If you’re staying with us here at Ben Nevis Holiday Park between the months of March and September, why not take in a game of shinty? This traditional Highland sport is alive and thriving in our part of the world and there are not one but three shinty clubs within a short stretch of our holiday park – so grab a piece of the action!
What is shinty?
Something of a mixture between hockey, hurling, football – and clan warfare – shinty is a team sport that’s played with a curved stick known as a caman and a hard ball a smidge smaller than a tennis ball. Teams consist of 12 players in the men’s game, and 10 for the women’s, including a goalkeeper. As with football, a match is played over two halves of 45 minutes.
Whereas in hurling you can handle the ball with your hands, in shinty only the goalie can do this, although you are allowed to use your feet to stop a ball on the ground.
You can swing the stick any which way you like – including up in the air for either defensive or attacking purposes. It’s a fast, physical contact sport with balls reaching high speeds – and the odd shoulder tackle too! Helmets are recommended but only a requirement for under 17s. If you’re thinking it sounds like it can get a bit brutal – you’d be right!
Shinty is an ancient game dating back thousands of years. It has its roots in sport called camanachd that was played in sixth, seventh and eighth centuries, as well as in Irish hurling, which arrived on northwest Scottish shores about 2000 years ago. Some say it was used as part of training for clan warriors.
Historically a winter sport, the season highlight was ‘Iomain Challainn’ which took place at new year. This was a game between neighbouring districts or parishes which could last all day! There was no limit on the number of players, and people could drop in and out of the game as they saw fit.
While the shinty season has changed to summer in order to avoid so many bad-weather cancellations, the tradition of the new year game lives on!
How about the name?
Well, no one can say for sure. But it’s thought that the origins of the Gaelic word ‘camanachd’ come from the word ‘commons’, an older form of hurling that was played in the northern half of Ireland. There was also a version called cammag played on the Isle of Man.
And shinty? We like the theory that it came from the things people used to shout while playing the game – ‘shin ye’ / ‘shin t’ye’!
Shinty Clubs nearby
Shinty is more popular in the western Highlands than in the east and south of Scotland. With three teams on our doorstep, we have a great standard of play round here!
This club has an interesting history, being formed from two different shinty clubs: Brae Lochaber (formed 1887) and Spean Bridge (formed 1894). Since forming in 1946 the teams have split back out and come back together again! They play at Spean Bridge stadium.
Fort William Shinty Club
Fort William has one of the most picturesque shinty pitches out there. An Aird is at the base of Ben Nevis near the shores of Loch Linnhe. It often hosts the biggest game of the year – the Camanachd Cup Final, as well as international shinty–hurling composite rules games.
Another incredibly scenic location, Kilmallie play at Canal Parks in Caol, just a 5 minute drive from Ben Nevis Holiday Park or a 40 minute walk. The pitch sits on the loch-side where Loch Eil flows into Loch Linnhe with great views of the Nevis Range.
Check out the local fixtures when you come to stay for an authentic West Highlands experience you’ll never forget!
Main image of Lochaber vs Bute Shinty game used under Creative Commons licence. Photo by ufopilot on Flickr