Oh, ye Scots! Dust off your kilts and head to the Smoky Mountains for a celebration of all things Scottish! Held in May at Maryville College, the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games pays tribute to the rich culture and history of Scotland as well as the traditions of the Scottish and Scots-Irish settlers through music, dance, food, and arts. Of course, you don’t have to be Scottish to enjoy this fantastic event — everyone is welcome!
Founded in 1981 as the Gatlinburg Scottish Festival and Games, the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games has grown over the years. Today, it holds the title as one of the oldest Scottish festivals in the country. The sound of bagpipes resonates through the mountains as kilted athletes compete in the traditional Highland Games — a show of strength and stamina.
The festival also features traditional and modern Scottish, Celtic, and Irish music, Highland Dance, sheepdog demonstrations, and plenty of kids’ activities! The festival kicks off with a formal Gala on Friday night, featuring a haggis ceremony, dinner, and Scottish ballads.
The Highland Games
Musicians, dancers, athletes, and dogs compete for top honors as spectators cheer on their favorites. In expert shows of athleticism, “warriors” compete in traditional heavy events, including:
- Caber Toss
- Stone Put
- Scottish Hammer Throw
- Weight Throw
- Sheaf Toss
When thinking of Scotland, most people’s first thought is of bagpipes. So, what would the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games be without the music of the Highlands? Along with the bagpipe competitions, musical competitions include bands and drums. Spectators are always more than welcome! Bagpipers play marches and piobaireachd tunes (simple melodies building to complex musical movements) as well as Strathspeys and Reels (dance tunes). Drummers show their skills through march sets, while bands compete with march medleys, Strathspeys, and Reels.
A highlight of the event, the Clan Challenge is a blend of athletic competition and fun events. Any member of the Clan society can participate, and the winning clan receives a trophy! The Clan Challenge consists of the Kilted Mile Run, the Battle Axe Throw, the Bonniest Knees competition, the Ladies Haggis Hurl, and the Clan Triathlon Relay.
Another important part of Scottish and Irish culture is the dance. With skills taught from generation to generation, Highland dancing tells the story of the Scottish and Irish people, while allowing dancers to show great strength, stamina, and technical skill. The festival also offers a chance at a dance scholarship and a dance workshop for those who register and compete.
The Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games is not only exciting for competitors but also fun for spectators! Even if you’re not competing, there is plenty to do, see, hear, and taste. Spectators can watch the athletes compete in traditional Highland Games, listen to the bagpipes, drums, and bands, cheer on their favorite clan in the Clan Challenge, or watch Irish step dancers! A sheepdog show demonstrates the herding skills of the Border Collie, and a dog parade (there's a small entrance fee — all proceeds will benefit the Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation) allows festival-goers to show off their furry friends’ talents!
At the festival and games, held not too far from Gatlinburg, there are events for every age. For the adults (21 and over), the Scotch seminars feature tastings of a variety of Scotches, along with information about each. Don’t worry about the kids — there’s plenty for them to enjoy as well. Kids under 16 get in free, and there is a supervised play area for the wee ones. Activities for youngsters include the kids’ Highland games (ages 6-14), face painting, and parent-child activities.
In addition to the bagpipes, drums, and bands in competition, the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games offers tons of Celtic music for entertainment — from British Isle ballads to contemporary Celtic rock! Visit the Lowland Stage for traditional sounds and the Highland Stage for modern mixes. Past performers, performing everything from traditional to present-day Scottish, Irish, and Celtic music, have included Seven Nations, Four Leaf Peat, Colin Grant-Adams, and The Good Thymes Ceilidh Band.
Food & Drink
From sausage rolls and meat pies to bridies and haggis, the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games boasts loads of delicious Scottish and Celtic foods from area vendors. To satisfy a sweet tooth, attendees can try kettle corn, shaved ice, funnel cakes, and Scottish baked goods. And of course, there is always plenty of ale and Scotch!
Presenting Scottish and Celtic wares, the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games offers souvenirs around every corner. Take home Celtic-themed clothing and accessories for the whole family. Buy a new Scottish kilt, sash, cape, sporran, and jacket. Even blankets, homeware, face products, piping books, and weaponry replicas (perhaps the coolest of all) can be found at this festival!
Tickets & More Info
Guests can purchase single tickets or a two-day pass, and parking at the event is free! Partnered with the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games, the Highland Races — featuring the Highland Half Marathon and Scott Trot 5K — will begin at the event on Sunday morning. Official event hours are 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Saturday and 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday.
After a day of dancing, Scotch tasting, hearty eating, and merrymaking, rest your feet in the comfort of your own cabin. Our cabins in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge offer a quiet place to rest in the peace of the Smoky Mountains. Relax in the outdoor hot tub, unwind with a cup of tea and a mountain view, soak in the jetted tub, or simply hop into the king-size bed. Call one of our reservation specialists or fill out our Options for YOU form to find just the right cabin for your vacation in the Smokies!