And the show
WITH its long horns and tousled auburn coat adorning many a shortbread tin, the hairy Highland cow is one of the most distinctive and enduring symbols of rural Scotland, and amid all today’s talk of wilderness, it is an apt reminder that this is also proud farming country, a fact that villages and towns throughout the region celebrate with a summer fixture, the Agricultural Show.
These events are the much-anticipated forum for serious farmers to show off their carefully bred and reared livestock, from those Highland bulls and heifers, to sheep, poultry, and even llamas, in the hope of winning prizes that are far more about reputation than reward. They are also a much anticipated social occasion, bringing together visitors and residents of all ages.
Most shows include competitions in trade and craft categories, from making jam and knitting, to carving sticks and growing vegetables, with the work submitted on display for the public to browse throughout the day. They are lively, good-natured events, but the competition is tough.
Agricultural shows are a highlight of the west coast’s social calendar. These events are important for the farming community, but they are also an entertaining day out for the family. They celebrate everything to do with agriculture and the countryside, and feature the usual demonstrations and judging of farm animals, as well as parades, music, arts, crafts, food and fun activities. Stalls offer local fare, pipe bands provide the soundtrack and the atmosphere is always festive.
As well as being a chance to socialise with like-minded folk, exchange views and news and maybe partake of a dram or two, these shows have a serious side to them. They are an opportunity to showcase stock, add to their value if rosettes come their way and assess the competition.
Some shows are known for their sheep stock judging, where the sheep are brought off the hills, cleaned up and inspected, talked over and examined with great detail.
Fleeces are brushed and fluffed, horns are polished and hooves cleaned before they are turned into the ring where they are scrutinised by not only the judges, but neighbouring farmers and shepherds.
Other shows are known for their cattle, like Dalmally, where Highland cattle from folds all over the country are brought for judging in the hopes of taking away the supreme champion title or Salen, where farming is so important to the community.
SALEN AGRICULTURAL SHOW
Held August 10, the Salen show is Mull’s second agricultural show of the year, this time at Salen showground at Aros and is one of the highlights of the farming year.
Alongside the stockjudging, horse show, food and craft stalls and dog show is the popular terrier racing and horticultural and produce tent showcasing the island’s talent. Visitors and locals alike look forward to this fun day out for the entire family.
SUNART AND DISTRICT AGRICULTURAL SHOW
Loch Sunart provides the lovely backdrop for Sunart’s annual show on August 10 at Strontian Show Field, where stock judging of cattle, sheep and poultry takes place alongside crafts and home produce.
The show starts with a pipe band parade, while around the show ring girls and boys will take to the boards for the Highland dancing competitions.
A special feature of this year’s show will be an after party dance featuring Trail West. Always a family friendly and fun show, it is the highlight of the local social calendar and a must-see for visitors to the area.
ISLAY, JURA AND COLONSAY AGRICULTURAL SHOW
As the name suggest, this show draws competitors and visitors from the three islands to Bridgend on Islay.
This year’s show is held on August 10, and alongside the stockjudging of sheep, pigs, cattle and horses, there is also a gymkhana, side stalls
of food, crafts and other goods, a pipe band, dog show and plenty to keep the children occupied. The céilidh dance in the evening is always a popular way to wind down after the day’s events and usually goes on into the wee hours.
MID-ARGYLL AGRICULTURAL SHOW
At the Mid-Argyll Agricultural Show on August 12 at Kilmory in Lochgilphead, hundreds of exhibitors enter competitions in baking, produce, crafts, flowers and vegetables as well as the dog and livestock classes. Tim Lister will preside over the 120th Show, supported by vice presidents Fergus Lyon and Caitriona MacLeod. A large crowd of spectators will enjoy watching the judging of cattle, sheep, dogs, horses, ponies and poultry competitions. Other regular attractions are the display of vintage tractors and the delightful pets section will continue together with the terrier racing competitions. Ewan MacInnes and colleagues with four sets of coach and horses will delight the crowds at this year’s show.
APPIN AGRICULTURAL SHOW
The setting for Appin Agricultural Show has to be near the top of the list of the most picturesque, looking out as it does over Loch Linnhe to Castle Stalker. Held August 19, this is the Appin Show’s 60th anniversary
This small but perfectly formed show is renowned for its after show dance in the village hall, but during the day it is a focal point for the community, with a good show of stock, including from the island of Lismore, and a variety of entertainment, from children’s sports and dancing to young farmers testing their strength.
DALMALLY AGRICULTURAL SHOW
The final agricultural show in the West Highlands calendar on September 2, the Dalmally Show at the village’s mart is known for its Highland cattle competitions, with entries from all over Scotland.
At this well attended show, visitors will enjoy a wide variety of attractions such as the ever popular shinty match, trade stalls, stockjudging and terrier racing. The judging includes Highland and commercial beef cattle, Blackface sheep, dogs, poultry, baking and preserves, as well as displays of handicrafts and horticulture.