Cowal Highland Gathering

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Cowal Highland Gathering
Link cowal.jpg
GenreHighland Gathering
DatesFinal weekend in August annually
Location(s)Dunoon, Cowal, Argyll and Bute
Coordinates55°57′32″N 4°55′26″W / 55.959°N 4.924°W / 55.959; -4.924
CountryScotland, United Kingdom
Years active1894–present

The Cowal Highland Gathering (also known as the Cowal Games) is an annual Highland games held in the Scottish town of Dunoon, on the Cowal peninsula in Argyll and Bute, over the final weekend in August.


Pipe bands filing into the stadium for the salute to the Chieftain and the award announcements at the 2008 event.

The first record of an organised Highland games in the town is in 1871, the same year as the Argyllshire Gathering in Oban started. In subsequent years games were held at New Year.[1]

The event that would evolve into the Cowal Gathering was first held on 11 August 1894, and organised by local man Robert Cameron.[2]

1906 saw the introduction of a pipe band competition for Army bands, at the suggestion of Malcom McCulloch. 25 band entered in 1909, the first year that civilian bands were allowed to compete.[3][4] The Argyll Shield awarded to the winning band in the Grade 1 competition is the oldest pipe band prize still awarded.[5]

The easy access of the to Dunoon by paddle steamer from Glasgow contributed to their popularity.[6] The Games also featured in early television broadcasts.[2]

Until the World Pipe Band Championships started in Glasgow in 1947, Cowal was regarded as the premier pipe band competition.[7]

After a break during the years of World War II, the first post-war Gathering, in 1946, attracted attendances of 28,000. However, the record attendance, to date at least, was in 1950 when 30,000 visitors attended, one of whom was then-Prime Minister Clement Attlee.[2] In the post-war period the Games continued to be patronised by titled landowners such as the Duke of Argyll.[8]


Pipe band competition[edit]

As the last Major competition in the season, Cowal was where the Champion of Champions title for the best overall performance in the major competitions of the season was awarded.

In January 2013, following a meeting between the Gathering Committee and the RSPBA, it was announced that, from 2014, Cowal would lose its status as a 'major' Pipe Band competition, a status enjoyed by the event since 1906.[9] The Gathering chairman admitted that the major competition had outgrown the limited facilities at Dunoon Stadium. As a result, only 24 pipe bands registered to compete at the 2014 gathering, although most competed in several events when they would have only competed once previously.

Solo piping competition[edit]

The are graded and junior solo piping competitions.[10]

Highland dancing competition[edit]

Highland dancers competing

At the Games are held the Scottish National Highland Dancing Championships, open to Scottish residents, the Scottish (open) Highland Dancing Championships and the qualifiers and finals of the World Championships.[11]

Around 750 dancers compete over the three days with many travelling from Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

The Juvenile trophy has been presented since 1910.[3]


The Games also features a variety of traditional Highland games events.

Heavy events include the shot put and caber toss.


  1. ^ Jarvie, Grant (1999). Sport in the Making of Celtic Culture. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-7185-0129-7.
  2. ^ a b c "A brief history of the Cowal Highland Gathering". Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b Donaldson, Ann. The Scottish Highland Games in America. Pelican Publishing. pp. 109–149. ISBN 978-1-4556-1171-3.
  4. ^ "Another look back at the great days of Cowal Highland Gathering" (PDF). Pipe Band Magazine: 17–20. January 2016.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Collins, Tony; Martin, John; Vamplew, Wray (2005). Encyclopedia of Traditional British Rural Sports. Psychology Press. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-415-35224-6.
  7. ^
  8. ^ . p. 83 Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "Gathering Storm". 2013-01-22. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
  10. ^
  11. ^

External links[edit]