Monday, September 3, 2012

Braemar Gathering

Balmoral Castle
Every August, the Queen and her entourage take their holiday in the Highland hills of Scotland. The Balmoral estate was first commissioned by Queen Victoria and it has been the official Scottish home of the royal family ever since. The end of their month long holiday always coincides with the first Saturday in September, which is when the nearby Braemar Highland Gathering is held.
If you’ve seen the movie Brave or the last season of The Bachelorette, you’re aware that the highland games are a sort of Scottish Olympics, whose events include Tug of War (yes, really), Caber tossing (the big logs), long jumping, racing, Scottish dancing, and Hill running. The games occur throughout the summer all over Scotland, but they all lead up to this main event in Braemar. The Queen is always the honorary guest of these games, and this year was no different.
Our group of friends all bought tickets and we staggered out Saturday morning, making the hour drive to Braemar. Before leaving, Jonathan and I had our usual camera debate, which went something like this:
Him: Do we really want to lug this two ton camera around all day?
Me: Hello, THE QUEEN is going to be there and my readers expect documentation. And plus, you’re the one carrying it, not me, so yes, I think you should lug this 2 ton camera around all day. Please and thank you.
So, I had my fancy camera in tow, hoping to get some paparazzi quality shots of the Queen, and crossing my fingers that her handsome grandsons might be along as honorary guests.
The games lasted from about 9:30-4:30, and we rolled in around 11, our carload being the first of our group to arrive. We figured the Queen would arrive around lunchtime, so we grabbed some burgers and warm drinks (it was 45 degrees, drizzling, and windy) and watched some of the events.
When we sat down, Debbie and Luke said they wished they’d brought their fancy camera. No worries, I told them, I’ll take lots of pictures that you can share. I grabbed my ridiculously heavy camera that I insisted on (Jonathan) lugging around all day, and as soon as I turned it on, my stomach dropped. You see, I had decided to fully charge the battery before leaving, and had left it sitting in the charger in our kitchen. Drats! My i-phone camera is good, but not good enough to take snapshots from 100 yards away. Rookie blogger mistake. Here are some of the shots I got of the grounds with my phone.
Caber Toss


Tug of War, Courtesy of Nary.

Long jump.

Racing. In a kilt.
And some video:
Discouraged by my dead camera, the dropping temperatures, frostbitten toes, and an hour long line at the coffee shop, when the Queen hadn’t arrived by 2 pm, our carload started to get antsy. You see, I don’t want to brag or anything, but this wasn’t Jonathan and I’s first rodeo highland gathering . In fact we had been at this very event 3 years earlier and we sort of already saw the Queen, so it wasn’t all that big of a deal to us Jonathan to see her again.
Queen, wearing a yellow hat, at Braemar gathering 2009.
And since I had already made him lug around a 14 ton camera all day for no reason, I didn’t have much leverage for pouting. Debbie and Luke, who we rode with, insisted that getting out of the cold windy rain was more appealing that standing and waiting around to see Her Highness, so we left right at 2:30, just 30 minutes before the Queen made her appearance.
Luckily, I had about 20 friends at the games who were way more prepared, and they got some stunning shots of the lovely monarch that they are allowing me to share with you guys. All pictures courtesy of Nary. She always takes the loveliest photos which you can see on her blog.

And, my friends who stayed behind reported that as soon as she arrived, the sun came out and the stands warmed considerably. Double drats!
The good thing is that we sort of live in Scotland, so we can catch the event next summer. Next time I’ll know to not show up until around 1 pm or so, wear toe warmers, bring my own thermos of hot cocoa, and of course, pack a camera battery. You live, you learn.

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