Local Events this Summer
When it comes to fun events across the Highlands this summer one thing is for sure, bigger is not always better. To really get a feel of what it is like to live in a small community a visit to a local gala or fun day is a must. These are not widely publicised events and are mainly organised by volunteers. They foster community spirit and although they welcome visitors the focus is more on local people coming together and letting their hair down on what is usually a local holiday. It’s the opposite end of the spectrum to something like the Edinburgh Festival, but for an insight into the soul of small Highland communities there is nothing better.
Sollas Week takes place from 14-21 July. It is a time when the Uist diaspora return to the island to catch up with extended families and the atmosphere on the island is one of celebration. In particular there are a host of events to appeal to the younger and older generations and a focus on the Gaelic language. The events include a fishing competition, a barbecue, bonfire, scavenger hunt and Gaelic reminiscences as well as the traditional ceilidh after the Uist highland games on the Friday, probably the liveliest evening of the year. The games themselves are held on the machair next to Hosta, one of the most stunning beaches on the west. They may not have the cachet, prize money or facilities of the more famous gatherings but the intense inter-district rivalries make spectating incredibly entertaining. Machair Cottage sits a short drive away and is also convenient for getting to Clachan Sands beach and the best of the islands dining and entertainment. It’s a great blend of traditional and modern designed to really help you relax and unwind on holiday.
Aultbea is a small fishing village with a long maritime history. It is perhaps fitting them that the high point of the annual fun-day is the raft race. Although it is a fun event with little at stake except local pride, it is contested fiercely with all manner of homemade craft making an appearance. It’s quite a spectacle for the visitor with the whole village either taking part or cheering the competitors on as they paddle from the pier aiming to be the first to beach their raft outside the hotel and ring the bell to claim victory. Aodann is just a few miles out of the village and has magnificent views over the water. A contemporary design it makes the most of its elevated hillside location and also has a sleek, luxuriously modern interior.
The main event of the Kyleakin Gala Day is a 10k run across the Skye Bridge. This unique race starts at Kyleakin car park then goes through the village and over the bridge to Kyle of Lochalsh before turning and heading back to the start. The bridge is an iconic structure, beloved by local residents so it’s somewhat fitting for it to be the centrepiece of the summer festivities. For the not so sporty there is also a host of other community events and a big ceilidh in the evening where runners can dance away their aches and sprains. Teangue House is handily located for all the attractions of this end of Skye, including the mountains and beaches and distilleries. A perfect spot for some peace and quiet after your fun day exertions.
Hopeman is another small village with a long gala tradition. This July there will be over a week of events including a mad hatter’s tea party, retro games evening, drumming workshops and tai chi. A big marquee on the main park will also be the venue for the closing gala dance. As befitting its location close to the sea the beach also features prominently with a sandcastle building competition, beach barbecue and water-sports taster sessions. Another highlight is harbour night, where local bands play as fish, donated by local fishermen, are cooked and eaten outside. The Lookout is a stone throw from much of the action and is the ideal place to stay for water-sports enthusiasts. It’s a short walk to the sandy beach where you can paddle or boogie board and there is ample space to store your kit and clean up when you return.