A wee bit of Scotland in the Highlands of Pennsylvania 

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“And, there will be sword dancing, and a parade of the clans, and caber tossing, a Scottish breed dog show, bagpipes and singing, and coos… there will be coos! … and Shetland ponies, and Scottish food.  I wonder if there will be whiskey tasting? You would think there would be.  I want to buy a necklace with a thistle on it and I’d love it if you would buy a utility kilt, but I know you won’t…but they are very sexy….”

This was part of the non-stop stream of chatter my poor husband endured during a two and half-hour drive to the Ligonier Highland Games in the Laurel Highlands in Pennsylvania.

There are a couple of reasons this trip was special to me.

First, it is an extension of my love of Outlander.  I am now fascinated with Scottish culture and eager to learn more.

“There will be tents set up for the clans where you can learn about your genealogy! I know the McDonalds and Hays and Stewart clans will be there.”

“I’ll be looking for the MacDaddy tent”, quips my man who is without an once of Scottish blood. I actually thought it was pretty funny given he is SO not. And,  I was relieved to see he was being light-hearted.

I was admittedly a bit worried that I was dragging him to this event.  I didn’t want him to be bored or miserable, so I was eager for him to have a good time and that might have resulted in the babbling.  I would really like to think he understands my enthusiasm and wants to share in my excitement. However,  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t get my interest in all things Scottish.  In fact, I’m sure at some point he thought about the fact that he could have been home in his chair watching college football, but instead, here he was…in a car…driving two and a half hours…listening to me babble….so I could go see men in kilts.  Despite my ADAMANT denials that my interest in Scotland had nothing to do with kilts, I’m pretty sure that is exactly what he believes.

He told me he was going with me because he wants me to be happy. I realize in the big scope of sacrifices a person could make for the person they love attending a Highland games probably isn’t at the top of the list, but it gets him bonus points in my book!  When we pulled into the parking lot we could hear bagpipes in the distance.  I must have given away my excitement because he squeezed my hand and with a little crooked smile on his face kissed my forehead.

It was great!  Everywhere I looked I saw something that reminded me of the books.  This was one of my favorite pictures of the day.

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The bagpipes! I’m in love!

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The caber toss was a blast! I still haven’t figured out how they lift them or run with them!

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We toured the clan tents and looked at the vendor’s wares. Front and center of one of the vendor tents was a display of Outlander calendars and shortbread. While we were there, I saw several women pick up the calendar and excitedly discuss the images.  I wanted to say “hey” and strike up a conversation, but found myself too shy. Which is hardly ever the case!  My husband bought me my thistle necklace and he actually looked at a kilt! There may be hope yet!

Of course, one of the most exciting things I did that day was meet Gillbride MacMillian, our Outlander bard! I didn’t know he was going to be there until I was perusing the schedule of events!

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As as soon as I found out I tweeted Gillebride, who then tweeted me back and told me to make sure I stopped and said hi!  With my husband’s encouragement and nudging, I did.

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He was very nice and very serious about his duties! Silly, but I found myself proud of him and his efforts to preserve his language. And that singing voice….mesmerizing!  Other than Diana, he is the first person I’ve met associated with the show.  It certainly was the icing on the cake of a lovely day.

As we walked out of the park, we passed several reserved picnic shelters and we wondered if many of these families took this opportunity to hold family reunions.  Afterall, I shared with my husband, this festival is 57 years old.  He nodded and reflected on how great it was to see families celebrating their history and culture.  I got a little teary as I thought of Culloden and wondered if it had any direct influence on the immigration of these families to America.  Witnessing the parade of clans had been moving.  Folks were wearing clan tartan and carrying banners.  A wonderful mixture of the older and younger generations walking together, holding their heads high, and some even shouting battlecries.  I laughingly asked my husband if he had seen the folks sporting matching tee shirts proclaiming they belonged to Pee Paws clan. I’m betting Pee Paw was pretty proud of his brood.  Overall, I was left with a sense of their pride and their joy of celebrating each other.  I’m totally a sassenach, English and Dutch, but today I felt a little bit Scot.

The second reason this trip was special to me was because I walked. Last year around this time of year I was struggling with my health.  I have multiple chronic health issues and they had become so dibiltating that I had to take a leave from work. I could barely walk and not without pain.  My world and quality of life had shrank. Short of having someone push me in a wheelchair, I could never have attended something like this. A year, a few surgeries, and many therapy and doctor appointments later, I was walking hand in hand with my Dan.

