The Northern Meeting, established in 1788 in Inverness, Scotland, is best known for its bagpiping competition in September. These competitions are among the most prestigious solo events in the piping world. The most famous competition is the pìobaireachd competition, which is organized in three tiers. Entry is restricted to fewer than 100 of the world's top pipers, who must re-apply each year.
The entry level competition is the Silver Medal and is restricted to 30 players. Winners of the Silver Medal (and sometimes runners-up) are usually offered a spot to compete for the Gold Medal the following year, which is restricted to 25 to 30 players. Only previous winners of the Gold Medal are allowed to compete for the Clasp, but winning the Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering also qualifies pipers to play for the Clasp at the Northern Meeting.
Among pipers, the world's most prestigious solo piping award is the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting. Similar competitions are held at the Argyllshire Gathering in Oban each year.
The competitions have become more and more international each year, with only 11 pipers from Scotland (of 30 players) in the 2005 Gold Medal competition. Pipers come from other countries such as the USA, Canada, New Zealand, England, Ireland, and Germany.
The Northern Meeting Piping Competitions were held in Aviemore from 2005-2007 during renovations at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness. The 2008 Meeting returned to Eden Court on September 4-5, 2008.
In 1788, thirteen Highland gentlemen met in Inverness to discuss how the social life in the North of Scotland might be enlivened. During the course of their "conversation at length on the subject" the Gentlemen resolved to hold an annual meeting "for the purpose of promoting a social intercourse" and agreed among other resolutions, recorded by Dr John Alves, the first secretary, "that the Object of the Meeting is Pleasure and Innocent Amusement."
The new millennium finds The Northern Meeting a vibrant and enthusiastic society. The piping competitions maintain their pre-eminence in the world of competitive bagpiping, and although changed by an increasingly expatriate and itinerant membership, the annual autumn and Christmas balls are highlights of the season. The modern trend of informality tends to flatten many events but the "grand occasion" of the balls, the friendly formality of the Reels and the sense of occasion creates an unforgettable atmosphere.