Aug 262016

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Stars of the show - The Lonach Highlanders are one of the main attractions at the Lonach Gathering (picture credit Ian Halliday)lopro

Stars of the show – The Lonach Highlanders are one of the main attractions at the Lonach Gathering (picture credit Ian Halliday)

Europe’s only private army is heading to Aberdeenshire this Saturday to help celebrate the 175th anniversary of one of Scotland’s oldest and most iconic highland games.

The Atholl Highlanders have been invited to attend this year’s Lonach Highland Gathering and Games as the event takes place for the 175th time.

They will join the local Lonach Highlanders on their three annual games day marches, creating one of the largest marches of highlanders in the event’s long history.

Organised by the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Gathering is one of Scotland’s best known traditional events, attracting up to 10,000 visitors to the Aberdeenshire village of Bellabeg. Held in village’s Bellabeg Park, this year’s gathering takes place on Saturday, 27 August.

The annual event features the unique march of the Lonach Highlanders, who are believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain. Membership of the Lonach Highlanders currently stands at around 230 men and is drawn from residents of the local area who descend from the Forbes, Wallace and Gordon clans.

Commencing at 8am on the morning of the games, the march of the Lonach Highlanders winds its way through Strathdon in Aberdeenshire, stopping at six local properties. At each stop on the six-mile route the highlanders receive a dram to toast the health of the society and the area.

Dressed in full highland regalia and armed with eight-foot long pikes and Lochaber axes, the Lonach Highlanders bring traffic on the A944 through Strathdon to a standstill. With the similarly attired Atholl Highlanders, who carry Lee-Metford rifles, the spectacle will be even greater for visitors.

This year, with the Atholl Highlanders in attendance, the march is expected to be one of the largest in history, numbering around 220 individuals, which includes members of both highlanders’ pipe bands. Both bodies of men will again march together during the afternoon marches on the games field at 1pm and 3pm, with the 3pm march being led by the massed pipes and drums of a number of pipe bands.

Featuring a full programme of traditional highland events, including individual and massed piping, highland dancing and light and heavy athletics, the Lonach Gathering attracts some of the country’s leading pipers, dancers and athletes. With a children’s race, a hill race, tug o’war, around 50 trade stands and a family funfair, there are many attractions to keep everyone entertained.

Activities on the games field commence at 10:30am with the piping competitions, before the full programme of traditional events commences at noon.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said:

“The 175th Lonach Gathering is shaping up to be a real showstopper and the presence of Europe’s only private army will only add to that.  This anniversary is a milestone for the society and the gathering, and we hope to welcome visitors from near and far to help us celebrate it.

“We are really looking forward to the Atholl Highlanders joining the Lonach Highlanders on their marches, which are always a fantastic spectacle. In the crisp morning air, the sight and sound of the 8am march winding its way through the valley is magnificent. We don’t think that anywhere else in the world you can witness hundreds of kilted highlanders marching along a main road and bringing the traffic to a halt.

“Also to mark the anniversary, we are charting the history of the Lonach Gathering with a display of fascinating old photographs. It includes some from when the Atholl Highlanders have previously marched here at Lonach.”

The 175th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games takes place on Saturday, 27 August in Bellabeg, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire. Tickets are priced from £8 for adults, £4 for children aged between 5 and 15, while entry for children under 4 is free. Car parking is also free.

Established in 1823, by Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is a charitable organisation based in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.

The society organises the annual Lonach Gathering at Bellabeg Park, Strathdon, which is held on the fourth Saturday of August. The main attraction at the gathering is the march of the Lonach Highlanders, a unique body of non-military men. Further information on the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Highlanders and the annual Lonach Highland Gathering can be found at

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>