Watching Sport in Scotland
Going to watch the Scotland football team has for many years been a short cut towards despair and frustration. For travellers to Scotland it is fortunate then that there is a huge number of alternative sporting events that can enjoyed by fans of all ages and nationalities.
Shinty is a traditional sport played all over the highlands. For those not familiar with the game it is probably best described as an aggressive high-tempo cross between hockey and hurling. It has an older recorded history than Scotland itself and was adapted by Scots emigrants to Canada into what is now known as ice hockey. Although not professional, the Scottish league is highly competitive and watching a match can be a thrilling experience. Kingussie & Newtonmore are two of the biggest names in the sport and have a fierce rivalry stretching back decades. Encounters between the two are hard fought affairs with no quarter given. Leathad is only a few miles away so after the intensity of a local derby you can relax in an incredible architect designed house with panoramic views.
Rugby 7s originated in Melrose in the Borders in 1883. This is still one of the most prestigious tournaments on the world rugby stage with teams coming from all over the world to participate. Next year the 9th of April is the date to mark in your diary for this hugely popular event but for rugby fans there will be 10 different tournaments all across the borders in April and May as part of the Kings of the Sevens League. Each tournament is the highlight of the towns sporting year with a carnival atmosphere and massive celebration in the evening afterwards. Gateshaw House is the perfect borders retreat offering get away from it all luxury as well as being close to all the action.
The Mull Rally has been running for over 45 years and has become one of the highlights of the British motorsport calendar. This year from Friday 9th to Sunday 11th October large parts of the road network on the island will be closed to traffic to allow this spectacular event to take place. Partly because of the huge impact it has on the island, locals have really embraced this event and visitors will be astonished at the level of community support it receives, especially for the atmospheric night time stages. This is not the time to book a quiet or relaxing break on the island, it’s a time to party. The stages over the weekend tend to cover most parts of the island so wherever you end up staying you will not have to travel far to find some of the action. Kellan Mill is just off the main road but a short walk to the beach if the smell of burning rubber gets too much!
A round of the Mountain Biking World Cup is held every June at Fort William. For the entire weekend the town is mobbed by bikers of all descriptions for the most exciting and spectator-friendly sporting event in the Highlands. Regularly voted by competitors as the best race on the circuit, fans line the course all the way up the side of the hill at the ski station at Nevis Range. The post-race partying is a legendary feature of the weekend so stick around if possible. You can even hire a bike and go and ride the racecourse. The School House in Glenfinnan is ideally suited for access to Fort William. Take in all the action but retreat to this haven of tranquillity when the chaos gets too much.
Golf has always been a massive spectator sport in Scotland with over 20,000 people regularly attending world class events such as the Open. The Scottish Open is scheduled to come to Castle Stuart in 2016 in what is likely to give a huge boost to visitor numbers. There is certainly no shortage of golf to be had in the surrounding area with dozens of courses, including some of the most iconic and challenging in the world on your doorstep. Quarryfield is just a 20 minute drive away from Castle Stuart and you can also reach Royal Dornoch in 50 minutes and Nairn in 35.
The start of August is traditionally when racing yachts from all over the country gather in Oban for West Highland Yachting Week. This regatta is a combination of competitive racing and family oriented social events. The sight of so many sails in the harbour at the same time is a huge draw for salty dogs but the post-race celebrations are not limited to just the competitors, the whole of Oban seems to join in. Achnacloich and Rhunacairn are conveniently located just out of town but still right beside the water’s edge so salty dogs will still feel at home.