The countdown is continuing for one of Royal Deeside’s most popular summer events.
Held annually on the first Saturday in August, Aboyne Highland Games attracts up to 10,000 visitors each year, helping inject an estimated £450,000 into the local economy.
The popularity of the event, which this year will be held on Saturday, 4 August, swells Aboyne’s resident population of around 2600 and significantly increases footfall for local businesses.
Empirical evidence shows that games day gives some local shops with their busiest trading day of the year, reinforced by the queues witnessed at some nearby food outlets.
Accommodation providers in the village and surrounding area also feel the benefit, with many visitors to the games choosing to stay overnight in hotels, guest houses, self-catering properties and camp sites.
Further illustrating the important economic drivers that Highland Games have become for the tourism industry. It is estimated that Scotland’s 80 such traditional events generate around £25million for the national economy each year.
Last year, as Aboyne Highland Games celebrated its 150th anniversary with a visit by Her Majesty The Queen, hundreds of overseas visitors attended, with 43 different nationalities being recorded in its visitor book. This included tourists from China, Ecuador, Madagascar and South Korea, highlighting the international appeal of such events.
First held in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games features a packed programme of 95 traditional highland events, including solo and massed piping, highland dancing, light and heavy athletics and fiddle competitions.
Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said: ‘Since its founding, Aboyne Highland Games has played an important role in the village, attracting thousands of visitors each year who then spend money in local businesses. It can be hard to exactly quantify the benefit that the annual highland games brings to the village, but the buzz it creates and increased footfall and trade are very evident.
‘Other Highland Games across the north-east who are members of the Grampian Games Association report that their events contribute significant amounts to their local communities each year, some of which are in rural areas.
‘Across Scotland, Highland Games generate an estimated £25million for the country’s economy each year, which is a significant sum for community sporting events.’
A mainstay of the Aberdeenshire village’s summer event calendar, the economic boost derived from Aboyne Highland Games is not new and has been noted throughout its 150-year history.
In 1883, the Great North Railway Company ran a special train to accommodate the large number of passengers from Aberdeen who attended the games, while heavy railway traffic was reported in 1911. During the 1920s, crowds of 12,000 and 16,000 were recorded as having attended the event.
The success of community events such as Highland Games would not be possible without the support of local businesses. Organisers of Aboyne Highland Games are seeking new sponsors for individual disciplines to help cover the running costs of the annual event, which features a combined prize fund of over £13,000 and attracts some of the country’s leading pipers, dancers and athletes.
Mr Grant added: ‘We are extremely grateful for the support we receive from the local community each year and are always interested to hear from new businesses and individuals that would like to support the games.
‘One competition that we are seeking sponsorship for is the Aboyne Caber, which features the caber created last year to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the games and which was dedicated by Her Majesty The Queen during her visit. It is a prestigious competition and only contested by the heavy athlete who wins the open caber competition earlier in the day.’