.com) as soon as possible.