How Scotland County Offers International Fun

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Scotland County

Scotland County Highland Games; Photo by Michael Cline Photography

Feeling a wee bit adventurous this fall? Why not plan a jaunt to Scotland County to experience the 10th annual Scotland County Highland Games in all its sovereign glory?

The Highland Games, held Oct. 6 on the grounds of the North Carolina Rural Heritage Center in Laurinburg, is an event entrenched in everything Scottish. Enjoy watching (or competing) in brute-force athletic competitions. Savor exceptional bagpipe-playing, traditional and local food, and even Scotch whisky-tasting. There’s also dancing, sheepdog demonstrations, and Scottish and Celtic music, including a special performance by Colin Grant-Adams. The genealogy-minded can trace their own Scottish roots with the expert help of Scottish clans and societies. While there, keep in mind the Scottish idiom, “Failing means you’re playing,” which translates into: “It’s better to be doing badly than not taking part.”

Liza Purcell is a Laurinburg native who returned to the area last year after working for several years in Washington, D.C.

Scotland County

Scotland County Highland Games; photo by Michael Cline Photography

“The Highland Games is a can’t-miss event that truly has something for everyone,” Purcell says. “Whether you are a Highland Games regular and travel to different parts of the state and country for these events, or are a first-timer curious about the athletic competitions, like the Turning of the Caber (where individuals throw a huge tree), you are sure to have a fantastic time.”

The area traces its Scottish roots back to the 1700s, when Scottish emigrants colonized the region along with English and Quaker settlers, traveling via the Upper Cape Fear and Pee Dee rivers.

Beacham McDougald, a local historian who calls Scotland County home, explains, “We were originally settled by European Quakers who migrated down from Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. By the mid- to late 1700s, the Scots, who had either come up the Cape Fear or Pee Dee rivers, began to settle. ‘Old’ Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church was established in 1797 at the halfway point on the road that connected the inland harbors of Cheraw, South Carolina, and Fayetteville, North Carolina. Behind the church was the older site for the annual Scotch Fair, a trading custom carried over from Scotland that continued until 1878.”

Scotland County

Photo by Michael Cline Photography

Located in the Sandhills in the southern part of the state, near the North and South Carolina line, Scotland County is known for its unique blend of many cultures, including African and Lumbee. Nicknamed the Soul of the Carolinas, Scotland County is home to historic houses and museums, wine tasting, storytelling, Civil War re-enactments and plenty of outdoor pursuits, from hiking to golfing to paddling on the Lumber River.

If history is your game, check out the John Blue Cotton Festival and celebrate a place where old and new intersect. The festival, slated for Oct. 13-14, highlights the history of the landmark John Blue House, which traces its history back to the 1890s, when John Blue bought 100 acres of land from his father, Angus, for $2,000 and built a house that would last for the ages. The genteel white house is known for its lace-like, two-tier porch, and McDougald says the house is often called “a steamboat on land.”

Scotland County

The John Blue House; photo by Michael Cline Photography

The John Blue House is part of the North Carolina Rural Heritage Center, and includes the Heritage Village, which offers a history lesson about life in the late 1800s. Explore period-specific homes, a log tobacco barn and a general store that dates to the 1880s. Discover the Indian Museum of the Carolinas and learn about the area’s rich mix of Native American Indian cultures, including Lumbee, Cheraw, Cherokee, Tuscarora, Waccamaw and Catawba. Don’t miss the Museum of Agriculture and History, which showcases a collection of antique cars, a retired locomotive engine and inventions of John Blue, among other artifacts.

As part of the festival, embark on a tour of the John Blue Home. Experience the raw power of a mule-powered cotton gin, and enjoy the Pee Dee Power Club Tractor show. For children, there is face painting, festival foods, cow-milking demonstrations and pony rides. Try a collard sandwich or some homemade ice cream, and get your motor running with the festival’s first annual car, truck and motorcycle show.

Cypress Bend Vineyards; Photo by Michael Cline Photography

Overall, Scotland County is a friendly community that treasures its past and looks forward to the future.

“We believe that our strong multicultural heritage will provide a springboard for a more exciting and friendly community as we move toward our future,” McDougald says. “We are working together to make it happen.”

Purcell agrees. “Scotland County is a wonderful place to live and visit, with a welcoming and engaged community,” she says. “Whenever my friends visit town, they always comment on how friendly the people are, even people they don’t know. Our community really embraces that idea of Southern hospitality and we love having visitors, whether it’s for the Highland Games, a baseball tournament, a concert at the Arts Council or one of the many other community events happening throughout the year.”

– Karsen Price

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