The crowds came out in Dunoon today as Cowal’s world famous Gathering finally got underway.

Visitors have been pouring into the town over the last few days in the run-up to what is one of the most eagerly awaited Highland Games events in the Scottish calendar.

Today they joined scores of local people in flocking to the Gathering for the start of the action.

The action began early when the Scottish National Highland Dancing Championships kicked off at 08.30am.

Today’s action – which included the qualifiers for Saturday’s World Highland Dancing Championships – saw 401 dancers in nine categories battle it out for the honours.

Among the winners were: Aisla Gocan-Wright from London, Canada who won the premier category for dancers aged 11 years, picking up the Elkington Challenge Trophy and Eilidh Gammons from Helensburgh and Alice Newlands from Dundee who jointly picked up the May Falconer Memorial Trophy for the best Scottish Dancer (resident) in Events 8 to 15.

Drew Fraser from Scarborough, Canada was awarded the May G Falconer Trophy for the best Male Dancer in any of the Scottish Championships: Event 8 to 15.

It wasn’t all about dancing today, because the entertainment kept going into the evening with the ever-popular 5K Cowal Run taking place from the Crazy Golf course at West Bay at 7.15pm.

More than 100 athletes signed up to take part and were cheered on by spectators lining the route.

Cowal Highland Gathering chair Ronnie Cairns said he was delighted by how the event’s first day had gone.

“Dunoon is the centre of the Highland dancing world this weekend, and today we got a taste of what we can look forward to for the next couple of days,” he added.

“The competitors all did themselves proud and, as always, were cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd which made for a great atmosphere and really set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

“People across the globe who are serious about Highland dancing will now be holding their breath to see who comes out on top in the various competitions, as the Cowal Gathering crown is the most glittering of them all.

“If today’s events are anything to go by, we’re in for a real feast of dancing over the next couple of days.”

Ronnie said the efforts of everyone involved in organising and running the Gathering over the last few months have paid off.

“Everything seems to have gone smoothly so far. Even the weather was on its best behaviour with blue skies and sunshine to welcome competitors and spectators back to Cowal.

“We’ve got a packed schedule for tomorrow and Saturday with something for everyone to enjoy, whether it be more Highland Dancing, pipe bands, heavy athletics, wrestling, ceilidh music, running, axe throwing, thrilling demonstrations, mountain biking, crazy golf, interactive children’s storytelling, and any of the many other attractions around the Stadium this weekend.

“We’re delighted with how the first day has gone, and we look forward to welcoming everyone back again tomorrow for another day of spectacular entertainment.”

A full list of the results of all today’s action will be posted on the Gathering website –– as soon as possible.

For information or to book tickets for the rest of the event, please visit the website or contact the event office by emailing or phoning 01369 703206.

Cowal Highland Gathering is supported through EventScotland’s International Events Programme.

This year’s Cowal Gathering runs from Thursday 25 to Saturday 27 August.

For more information about the event or to buy tickets, please visit the Gathering’s website at or contact the event office by emailing or phoning 01369 703206.