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Fascinating Scottish characters are popping up in the main streets of Bundanoon, signalling the annual Highland Gathering is approaching. It's going to be huge with plenty of games, music, stalls and more to enjoy in this quaint Southern Highlands town.
Going ahead rain, hail or shine on 7 April, the haunting sound of bagpipes will drift across the village and the beating of drums will boom loud whilst the mellow sounds of fiddle music and songbird Mary Kiani in the Fiddler's Tent will leave you mesmerised. The latter will also take to the stage and sing the Scottish national song Flower of Scotland.
Accompanying the music is dancing and it wouldn't be a highland gathering without it. Be sure to witness the energy and passion of the dancers of the Joy Reiher School of Scottish Dancing when they take to Bundanoon Oval with their traditional highland moves. Two of the senior dancers have even taken part in the famous Military Tattoo in Edinburgh. But that's not all. There's also Scottish country dancing, otherwise known as the traditional ballroom dancing of Scotland, where dances come with interesting names like The Bundanoon Jig and The Wild Geese. They're great for exercise, mental stimulation, friendship and fun.
Games are also synonymous with a highland gathering and there's a range here for young and old that include egg throwing, Brigaball (a ball thrown between the legs), a water toss with balloons, a hay toss and a kilted dash across the oval. Even preschoolers can get involved in a small caber toss. For more info on how these games are played and to get involved, click here.
Bundanoon Stones is another activity that takes place and, historically, is a test of manhood that dates back over a thousand years. In modern times it consists of lifting 5 stones, ranging from 90-165kgs in weight, onto a wooden barrel of 4feet in height with the person who can do it the quickest being declared the champion of the day.
Other heavy weight championships involve men throwing things, like the Stone Putt (resembles the modern day shot-put), in the Weight for Height (tossing a weight over a cross bar), the Caber Toss (using a log) and the Hammer Throw. Don't get in their way or you'll be sorry.
Dog obedience displays are another part of this annual festival that showcase the dogs' training and skills as well as dog sports, such as Noseworks, Rally Obedience and Show Conformation.
When you're hungry, try one of the many food stalls. Perhaps it's time to be brave and find out what Haggis tastes like. If not, there's your regular barbecue sausages and steaks to choose from as well as Scots pies, hot potatoes, pancakes, Scottish shortbread, snacks, ice creams and drinks.
Not hungry, peruse the many other stalls of arts and crafts, clothes, souvenirs and tartan. There's over 30 clan information stalls that can help you discover any Scottish ancestry you may have. If you're already part of a clan or a Scottish Society then you might want to march in the street parade. There's judging of clans on colour and effort around the display of their heritage. Visit the website for more information on joining in on this event.
All of this Scottish fun will start with a street performance at 8am in the village before the parade at 9am with bands, clans, classic cars and children's floats heads to the oval. Entry to this highland gathering at the grounds, with its official opening ceremony at 10am, is $20 per adult and $10 per child (5-17yrs). Pension concession is available at $18 and a family pass is $50. You can book online or purchase tickets at the entry gates on the day.
In the evening there is a Ceilidh (social event) where revellers enjoy entertainment and dancing, a tasting of Haggis and a light supper. It's on from 7.30pm at Bundanoon Hall with lucky door prizes to be won. Tickets are $55 per person but, unfortunately, it is already fully booked. However, you can put your name down on a wait list.
Only a 90minute drive from Sydney or 45minutes inland from Wollongong, Brigadoon is a colourful day of fun that takes over the town. Even the train station changes its name for the day to Brigadoon. Free parking is available adjacent to the grounds and a courtesy bus will operate throughout the day from the town centre to the oval.