Scottish Highland Gathering Traditions Are Alive & Well in Aberdeenshire

On the fourth Saturday of every August, the Aberdeenshire valley of Strathdon is the venue for one of Scotland’s oldest and most iconic highland games.

The Lonach Gathering has the reputation of being Scotland’s friendliest Highland Games and is a celebration of Scottish history, heritage and culture.

At 8.00am on the morning of the games, the famous Lonach March takes place.  Each year, the Lonach men, dressed in full highland dress and with banners flying, march around six miles, from Strathdon to Bellabeg and back, and stop at the homes of six prominent residents on the way.

The fine tradition of The Lonach Gathering and March has been passed on from generation to generation.  The Lonach Gathering is hard to beat for sheer spectacle and is always well attended. 

2016 Lonach Highlander's March through Strathdon Scotland together with the Atholl Highlanders. Filmed by Braemar Media

Lonach Highland & Friendly Society came into being after a great gathering to mark the 21st birthday of John Forbes in 1822.  Such a good time was had by all that it was resolved to form The Society.

Membership of the Lonach Men are drawn from the inhabitants of Strathdon, who continue to fulfil the society’s original mission of preserving Highland dress and “supporting loyal, peaceful, and manly conduct; and the promotion of social and benevolent feelings among the inhabitants of the district.” In 2017 the Lonach Men attended the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo.

Lonach at the Tattoo - photo by Steven Rennie the official photographer for the Lonach men.

Most of the Lonach men are Forbes, although there are also Wallace and Gordon clans, each with their own tartan. The clansmen carry pikes, and call in for a dram of whisky at various patrons during the march.  At each house, a “wee dram” is raised to the cry of “ho, ho Lonach!” in a toast to the health of the area and its people.

A horse and cart has traditionally followed the Lonach Highlanders on their marches in order to convey their weapons when they became too heavy for the men to carry on long marches, particularly over uneven hill roads.  

Believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain, the 220-strong body of tartan-clad men form an impressive sight and receive a rousing welcome when they march round the field during the games. The Gathering that follows is a traditional Highland games, when thousands of spectators enjoy a packed programme of events, including solo piping, pipe bands, highland dancing, tug o’ war, a hill race, and light and heavy athletics. 

It is a day that stirs the emotions and one that will linger long in the memory.


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Video credits go to Braemar Media

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