The Royal Highland Show – The Greatest Show on Earth

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By a Newsnet reporter

The organisers of this week’s Royal Highland Show on the outskirts of Edinburgh took the rather audacious decision a couple of years back to bill their event as “The Greatest Show on Earth”.

Such trumpet blowing and triumphalism, especially on a global scale, can be somewhat alien to the Scottish psyche.  However, in the world of events promotion, the big birds catch the big worms.

By a Newsnet reporter

The organisers of this week’s Royal Highland Show on the outskirts of Edinburgh took the rather audacious decision a couple of years back to bill their event as “The Greatest Show on Earth”.

Such trumpet blowing and triumphalism, especially on a global scale, can be somewhat alien to the Scottish psyche.  However, in the world of events promotion, the big birds catch the big worms.

For many years “the highland”, “the heiland”, or simply “the show” seemed content to play second fiddle to it’s southern counterpart.  The Royal Agricultural Society of England rather pompously championed their annual event – the Royal Show – as being the premier show in Britain, with our own Highland mentioned in the same breath as other “regionals” like the Great Yorkshire.

Pomposity, laurel resting and a loss of direction saw the sad demise of the Royal Show – which despite the arrogance was actually a tremendous agricultural event – in 2009, after 160 years. 

There was sadness in Scotland at the loss of The Royal, but it is perhaps no co-incidence that around the same time our own Royal Highland Show upped its game in the PR stakes, and “The Greatest Show on Earth” was born! The shows since have hosted greater numbers of visitors each year with footfall this year expected, once again, to top 180,000 people.

So what is the ‘Highland Show’? Why is it such an important date in the Scottish calendar for so many people?

In the media, the show is a huge bag of clichés.  Most of the clichés are entirely justified and I have no hesitation in repeating them here – “a celebration of rural life”, “the shop window for Scottish farming”, “where town meets country” and perhaps most importantly “a great day out for all the family.”  Over and above all of these I believe that the Highland Show, importantly, “celebrates the best of Scotland.”
 
Scotland has many great annual events in the worlds’ of sport, culture, music and so on.  A visit to the highland will find elements of all of these, and more. 

The backdrop to the show is, and hopefully always will be, livestock, food and farming; but to these basic ingredients a whole variety of Scottish delights are added – music, childrens activities, displays of traditional skills, beer gardens, implements from a £400,000 combine harvester to a garden trowel and tented shops stuffed with Scottish art and crafts.

For farmers, especially livestock producers, the Highland is a chance to see the crème-de-la-crème . Importantly, for those with stock good enough to show at the Highland, a winning ticket can add significantly to the value of a breeding animal and its progeny.  Because the livestock showing is so competitive, the Highland is regarded as a real farmers show and it therefore attracts swarms of salesmen with shiney tractors and machinery hoping to do business.

From families to farmers, therefore, “Something for everyone” is another cliché which dances easily across my keyboard!  Rain or shine, a visit to the Royal Highland Show – “The Greatest Show on Earth” from Thursday (21st June) to Sunday (24th June) of this week is highly recommended.

NEWSNET SCOTLAND’S GUIDE TO THE ROYAL HIGHLAND SHOW:

Vital Statistics:

  • The 2012 event will be the 172nd Royal Highland Show.
  • The record attendance at the show was 187,644 in 2010.
  • Independent assessment estimates that the show brings in £70m per year to the Scottish economy.
  • Youngsters under 16 have free entry to the show and at least 30,000 children are expected to visit the education centre at the show this year.
  • There will be around 5,000 of Scotland’s top cattle, sheep, horses, goats and poultry on show.

Top Attractions:

  • Forestry and countryside areas with demonstrations of chainsaw wood carving, terrier racing and many traditional and contemporary rural skills and pass-times.
  • Motor zone, showcasing new vehicles from top manufacturers.
  • The latest innovations in farm machinery.
  • Food and drink hall with the best food and drink from all over Scotland and demonstrations of how to cook and prepare it.
  • Gardening and outdoor living zones and arts, crafts and everything else for the home and garden.

Newsnet Scotlands’ Top 10 Tips for visiting the Highland Show

  • Beat the traffic. If possible consider travelling by bus to Ingliston park and ride, Edinburgh airport or on one of the dedicated Lothian buses from Edinburgh to the showground.
  • However you travel, get there early! The show is huge, don’t expect to see it all in a few hours – an all day visit (or several days) is best.
  • Leave late. The Countryside Area at the Westgate is a great place to have a picnic tea (showground closes at 20:00) and let the home bound rush disperse.
  • Pack a picnic. The food and drink on offer is fantastic, but if you are going to be at the show all day with a family, it can get pricey if you have to buy everything for all meals and snacks.
  • Speak to people. The livestock exhibitors, demonstrators and standholders are often extremely passionate about what they have on show, chatting to them can be fascinating.
  • A visit to the food hall is a must. You might find that you are offered so many free samples that you can’t eat another thing. However, avoid lunchtimes when the food hall gets extremely busy!
  • Golf buggies are available to help those with difficulty walking. Invalid Scooters and Wheelchairs are also available to hire in the disabled parking areas. For everyone else, comfortable trainers might be the best option. Despite the country theme, most of the walking is on tarmac so wellies are not really needed.
  • Bring a brolly. This is Scotland, heavy rain and hot sun are not uncommon in the same day.
  • If possible, don’t bring your dog (and especially don’t leave it in the car). The show can be so busy with people that it is difficult to get around with a dog.
  • A small rucksack to carry any purchases is a good idea. Take a cool bag too and you can then buy some delicious foodie goodies to take home.

Furher information can be found at: http://royalhighlandshow.org/