“Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August.” – Jenny Han
3: The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games
Between my week at the Ohio Scottish Arts School, and attending the Somerset Folk Harp Festival, I attended the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Blowing Rock, NC. Aside from being this year’s home for the Clan Donald Lands Trust Princess Margaret of the Isles competition, Grandfather Mountain is a gorgeous location, and a very fun games!
It can be, however, a bit inconvenient to get to. Located at the top of Grandfather Mountain, parking is extremely limited, so most attendees have to make the trip up top by school bus. My in-laws live not too far away, so they always drop my husband and me off (although my first year we did ride the bus, harp and all!) before driving back down the mountain and taking the bus themselves (yes, they are saints). Harp competitors did have the option to be picked up at the base of the mountain (an enviable luxury). If you have to take the bus, however, the wait is not too long, and you are dropped off a short walk from the location of the harp tent.
The shopping at the Grandfather Mountain games is great! In addition to the usual vendors I’ve seen at most Scottish/Celtic games, Grandfather Mountain attracts some serious artisans who sell beautiful items, including potter Sonny Fletcher, R. E. Piland Goldsmiths, and (my favorite) Wolfstone Kilt Company (if I ever have a million dollars…) Of course, Scottish Gourmet is also there, so stock up on your shortbread! The food vendors are excellent, and include the familiar Cameron’s British Foods, and some local Carolina barbecue!
Grandfather Mountain holds a special place in my heart because it was the location of the first SHSA competition I ever saw. Long before I ever thought of studying Scottish harp, my husband and I watched the 2014 SHSA competition at Grandfather, and I began to think about giving it a try. I came back the next year an entered at the Apprentice level, and I’ve gone back every year since! It has truly changed my life.
This year there were several competitors in the harp in ensemble category; in fact, my favorite performance this year was by Martha Hill’s excellent group “Stone’s Throw”. They played a beautiful program, including a very sensitive arrangement of the traditional Scottish air ‘Logan Water’.
The beautiful location and great vendors make the Grandfather Mountain games a great destination, even if you don’t plan on competing!