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A truly blessed Scottish day.

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30 thoughts on “A wee bit of Scotland in the Highlands of Pennsylvania 

  1. beckym

    Thank you for sharing a bit about your lovely day. So glad you are experiencing improved health. I love reading your writings. Keep ’em coming.

  2. MrsBreakit@aol.com

    I am so glad that you attended the Ligonier Highland Games. I have been attending many years as a representative to Clan Stewart Society of America. Yes this is the same as Stuart. Stuart is the French spelling. There are several other games that you may want to attend next year. The 1st weekend in May is the Bridgeport, West VA games and in September is the Edinboro Highland games in Edinboro,Pa. I too, love Outlander. Slainte’

  3. Burma

    Thank you so much for sharing your adventure. I enjoy reading your comments. I have been an outlander fan for decades and I’m so ecstatic with the series. So glad your health has improved.
    Sincerely, Burma

  4. Candace Wishon

    I lived in Ligonier Pennsylvania for almost I lived in Ligonier Pennsylvania for almost 10 years. I now live in North Carolina, and haven’t been to the Highland Games in about 16 years. I just said to my husband that I missed going to Highland Games, and there you post this on your blog! I was so excited he almost wrecked the car when I yelled! If you have never been to the Highland Games in Ligonier Pennsylvania, I think it is still sponsored by the McDonald clan and family, it is absolutely fabulous! Everyone who has a Scottish heritage needs to go to this family. There were many clans who had booth setup and you could buy plan merchandise, every kind of food that you could think of. Diamonds by the yard. It is the best Highland Games I have ever been to. No lie! I could not believe that you posted this.

  5. Candace Wishon

    Sorry for the mistakes by auto text. I was dictating this in the car, I was so excited! The area is beautiful, many Scottish and Irish settlers, all the little towns around the area have Irish names. Donegal, Armagh, Derry, Laughlintown. It is a treat!

  6. Pam Phillips

    Candace and Beth – I would like to extend an invitation to each of you, and indeed – all of your readers – to our Highland Games here in Scotland County, NC. on Saturday, Oct. 3. There’s a bagpipe concert Friday evening at St. Andrews Presbyterian College on campus, and a Gaelic rock concert Saturday evening after the games. I believe the whiskey tasting has already sold out, but there are still lots of other activities outside of the games. Weather cooperating (or not-we’ll call it Scottish weather in that case) it will be a wonderful weekend with our Carolina clans gathering as well as those coming from a bit further on.

    Hope to see some new faces at the Games!

    Pam Phillips (of Clans Hamilton, McLaurin, Buchanan, Duncan, McCoy and McConnell)(Dang, do ye think my ancestors were Scottish??)

  7. Carolyn Repchak

    So happy for you. Very touched by your story. Wish you the best with your health. I have been to Highland Games in the past and it is an awesome experience.

  8. Patricia Hare

    Thanks so much for sharing! I enjoyed reading about your trip and how exciting and special it was for you. Best of health to you. Oh, and go Bucks!

  9. momentsintime

    CONGRATULATIONS! A great day in a great place with a great guy! While you were reveling in all things Scottish, I was attending Fall for the Book at George Mason University, meeting some wonderful fans, listening to the engaging and gifted Davina Porter and watching Diana ‘herself’ Gabladon accept an award and regale and us in her inimitable and masterful way. And…. a full lunar eclipse! Jackpot. Some days are just better than others!

  10. You make the whole trip sound wonderful! I live not too far from PA, though a little distance from Ligonier. It would be great to go some year. We have an Irish Festival here, which is fun.

  11. Terri

    You pulled the car up and heard bagpipes. That statement gave me goosebumps. Thanks for the report about the games. I have never been.. May of this year husband attended a retreat at St. Vincent in Latrobe while I had a nice long visit at Fort Ligonier. After reading the Gabaldon books I have been so interested in all things Scottish. At the Fort there is a Portrait of the Duke of Cumberland, who directed the crown troops from the comfort of his home in England. There is an 18th century Scottish sword. During the seven years war Troops from Scotland were housed with the English at the Fort. At that time of course all the men were about 5ft 3in. so the barracks contained little tiny short beds. I thought of Jamie Fraser trying to fit in one. At one time there were 5000 troops there, most were in tents. It was really an interesting experience. Going back again in May. Oh and books about the Bonnie Prince in the gift shop. Hope you are still in good health.

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