On 19-20 August 2023, Clans gathered at a misty Kryal Castle, Ballarat to the haunting sound of a lone piper calling all to gather within its mighty walls. The call was so strong that around 4,500 people attended over the weekend and enjoyed the event, an outstanding success for an inaugural event. A sizeable proportion of those attending were from the large Scots diaspora residing near Ballarat and in the Central Highlands region of Victoria. On both days the event was opened by the burly lads and lasses from Highland Muscle, who kept the crowd entertained with feats of strength including caber tossing, hammer throw and other expositions of superhuman strength. This was followed on the Saturday by the official opening of the event by our Chief of the Day, Simon Abney-Hastings, the 15th Earl of Loudoun. Mayor of Ballarat Cr Des Hudson OAM also gave a rousing speech in support of the event. After the opening speeches, the packed arena was filled with the stirring sound of the massed pipes and drums. The massed bands included members from Ballarat Pipe Band, Golden City Pipe Band, Geelong RSL Pipe Band and Ballarat Grammar Pipe Band.
The castle walls were filled with lots of attractions
A very popular main arena performance was the Highland Dancing by the Victorian Scottish Union Highland Dancing with performers from Geelong Scottish Dance. The wee’uns stole everyone’s heart with their amazing dancing. One of the unique aspects of the event were highly entertaining historical displays including, “Who is the real William Wallace?” with the crowd regaled by a hilarious blue woad covered imposter and the real 13th century knight! Following, was a joust in tribute to the wedding tournament of James the Second of Scotland and his marriage to Mary of Guelders in 1449. Many lances were broken and the crowd was mightily educated and entertained.
The castle walls were filled with lots of other attractions including Highland ponies, Highland cows and the magnificent Scottish Deerhounds and lots of fabulous vendors selling Scottish food and wares. Clans were represented by tents including; Fraser, Sinclair, Donald, MacDonald of Yarraville, Edmonstone, MacPherson, MacKinnon and MacNicol with Chief John MacNeacail of MacNeacail and Scorrybreac in attendance. As the dusk drew in, the audience enjoyed the individual band performances from all band participating in the massed bands performance. As evening fell the event was brought to a close, with the lone piper again scaling the parapets of castle and filling the air with the haunting sounds of the bagpipes which was signal for all the happy visitors to return home. As part of the action packed program, there were two Highland themed feasts held with haggis and delicious Scottish food served and a whisky tasting narrated by Kinglake Distillery. The hungry attendees were royally entertained by Auld Alliance, a two-piece band playing stirring Scots classics who also called a few enthusiastic patrons up to dance.By any measure the event was a huge success and will be return again next year.
The call has already gone for Clans to gather at Kryal Castle, Ballarat on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 of August 2024 for another Highland Spectacular. Tickets are on sale now at https://checkout.roller.app/kryalcastle/products/highlanderspectacular?date=20240817#/sessions. Feast tickets are also available.