Cowal cancelled for this year


This year’s Cowal Highland Gathering has been cancelled. Organisers cited the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) situation as the factor.

Ronnie Cairns.

‘Cowal’, which had hitherto been an important solo piping event and a major pipe band championship until 2013, is world famous and calls itself “the biggest, most spectacular highland games in the world,”

A statement from chairman Ronnie Cairns stressed the decision was the right one to protect the safety of the competitors and visitors who come from across the globe to be part of the 126-year-old event. He said: “This is the announcement we desperately hoped we wouldn’t have to make. Up until the last moment we have been working hard to put together a Gathering which delivers the spectacle we are famous for, while also supporting local businesses which benefit from the number of people the event brings to the area.

“However, it has become clear that substantial travel restrictions will remain in place for some considerable time. This would have a devastating effect on our international Highland Dancing competitors in particular and would damage the integrity of the World Highland Dancing Championships.

“At the start of this pandemic we were hopeful we would be able to host this year’s event. As time went on we looked at ways of staging the Gathering in a different format for 2020 but there are just too many uncertainties, together with the potential impact staging the event could have on the emergency services and other key partners, and the time is now right to cancel this year’s event.

“We are extremely sorry to disappoint all the thousands of people who compete in, visit as spectators or volunteer at the Gathering – as well as the wider Cowal population who so look forward to the event every year.  We share their sadness, but will look forward to welcoming everyone back here in August next year.” 

Cowal Highland Gathering is home to the World Highland Dancing Championships, Cowal Pipe Band Championship and Cowal International Heavy Athletics Championship, attracting in excess of 1,000 competitors each year.

The 2021 Cowal Highland Gathering will return to Dunoon Stadium from August 26-28. Tickets already purchased for this year’s event will be valid for 2021.

The fascinating history of Cowal Highland Gathering was serialised in the Piping Times over many months last year. ‘Cowal’ began in 1894, and this is the only time the event has been cancelled apart from the war years.

Clydebank Pipe Band leading the March Past at Cowal in 1980.