History Of The Royal Highland Show

Although the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland was established in 1784, it wasn’t until December 1822 that it held its first show at Queensberry House in Edinburgh’s Canongate when according to The Scotsman newspaper "...between sixty and seventy five cattle were exhibited." There were also eight New Leicester sheep and "two beautiful pigs."

Around 1000 members and public attended that first event held on a site adjacent to today’s Scottish Parliament. Gate takings were just over £52, seemingly sufficient to cover overheads.

It’s a far cry from those humble beginnings in the 19th century to the present Royal Highland Show where there’s up to 5000 head of livestock, attendances of around 180,000 and costs associated with staging the event approaching £1.5 million.

Following the inaugural event, the show became a fixture in Edinburgh and Glasgow before moving to Perth in 1829, thereby beginning the tradition of itinerant shows that was to last 130 years before the first “Highland” was held on the permanent site at Ingliston in 1960. The 2012 show is the 172nd to be staged.

During the late 19th and into the 20th century, the show had begun to take on more of a semblance of its modern day equivalent with agricultural implements being exhibited, livestock classes open to breeders from other parts of the UK and prizes for the likes of butter and cheese.

Since moving to Ingliston, however, the show has developed beyond recognition and is now internationally recognised as an annual celebration of Scottish farming, food and countryside, attracting an audience far beyond its farming roots - a showcase of all that’s good about Scotland.

Royalty and The Royal Highland Show

By the early and mid 19th century, the Highland and Agricultural Society was a much revered national institution enjoying the patronage of many of Scotland’s dukes and earls, landowners, agricultural pioneers and the Royal family.

In 1859, the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, seventeen years old and a student at Edinburgh University, twice visited the Edinburgh showyard. In 1872 Queen Victoria expressed a desire to be enrolled as an ordinary member and in 1894, the Duke of York, the future George V, visited the Aberdeen show as President of Society.

Various members of the Royal family have served as Presidents of the Society, have been awarded Honorary Membership or have visited the Royal Highland Show.

The title Royal was bestowed at Inverness show in 1948 by King George VI, father of the current Patron, Her Majesty The Queen.

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