All About the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

All About the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games 1

Located on U.S. 221, two miles just north of Linville, North Carolina, and one mile south of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 305, The Grandfather Mountain is a nature preserve, the highest peak on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

It is a non-profit attraction famous for its diverse ecology and beautiful scenery. The Blue Ridge Parkway passes by the south side of the Grandfather mountain and over the Grandmother Gap near the mountain. The mountain is known well for its America’s highest mile-high swinging bridge built-in 1952 by Hugh Morton.

The Grandfather is consisted of 16 distinct natural communities, ecosystems and is home to 73 rare or endangered species, including 32 that are globally imperilled.

The previously privately-owned Grandfather Mountain’s 2,600 acres of undeveloped lands were bought by the state from the Morton family for $12 million after its announcement on September 29, 2008, and soon the Grandfather Mountain State Park was established in 2009.

The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

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In 2009 the Morton family established The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation to operate Grandfather Mountain’s scenic travel attraction in Linville, N.C.

The Foundation manages around 720-acres of property, including the Mile High Swinging Bridge, Nature Museum, and Animal Habitats. The profits from sales of tickets and souvenirs goes to preserve The Grandfather Mountain and attract visitors to appreciate nature and inspire the Earth’s good stewardship.

Grandfather is part of the United Nations’s international network of Biosphere Reserves.

Grandfather Mountain Trail

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The Grandfather Mountain comprises 11 trails that vary in levels of difficulty. The trails range from a gentle walk in the woods to an exciting and challenging trek across the mount’s high peaks.

It is located in the backcountry of Grandfather Mountain State Park. The 9.5 kilometres heavily trafficked Grandfather trail is used from April to November for hiking and is near Linville, North Carolina.

 In-Park Nature Trails

The trails are found in the Grandfather Mountain and are gentle ones compared to the ones on high peaks and can be accessed from the summit roads. These paths are built to let the visitors walk through the woods and be at ease while experiencing nature in its purest form. Several trails use ladders and cables to climb sheer cliff faces.

Backcountry Hiking Trails

The Backcountry Hiking Trails in the Grandfather Mountains are different compared to the ones’ on the south. These trails take the visitors through forests that are usually found in Canadian climates.

Grandfather Mountain Environmental Habitats: The Home of Wildlife

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Standing 5,964 feet above sea level, Grandfather Mountain is home to several wildlife animals, including the unique Bald Eagle. The mountain has seven environmental habitats that allow visitors to see animals in their natural settings. Unlike zoos, these enclosures are built around animals’ native habitats, which gives the visitors an up-close idea of the animals in there.

The Grandfather Mountain attracts visitors from all over the places for its rich ecology, comprising wildlife species like black bears, river otters, cougars, bald eagles, golden eagles, and white-tailed deer.

1. Deer

Found all over the white-tailed deer lives in small groups, found in the Grandfather Mountain’s Natural Habitats. The diets of these deers mainly comprise grass, twigs, leaves, and acorns.

2. The American Black Bear

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The Black Bears are found in abundance throughout the forested areas of Canada and the United States. Their diet comprises carrion, fruits, roots, fish, rodents, berries, nuts, and insects. The male bears are bigger than their female counterparts, and they weigh between 200 and 600 pounds. Kodiak is one of the rare cinnamon-coloured varieties of black bears found in the Grandfather Mountain habitats.

3. Cougars

The large slender brown cat, also known as the mountain lion or panther, the cougars are found in the wilds throughout west America and Canada. Their diets range from rodents to fully grown deers and even fish.

4. River Otter

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The endangered river otters find a home here in the natural habitats of the grandfather mountain. The river otters belong to the Mustelidae family along with the minks and the weasels. Weighing around 11 to 23 pounds, the males are 17% larger than the females of their type. Because of their high metabolism, the otters eat frequently, and their diets include fish, crayfish, aquatic plants, small mammals like muskrats or rabbits, crabs, frogs, birds’ eggs, birds, and turtles.

5. Eagles

The Grandfather Mountain is the home to several injured birds returned to the wild. Bald eagles used to be a major attraction, but it has been some time since there were none in reserve. The Golden Eagle, also is known as the War Eagle, can be found here in the mountain habitats.

The Mile-High Swinging Bridge

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Apart from several wild animals, the Grandfather Mountain is also home to the famous Mile-High Swinging Bridge, one mile above sea level. It was built in 1952. The bridge gives the visitors a once-in-a-lifetime experience, starting from its beautiful scenery to the engineering behind the passage.

