If you’re booking a self catering cottage in Scotland in the summer this year, you’re almost certain of being able to find a Highland Games or Gathering nearby, or within a few hours’ drive at most. For those of you who’ve never seen the Highland Games before, this is one spectacle that is quintessentially Scottish, combining much of what gives the country it’s unique character.

Held in towns and villages up and down the country, the setting for most Games is the village green or common, and tickets are usually modestly priced. If you’re new to the area and don’t know your way, don’t worry – just follow the sound of the bagpipes! If you’re coming to Scotland on holiday this summer, here are three Games that are worth visiting:

Durness Highland Gathering

Held every year in July, on the 24th in 2015, the Durness Gathering in the far northwest is one of the smaller games, which is why it’s often referred to as the ‘friendly games’. Held at the Shore Park in the village, the event gets underway at noon when the games’ chieftain and officials follow the pipe band from the village square to the field. There, you can enjoy the piping competitions, heavy events, field and track, and more. Local food and drink is also on sale, although you can bring your own picnic if you prefer.

Assynt Highland Games

These games are held every year on the second Friday in August, in the old fishing port of Lochinver in the northwest Highlands. These are traditional games that include all the usual heavy events (tossing the caber, hammer, and shot) as well as Highland dancing, piping, track and field events. There’s also a games’ night dance in the village hall, which is a highlight of the social calendar and where all are made welcome.

The Braemar Gathering

One of the most prestigious in the games’ calendar, Braemar signals the end of the season and is always held on the first Saturday in September – this year on the 5th. The patron is HM the Queen, and the royal party usually arrive at around 3 in the afternoon. International athletes compete in the heavy events and the standard of Highland dancing and piping is world class. Tweeds and clan tartans are everywhere to be seen, and the parade in the arena by the massed pipe bands is a thrilling sight and sound!