Shinty: A Uniquely Scottish Sport

The team sport known as “shinty” has been described as a mixture of hockey, lacrosse and ice-hockey, but that description doesn’t really do justice to a game which is considered to be one of the oldest in the world. Shinty originated in Scotland and at one stage it was played wherever Scottish Highlanders migrated to, but it is now played primarily in the Scottish Highlands. The rules and competitions of shinty are governed by the Camanachd Association located in Inverness, with the main competitive events being the Scottish Hydro Premier Division and the Camanachd Association Challenge Cup.

The Camanachd Association was formed at a meeting held in the Victoria Hall of Kingussie back in October 1893 with thirty-three recognized clubs becoming members. It was discovered that different rules had evolved in different parts of the country, and a central governing body was needed to set standardized rules and organize competitions on a national level – which it has been doing ever since. The stated objectives of the Camanachd Association are: (1) to foster, encourage, promote and develop the Sport and to uphold the Rules of Play for Shinty, and (2) to govern competitions and activities in connection with the Sport.

The game of Shinty is traditionally played on grass, with artificial turf being an acceptable alternative in recent years. The objective of the game is to get a small ball past opposing team members across the pitch (measuring between 140 to 170 yards in length) and into the goal. The ball, which is slightly smaller in size than a tennis ball, consists of a solid cork core covered in two pieces of leather that have been stitched together leaving a raised seam. The stick used to maneuver the ball is referred to as the caman and is traditionally made of wood, resembling a hockey stick.

While most popular in the Scottish Highlands, there are shinty clubs in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Perth, and many of Scotland’s Universities have teams competing with one another under the banner of “University Shinty”. There’s no doubt that this fast moving game has loads of entertainment value for players and spectators alike. If you happen to be in an area where a game of shinty is to be played, grab the opportunity to watch this uniquely Scottish sport.