IF you're in the mood for a Scottish fling, there will be no better place than Brigadoon in the NSW Southern Highlands on April 6.
For that's the day when the town again comes into view as the Bundanoon Highland Gathering.
It promises to be a day of music, dancing, sports, fun and games with something for all tastes and ages. Organisers hope to match the success of last year, when 11,000 people turned up, despite wicked weather.
For those who love the skirl of bagpipes, more than 25 pipe bands at as many as 600 performers are expected to attend this time around.
This year there will be an added attraction: the festival will hold its inaugural solo competition, with some 200 pipers anticipated.
Bands co-ordinator Ali Saunders said introducing a competitive element to Brigadoon is a win for everyone.
The pipers get to test their mettle and play at a high level while providing the public with something very different.
"It makes them want to play better for the public and themselves," Ali said.
"It makes a greater range of music available, not just the traditional tunes played by mass bands."
This can include the simple, slow 2/4 march; the upbeat March, Strathspey and Reel; and the furiously fast jig. There is also the elaborate, almost mesmerising pibroch.
"It does test you and if you can do it and you can pull it off, it's a great feeling.
"But if you stuff it up, well, everyone stuffs up, and there's always plenty of encouragement to do better next time."
While the complete program won't be finalised until this month, the day will kick off with a street parade complete with the regular massed bands and dancers, country dancing displays, marching clan societies and decorated floats.
In the Fiddlers Tent, there will be plenty of fine music too. The expected line-up will include Bob McInnes and Friends, Mary Kiani, Sally Andrews (accordionist), the Sydney Scottish Fiddlers and Jane Ellis. Individual pipe bands will perform throughout the day.
And of course, a highland gathering wouldn't be complete without games. These include the Australian Highland Heavy Weight Championship, comprises caber tossing, weight over the bar, weight for distance, stone put and hammer throw.
For Ali, one of the highlights is the lifting of the Bundanoon Stones of Manhood - if he gets a chance to see it on what for him is a flat-out day, he said.
This amazing feat of strength consists of lifting a series of sandstone balls weighing between 100 and 165 kilograms, and placing them on a row of barrels spaced out across the field
"Standing next to the barrels when they pick these things up is really something to see," said Ali. "They literally throw them up. The strength of these guys is outstanding."
The person who can lift all five stones on top of the barrels in the fastest time is declared the champion of the day.
"At the other end of the scale is the Wee Heavies, where boys and girls get to mimic the strongmen. We give them little kegs and a little medicine ball and it's absolutely hilarious," Ali said.
This year will see the return of the Grannies' Storytelling Tent, where children's stories are offered in the Scottish lowland tongue. Suitable for bairns aged 2-6.
The day wraps up at 4pm with the official closing ceremony, including a m assed bands display and a performance by a lone piper.
In the evening a ceilidh - a Scottish knees-up with music, song, dance and haggis - will take place at Bundanoon Soldiers Hall (ticketed event).
There will be a direct service from Central Station in Sydney to Bundanoon, stopping at Campbelltown, Macarthur, Picton then all stations to Bundanoon. For more details, visit transportnsw.info closer to the day,
Brigadoon | Bundanoon, April 6, Bundanoon Oval, 62 Erith Street; $25/$20/$10.