World’s first three-day virtual Highland Gathering comes from the heart of Cowal - Cowal Highland Gathering
25th - 27th August 2022


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News  »  World’s first three-day virtual Highland Gathering comes from the heart of Cowal

World’s first three-day virtual Highland Gathering comes from the heart of Cowal

Dancers danced, pipers played and heavy athletes showed off their strength to a worldwide audience as Cowal’s Virtual Highland Gathering broadcast its three-day online extravaganza around the globe to fans from Canada to New Zealand, and everywhere else in between.

In a year which no-one could have predicted, this was an event like no other. It was a celebration of a Highland Gathering which is more than just a great day out. Cowal’s Virtual Gathering not only united viewers in the present, it also took them on a journey back in time. Former World Highland Dancing Champions joined Gathering officials to talk about their Cowal memories and, for many their lifetime love affair with the 126-year-old event, including Sheena MacDonald who was the World Juvenile Highland Dancing Champion in 1951, before being crowned Adult World Highland Dancing Champion from 1956 – 1958. And, for today’s dancers, inspiration came from current champions Marielle Lesperance, from Canada; Beret Dernbach from USA and Scotland’s Rosey Watt who discussed the importance of setting realistic goals and what it means to win a Cowal medal.

Pipe band fans were treated to some of the world’s finest pipers and Stuart Liddell from Inveraray, Angus McColl from Benderloch, Daniel McDermott from Rothesay, Willie MacCallum from Campbeltown and Alistair Henderson from Dunoon came together to pay tribute to a piping legend, Pipe Major John MacLellan DCM in a feature called The Lads Of Argyll. Having all played for the Virtual Gathering separately, they came together, socially distanced of course, to sign off with a very special Salute to the Chieftain. The familiar massed band Salute of Glendaruel Highlanders was replaced with Cowal Gathering, a tune written by Pipe Major John McLellan DCM, and in this unprecedented year a poignant reminder of why we couldn’t gather together in Dunoon Stadium.

And heavy athletics fans got their strength and endurance fix with Gathering favourites Daniel Dorrow from Germany, Lucy Marshall from England, and Heisi Geirmundsson from Iceland joining Cowal Highland Gathering’s Heavy Athletics Convener Alan Pettigrew for a very entertaining dive into the world of a highland games heavy athlete.

Live music fans weren’t left disappointed with the Friday night Gig at the Gathering replaced with Gig at the Gathering Unplugged. Gig favourites including Heron Valley, Trail West and Skerryvore spoke about their experiences of playing in front of the famous Cowal audience, before entertaining viewers with some familiar tunes. And, Saturday Ceilidh lovers weren’t disappointed either as Inverhooley Ceilidh Band invited viewers to take their partners for some of the Cowal Ceilidh Tent’s favourite dances, before TideLines, who were due to headline the Saturday Gig at the Gathering, played a set, no doubt also winning a new legion of fans.

Cowal Highland Gathering Chair Ronnie Cairns thanked everyone who got behind this year’s Virtual Gathering saying, “We had no idea when we first talked about hosting a virtual event, just how much it would capture people’s imaginations. It has been a mammoth task bringing this event together, it would have been impossible if it hadn’t been for the people who gave their time so readily to be a part of Cowal’s Virtual Gathering. It is testament to the love this event has instilled across generations and geographical borders, thank you on behalf of all of us.

“Cowal Highland Gathering is a historic event for so many different reasons. It’s holds the world’s oldest pipe band trophies, it is the home of the World Highland Dancing Championships and it hosts Scotland’s only international heavy athletics championship. But Cowal’s Virtual Highland Gathering is now itself a historic event, it is the world’s first three-day virtual Highland Gathering, and we very much hope it becomes the one and only time we have to host it.

“To everyone who joined us online we thank you from the bottom of hearts, we hope we can meet you in person in August 2021 when we can once again gather in Dunoon Stadium.”

Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events at VisitScotland, said: “EventScotland is delighted to have supported Cowal’s first Virtual Highland Gathering. Despite current circumstances, the Gathering team have managed to deliver a fantastic three-day online programme, bringing together audiences from across the globe to enjoy the very best of past and present, perfectly capturing the spirit of this unique historic event.”

If you missed any of Cowal’s Virtual Gathering you can catch up on Cowal Highland Gathering’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. The 2021 Cowal Highland Gathering will be held in Dunoon Stadium from Thursday 26 – Saturday 28 August 2021. For more details visit or email