The Mile-High Swinging Bridge is the highest suspension footbridge in America constructed so that people could enjoy the spectacular view from Grandfather Mountain’s Linville Peak.

The name ”Mile High Swinging Bridge” was framed by former North Carolina Tourism Director Charles J. Parker at the Bridge’s dedication in 1952. Designed by Charles Hartman Jr. of Greensboro, the bridge was rebuilt in 1999 by Taylor & Murphy Construction Company of Asheville, N.C. and redesigned by Sutton, Kennerly & Associates Engineering of Asheville, N.C. 

It was rebuilt by using the original towers, and other parts such as cables and floorboards were all made with galvanized steel.

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

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Since 1956 at the Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games are held annually and one of the country’s largest highland games. It commemorates the history and culture of Scottish people in North Carolina by holding competitions and displays like piping, dance, costume, and traditional sports in Scottish styles.

North Carolina is known for its wealthy history with the Scotts, but soon after Culloden’s battle in 1746, many Scottish clans were left homeless and became one of the most attractive destinations after the highland clearances. Many residents went to the West searching for farmland as the population started to grow over time.

The highland culture was preserved in the United States by the Scots by speaking Scottish Gaelic in church and among their families even though they could not legally practice it because of the new laws that did not permit the use of Gaelic and items from their Scottish heritage.

The Foundation of The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

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Mrs. Agnes Morton and Mr. Donald MacDonal jointly founded the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games from Linville, North Carolina, and North Carolina respectively, in 1956.

The game’s concept was derived from the Royal Braemar Gathering, which Donald MacDonald attended in Scotland in 1954. The grandfather mountain games were often called “America’s Braemar”. For its spiring similarities with the Highlands of Scotland, the site started getting favoured by the attendees.

Events That Take Place in The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

Over 30,000 people attend the events that take place for four days. The following are the list of events that happen during this time:-

1. Torchlight Ceremony:

The Torchlight Ceremony is also known as the “calling of the clans”. Because of its long history related to the calling of clans for battle ages ago. Similarly, each clan brings its torch to mark its presence and add its own torch to the larger bonfire kept in the centre during this event.

2. The Parade of Tartans:

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The Parade of Tartans is inclusive of every clan that is attending the games. On the last day of the Grandfather Mountain Highland games, the games’ beginning starts with a religious ceremony that comprised of the Tartans’ Kirkin and is followed by the Tartans’ Parade. Each clan gathers their chief members to join and parade with several other piping bands during this event. Each year, around 120 clans take part.

3. Competitions:

1. Piping and Drumming

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The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games’ piping competitions are held in multiple sections, including Piobaireachd, Hornpipe & Jig, Strathspey & Reel. Just like the Piping event, the drumming competition is also held in sections. There are specific divisions for the Tenor Drum. The drumming competitions’ events include March, Strathspey & Reel, Drum Pad, and much more.

2. Dancing

The Scottish Official Board has declared the Mountain Highland Games as the venue for the Atlantic International Championship. Every contestant has to perform four types of dances decided by the board of dancing and is judged based on their performances. People from across the world come and join to take part in the competition.

3. Gaming

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There are based for both amateurs and professionals at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Even children get the chance to try their hands on the traditional highland games. Participants can be from all age groups and skills can take part in these games, which makes it so special.

4. Music

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The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games offers various music events, such as the bagpipe concert. Traditional music and dance are shown to the public through their Ceilidh and Tartan Ball. On the second and third nights of the games, the festival hosts two more concerts: Celtic Jam and the Celtic Rock Concert.

5. Food and Vendors

Many vendors from across the country join the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games ground to sell Scottish-themed art products  and other items like kilts and hats.

They sell different musical Scottish dishes like haggis and bridies. Fish and chips are also readily available. Other food items like packaged food not easily available in the US are also sold.

6. Clan Tents

The Scottish clans represented in the games set up tents for the visitors and the clan organizations provide sign-up forms for anyone willing to be a member of the same. They often carry merchandise with the clan’s symbol as well.


With rock formations dating back to almost 1.2 billion years and estimated to be 300 million years old, the Grandfather Mountain is a unique tourist destination in North Carolina for the rich natural beauty and the Scottish games that take place in the heart of the mountain. A visit to the Grandfather is a once in a lifetime experience to witness so much that the mount has to offer, from its trails to the wildlife and the games.

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