Who's the biggest and strongest? Who is the best dancer, piper or drummer?  What better reasons to hold a festival than to pit the best against each other.  That's what a Highland Games is.  It originated among the Scots’ Celtic ancestors in the highlands of Scotland and became a customary part of life. Heavy events such as tossing the caber and putting the stone, and competitions in playing bagpipes – including piobaireachd – and Highland dancing formed the core of the festivities to determine who could best represent various Scottish clans or work for the chief or chieftain. Emigration from Scotland dispersed the Highland games and brought them to North America where they have flourished.

The highland games is a smorgasbord of activities, sights, sounds, and tastes. In addition to the competitions, there are a host of other activities for every taste, from our whisky school, to a haggis hunt for the kids, British cars and food, a Quidditch competition (yes, with brooms), sword-fighting workshops, an expanded beer garden with entertainment including a closing ceilidh (party) to send everyone home happy and of course, the thunderous sound of the massed pipes and drums following our Grand Finale at 4pm.

In the far southeast corner is the Highland Village, where you will find tents dedicated to the cultural aspects of Scotland and the Scots in British Columbia,who have been in this province for more than 150 years, arriving with the fur traders. Names such as Fraser, Thompson and Campbell are common in BC, and all are Scots. Check out the Cultural Tent as we commemorate those great Scots and Scottish organizations and pipe bands of yesteryear, including The Seaforth Highlanders and the Vancouver Ladies pipe bands. Both are being recognized along with many other interesting facts of Scots in BC.

For a further taste of culture, visit the demonstration tents to explore Robert Burns, kilt making, cultural fusion in the Pacific Northwest or the Gaelic language and song. Topics are subject to change, so check back here just before the games for the final schedule.

Highland Games at Hastings Park circa 1926

A History of Highland Games in Canada

A Highland Society was first organized in Ontario in 1819 but lapsed after “many successful gatherings.” More permanent games were established in 1838 by the Caledonian Club of PEI. Similar games followed in Lancaster, Toronto, Cape Breton, Montréal and Zorra, and by Confederation in Halifax, Antigonish, Chatham, Ottawa and Vancouver. Our Games have been around in one form or another since the 19th century. The Caledonia Games and the Vancouver Highland Games are two of the names we have used in the past. 

Today the local Games are run by the BC Highland Games Committee under the auspices of The United Scottish Cultural Society.



Pipes, Drums, & Bands

A pipe band is a musical ensemble consisting of pipers and drummers.

The most common form of pipe band, the Scottish pipe band, consists of a section of pipers, a section of side drummers known as a drum corps, several tenor drummers and a single bass drummer. The tenor drummers and bass drummer are often referred to collectively as the midsection.

Standard instrumentation for a pipe band is from 6 to 25 pipers, 3 to 10 side drummers, 1 to 4 tenor drummers and 1 bass drummer. Occasionally this instrumentation is augmented to include additional instruments (such as additional percussion instruments or keyboard instruments), however this is typically done only in concert settings.


Highland Dance

Highland dance or Highland dancing is a style of competitive solo dancing developed in the Scottish Highlands in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the context of competitions at public events such as the Highland games, where it is often performed to the accompaniment of Highland bagpipe music. It is now seen at nearly every modern-day Highland games event.

Highland dancers wear specialized shoes called ghillies.

Highland dance has been subject to many influences from outside the Highlands. For example, it has been heavily influenced by the aesthetics of the patrons of Scotland since the nineteenth century.

Highland dance should not be confused with Scottish country dance. Highland dance is its own sport, with millions of dancers competing across the planet.


Heavy Events

In their original form many centuries ago, Highland games revolved around athletic and sports competitions. Through these competitions the king would select the finest athletes to be his personal guard and entourage. The games were also a way for the clans to demonstrate their relative strength to each other with actually having to go too war. Some of the implements used in the games were created as alternatives to traditional weapons when England forbid any Scotsman from bearing arms.

Though other activities were always a part of the festivities, many today still consider Highland athletics to be what the games are all about—in short, that the athletics are the Games, and all the other activities are just entertainment.

Regardless, it remains true today that the athletic competitions are at least an integral part of the events and one—the caber toss—has come to almost symbolize the Highland games. Although quite a range of events can be a part of the Highland athletics competition, a few have become standard.



Piobaireachd, pronounced “pea-brock,” is the classical music of the Great Highland Bagpipe and for which the highest awards in the bagpiping competitions world are given.

A more general term is Ceòl Mor (Scottish Gaelic ceòl mór) meaning the “Great Music” which separates piobaireachd from the more popular dances, reels, marches and strathspeys which are called Ceòl Beag or “Little Music.” There is freedom in the piobaireachd to express joy, sadness, or sometimes in the “gathering” tunes , a peremptory warning or call to arms.

Join us on Friday afternoon for the BC Highland Games Open (pro) Pìobaireachd Competition



The Highland Village is the cultural centre of the BC Highland Games, where you can meet new and old friends, and enjoy the camaraderie of the Games and maybe even a wee dram.

The Highland Village is a cluster of tents at the south east end of the field, home to the Workshop Tent, Cultural Tent and Whisky School as well as a number of events over the day and a half of the BC Highland Games.



Tartan has without doubt become one of the most important symbols of Scotland and Scottish Heritage and with the Scots National identity probably greater than at any time in recent centuries, the potency of Tartan as a symbol cannot be understated. However, it has also created a great deal of romantic fabrication, controversy and speculation into its origins, name, history and usage as a Clan or Family form of identification.

Tartan is a woven material, generally of wool, having stripes of different colours and varying in breadth. The arrangement of colours is alike in warp and weft - that is, in length and width - and when woven, has the appearance of being a number of squares intersected by stripes which cross each other; this is called a 'sett’.

The BC tartan was designed by Earl K Ward of Victoria in 1967 as part of the 1966-67 centennial celebrations marking the creation of the province as one colony. The tartan was recorded in the Lyon Court Books (LCB 18) on 8th January 1969. It was officially adopted as the provincial tartan in 1974 through the British Columbia Tartan Act.

The Pacific Dogwood is the official flower of the province and is represented by white in the tartan. Green is for the BC forests. Blue is for the Pacific Ocean, red is for Canada’s national emblem of the maple leaf and gold is for the sun and the crown in the provincial flag.

In BC, the White Spot Pipe Band and Highland Dancers proudly wear the BC Tartan as its official band kilt.

Information for the “British Columbia” tartan is held within The Scottish Register of Tartans.



BC Tartan