The Highlands: Scotland at its most windswept and interesting. This is a place of shimmering lochs and shivering heathlands; of jaggy mountains and bonny castles, all under a gloriously moody, yawning sky. It’s no wilderness, however. It’s the home of proud clans and long-held traditions – many of which are showcased during the Highland games, a celebration of Caledonian sports and heritage. The most prestigious of these events is the Braemar Gathering, at which A&K can secure you an exclusive front-row seat.
The Braemar Gathering is held every September in the village of Braemar, Aberdeenshire. It’s a family-friendly extravaganza of tartan-clad pageantry, during which caber tossing, Highland dancing, pipe bands and more delight spectators. It’s said that the Gathering’s roots stretch back as far as the 11th century, when King Malcolm III of Scotland visited Braemar. It was autumn, when the deer had grown fat for the hunt. Highlanders sought to prove their strength and skill to the king in a range of gruelling competitions, a subtext for the monarch to pick out the best men to defend his realm. The first modern form of the Gathering was held in 1832, and trials of strength – especially in the form of the ‘heavy’ events – remain a popular feature. Queen Victoria granted the games royal status in 1866, and to this day, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles are regular attendees – so you’ll be in royal company.
You deserve a quintessentially Scottish base from which to enjoy this quintessentially Scottish festival, so we’ll put you up in the five-star Fife Arms. The guestbook of this 19th-century hotel spills over with notable names, from famous writers to royalty. The grand interior is adorned with an eclectic collection of art, including works by Picasso and Lucian Freud. Learn all about these masterworks on a guided art tour with the hotel’s ‘art ambassador’. We’ll also arrange for you to dine on gourmet fare in the Clunie Dining Room, amid paintings by Gerhard Richter and Pieter Bruegel. On the day of the games, we’ll have secured you a sought-after spot in the Fife Arms’ private box – the perfect vantage point to watch the festivities.
During your visit, you’ll see a dazzling gamut of tartan, but these patterns mean more to Highlanders than decoration: they symbolise family heritage. We can organise a personal consultation with Araminta Campbell, the artisan responsible for the tartan and tweed that dresses the sumptuous interior of the Fife Arms. She can design a bespoke tartan for your family, woven into priceless garments for you to wear proudly to the Gathering, or simply to take home as a unique souvenir.
With us, the Braemar Gathering can be just one of many highlights on an ultra-luxe Highlands holiday. Begin or end your adventure with a scenic ride aboard the Royal Scotsman. By day, admire sweeping views of heather-feathered moors, misty mountains and sparkling lochs. By night, retreat to your en-suite cabin – one of only 10 – in the luxurious vintage Pullman carriages. Fancy putting your way across the homeland of golf? We can gain you unprecedented levels of access to Scotland’s most iconic greens, including St Andrews’ Old Course, the oldest course in the world; and Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle, usually members-only. Or perhaps you’d like to hit the Highland roads in a supercar of your choosing? A self-drive tour can take you through some of the most ruggedly handsome scenery in the United Kingdom. You’ve a range of tempting routes from which to choose, including Cairngorms National Park’s old military road, and the North Coast 500. You’ll rarely see another soul as the open road rolls out before you like a red carpet.
Lean on the extensive knowledge of our travel specialists and allow us to plan your perfect visit to the Braemar Gathering.