The Virginia Scottish Games and Festival held in The Plains, Virginia during Labor Day weekend have been going on since 1974 in celebration of Alexandria’s Scottish heritage. It moved out to Fauquier County in 2007 and expanded to celebrate all of the Commonwealth’s Scottish heritage.
When we realized it existed in 2018, we made plans to attend straightaway, and we returned again this year because it’s such a good time. If you haven’t gone yet, go ahead and plan for next year. If you’re still on the fence, here are 9 reasons that should convince you to give it a go:
There’s a whole area just for kids to go bonkers. There’s a Nessie moon bounce, but there’s also archery, stone throwing, caber tossing—on a miniature scale. It’s hilariously awesome.
The St. Andrews Society had a booth there showcasing swords and shields, and the society members were so good about explaining the history and even allowed kids (with proper supervision) to try to hold a sword or shield. It’s heavier than it looks!
2. Vintage cars
If vehicles are your thing, they have a British car and motorcycle area which showcased Rolls Royce, and some other cool things with four wheels.. (I admit I’m not a car person, so I was just looking around feeling like I was on the set of some James Bond flick.)
There are doggos in abundance at the festival! Oh my gosh. First of all, there’s a sheep-herding demonstration (Yes, kind of like Babe.) It is so impressive seeing these really intelligent dogs at work. The commands are so subtle, and the dogs just seem to know what the sheep are thinking. There’s also Terrier races, rescue organizations, and dogs of Scotland dog and owner games.
Beyond the demonstrations, it seemed everyone and their uncle brought their dogs. There were a lot of dogs the size of small ponies. Maybe they were small ponies and I just didn’t realize. There was good representation from the Scottish Terrier breed, but this year we also saw our fair share of Corgi with their wonderfully fluffy butts and Dachshunds draped in plaid. It was the year of the low dog. Haha!
The festival is probably the best place to get your Scottish shopping fix. There are so many vendors selling unique items. You can get jewelry (heather stones are awesome), tees, dog treats, and all manner of knick-knacks. Last year, we bought shortbread cookies, and they were in the cutest coo tin! I also got some fudge from the Isle of Skye which brought back so many fond memories of our trip to Scotland three years ago.
I’m not even going to start on how tickled I am about finding haggis chips.
As you can probably guess, you can buy a kilt here. In fact, you can even look up your family name so you get the right tartan. I’ve wanted Mark to get a kilt for forever, so he finally let me buy him one. Heheee…yay, kilts!
5. Food & Beverage
There’s a whole row at the festival dedicated to food. You can expect the usual fare of fish & chips (fried to perfection) and shepherds pie (pied to perfection). There’s also this potato chip pile/tower thing. I’m not sure how it’s made, but it’s kind of like if you take a potato spiral and arrange it like a beehive hairdo. It seemed very popular.
I think they also had burgers and brats and such, but the reason I am so unsure is because they have…HAGGIS. I’ll write more about haggis in another post, but Mark and I love haggis. Some may wonder why we would like a dish consisting of sheep or calf offal, but if you just try it, you’ll understand. Our 9-year old fell in love with it this year.
If you’re thirsty, there’s the usual water and soda. The lemonade is pretty darn tasty—especially if it’s a ridiculously hot day as we like to have in Virginia. There’s beer, and naturally an entire area for whisky tasting. There’s a separate registration fee for the whisky tasting. Mark and I love our scotch, but we haven’t partaken in the tastings here because we have a child with us, and she isn’t allowed in the tasting area.
There were desserts…strawberry shortcake and ice cream, for sure. We didn’t make it to the desserts this year, but last year we did get the ice cream.
There’s a variety of Celtic music, and all throughout the day you can hear the sound of a fiddle, tin whistle, or drum. You can even learn some Scottish country dancing.
Yes, there are bagpipes, and they are amazing.
If one must determine the true Scottishness of an event by the number of kilts present, then this can officially be called a very Scottish event. The athletes are in kilts. The clans are in kilts. There are pipers in kilts. The attendees are in kilts. You can buy kilts.
Kilts are great. We love kilts.
Note: you don’t have to wear a kilt to attend. No one will be mad…to your face. I’m kidding. It’s a very happy time, kilt or not.
When I think of Scottish games, I think of golf and lifting stones. In one, you hit the incredibly small ball as far as you can into an incredibly small hole. In the other, you lift a massive boulder to prove your strength.
Oh, but there’s more! There’s the caber toss in which one lifts what is essentially a tree stripped of its limbs and flips it end over end. There’s a sheaf toss. You take a pitchfork to a bundle of hay and fling it as high as you can. And if that’s not enough throwing and tossing of heavy things, there’s also the open stone toss. This is similar to a shot put, but without the running prior to the throw.
And if you still want to see more things being thrown about, there’s the weight toss and the hammer throw. Oh, and the “weight over bar.” This is when you take a 56 lb weight with one hand and attempt to toss it over a horizontal bar. I try to liken it to throwing my 9 year old 10 feet or so in the air.
9. It’s Scottish
The Scottish culture is so interesting, and you can learn so much about it by attending the festival. There’s an interactive Language Village where you can listen to Scottish poetry and songs and get an introduction to Gaelic. You can visit the Living History encampments which present two millennia of Scottish history.
The main field or games area is bordered by the Clans’ tents. This display of family history and shared connections is awesome, the pride in the Scottish heritage so evident. Personally, I delight in hearing the Scottish accent.
Remember, if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!
Now that I’ve thoroughly convinced you to go, here are some tips:
They only take cash at the ticket line. So if you didn’t purchase your tickets in advance online, you’ll have to get in line with your cash.
They have ATMs available, but the lines can get long and there are fees. On a hot day, standing in line at an ATM is not fun.
Check the Weather
When we went in 2018, it had stormed recently, but the day was ridiculously hot. So, the fields were very muddy, and we were melting. This year (2019), it was overcast and drizzled for less than a minute. It was perfect weather.
So check the weather before heading out. You’ll probably want to bring sunscreen regardless of whether it’s overcast or not. There’s no shade unless you’re shopping or in the music tent, but the tent can get crowded.
Set up camp
There are spots around the athletic field where you can set up some chairs to watch the games. You’ll have to bring your own chairs. Having somewhere to sit is ideal when it comes to feeding time as there aren’t many seating options.
If you still need more information, check out the links below:
On the interwebs: http://www.vascottishgames.org/
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/VirginiaScottishGames/