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The Game of Shinty

It’s a fast moving, exciting sport played with sticks called camans, by teams of 12 players. Superficially the game looks similar to hockey with the object to score goals by hitting the ball through the goals. The game lasts 90 minutes and players require great stamina as well as a good eye.

The Culture

Shinty is very important to the local communities in which it is played, acting as a social glue. Family names are inextricably associated with different clubs. Young players are often to be seen at matches practicing their ball skills and receiving advice from some of the game’s veterans. Although most games are 12 a side nowadays, 100 years ago teams could be made up of any number and whole villages regularly met in match.

The Rules

Unlike hockey there is no restriction on the swing of the caman, the head of which is shaped to allow players to strike the ball with both sides of the stick.  In shinty players are allowed to stop the ball by using both their feet or their chest, but only the goalkeeper can use the flat of his hand to stop the ball.  Kicking the ball is not permitted.  If the ball goes out of play at the side of the pitch the ‘shy’ is taken by a player striking the ball with the narrow side of the stick – this is quite a skill.  Unlike hockey shinty is a game in which physical contact is part of the sport.

The Pitches

At one time there was no restriction on pitch size, but now they should be up to 170 yards long and up to 80 yards wide — considerably bigger than a football pitch.

The Equipment

The best camans were originally made from naturally shaped lengths of ash or yew tree which gave great strength and suppleness, but they are now manufactured from strips of wood glued together. The ball has an interior of cork and the outer cover is made of leather. It is similar in size to a tennis ball, but not as hard as a hockey ball, which is just as well as it can travel at over 100mph! Helmets with faceguard are now compulsory for players under the age of 18 and an increasing number of adult players are wearing one for safety.

For more information on the Game of Shinty, please download our leaflet “Information for Visitors to The Cairngorms National Park”.