Highland hospitality at the Tasmanian Highlands Gathering

As you would have read in the Scottish Banner’s December edition, Tasmania has a new Celtic festival based in the Highlands of Tasmania and its inaugural launch in February was a resounding success. Called the Tasmanian Highlands Gathering (THG), kinfolk travelled from many parts of Australia to be treated to a weekend of Celtic music, Tasmanian whisky, Scottish inspired food and highland hospitality. Friday night was a phenomenal start to the gathering at the Great Lake Hotel where guests were entertained by a myriad of musicians playing Irish and Scottish folk songs, some with instruments I’d never seen before. I don’t know if it was the lively music or the convivial atmosphere of so many like-minded people in attendance but I can assure you, many new friendships were made.

Tasmania’s rich whisky heritage

Whisky tasting.

The choices of things to do on Saturday was longer than Rob Roy MacGregor’s arm. Beginning with an unforgettable journey through the world of Tasmanian whisky and held at the quaint Steppes Hall which is nestled in the heart of nowhere, this expo was an absolute delight. We had the pleasure of experiencing the best company and the finest spirits from Callington Mill Distillery, Metcalf Distilleries, Bogan Road Distillery, McHenry Distillery, Derwent Distillery and Belgrove Distillery – each sip a testament to Tasmania’s rich whisky heritage. From there, folks were in the mood for some great music and they got this in spades at the THG Community concert.

The joy of Celtic music.

Others went to participate in the sessioner’s music program to try their luck in playing Celtic music with other musicians, while the rest of us enjoyed a performance by the St Andrews Caledonian Pipe Band on the lawns of the Great Lake Hotel. The sun was shining and the kilts were swinging.

But let’s talk about the Gala Dinner on the Saturday night, which was the main event for the Scots to shine.

Embrace your inner Highlander

Guests dressed in their finest highland attire were piped in to the dining room then treated to a magnificent rendition of the Ode to the Haggis by David Vernon, our guest musician from Edinburgh.  From there, world class Tasmanian whisky flowed, enough Scottish fare to feed Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army plus music by David Vernon and Iain Macleod kept guests competing for space on the dance floor. Guests were also astonished at the magnificent full moon rising over Australia’s highest lake near the edge of the hotel, reminiscent of Sir Walter Scott’s poem MacGregor’s Gathering. The moon’s on the lake and the mist’s on the brae. So gather, gather, gather, Grigalach! And gather we did as a third of the guests at the Gala dinner were MacGregors.

MacGregor’s gather.

Those who did not attend the gala dinner were still able to enjoy a relaxing evening at another venue nearby playing and listening to Celtic music. What better way to wind down for the journey home was with a recovery breakfast on Sunday in the style of those huge English/Scottish breakfasts? I can’t imagine having this sheer volume of food more than once a year.  The success of this event could not be achieved without the support of all the musicians including the pipe band, distillers, Central Highlands Council and the generous hosts James and Andrea Johns. They are the owners of the Great Lake Hotel which has just taken out the Grey Nomads Gold Award for Best Pub Stay in Australia. So, if you want to embrace your inner Highlander, save the date of 21-23 February 2025 and come join us at next year’s Tasmanian Highlands Gathering.

For more information, please follow the THG Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tasmanianhighlandsgathering or email [email protected].

Text by: Frank McGregor.

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