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Sports in Scotland

Whether it’s because of Scotland’s dreamy landscapes or its inventive and energetic people, Scotland’s sporting heritage is considerable and the country today demonstrates a true love of sport.

The sporting traditions of Scotland are legendary worldwide. Scotland boasts the invention of many popular international sports including tennis, golf and rugby. Hockey, curling, shinty, and the Scottish Highland Games also play an important role in the history of Scottish sport.

One of the nation’s most popular sports is football. William McGregor, a Scotsman, set up the first English football league, and the first international football match was played in Scotland in 1872 – in Partick, Glasgow, to be precise. Today, football is played throughout Scotland by amateurs and world-renowned professionals alike.

Scotland: the home of Golf

Scotsmen have been playing golf – or ‘gowf’, as it was once known here – as far back as the 15th century. It was later banned by King James II as a distraction from military training, but has since grown into a multi-billion dollar industry and holds the title of the biggest amateur sport in the world.

Today there are over 550 golf courses in Scotland. In many places, golf is still regarded as an exclusive pastime. This is not the case in Scotland, in which members of the public can play on some of the finest municipal golf courses in the world for a very small fee.

2014 Ryder Cup

In 2014, the year of Homecoming, Scotland hosted one of the world’s biggest sporting tournaments and the biggest event on the global golf calendar. The 2014 Ryder Cup, at Gleneagles, was the event that put Scotland’s golfing credentials on the world stage, as all eyes turned to the famous PGA Centenary Course for the 40th Ryder Cup matches.

The 2014 Ryder Cup attracted over 40,000 spectators daily. It is estimated to be worth around £100 million to the host country and the spin-offs are just as valuable.

Hidden golfing gems

As well as being home to some of the world’s most famous golf courses, such as Turnberry, St. Andrews, Gleneagles and Carnoustie, Scotland is packed with hidden golfing gems that are waiting to be discovered.

Shiskine, on the island of Arran, is a rare twelve-hole golf course that runs up steep cliffs overlooking the sparkling water of the Irish Sea. Further north, Ardnamurchan, on the spectacular Ardnamurchan Peninsula, boasts a fantastic golf course and is also a designated ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ and a haven for walkers, birdwatchers, painters and archaeologists.

Thanks to Scotland’s northern location, it’s possible to find yourself on the eighteenth green, finishing your round and looking forward to a wee dram of fine malt whisky in the nineteenth hole – the bar! – as the hands on the clock above the clubhouse reach 11pm. Considering the sun rises in the summer just before 5am, that’s almost nineteen hours per day that can be spent on the course.

For more on golf in Scotland, head over to VisitScotland.

Olympic Games success

Scottish sport is a breeding ground for talent. In the 2012 London Olympic Games, 55 Scottish Olympians and 27 Scottish Paralympians were selected to compete. Team GB won an unprecedented 185 medals in total at the Olympics, exceeding all expectations.

The 24 medals won by Scotland were in a range of events including judo, rowing, cycling, athletics, sailing, swimming, slalom canoeing and tennis. There is a wealth of opportunities for Scotland’s people to become involved in all kinds of sports. The country is home to state-of-the-art-facilities including the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho, as well as many dry slope and real snow ski centres, and world-acclaimed mountain biking trails.

Find out more about the sporting activities available to you in Scotland.

Commonwealth Games

In 2014, Glasgow hosted the XX Commonwealth Games, a torch which was passed on from Delhi, who hosted the Games in 2010.

It was a Games which saw more than 140 Commonwealth records broken as elite athletes from 71 nations and territories competed for Games glory. After the success of the 2010 Games, the people of Glasgow were keen to meet the high standards set in Delhi.

Highland games

The more traditional Scottish sports, including tossing the caber, tug o’ war, cross-country running and hammer throwing, are all celebrated at over 60 Scottish Highland Games events across the country each year. The Highland Games are a host of fun for both spectators and participants, and they are a major event in Scotland’s summer sports calendar.

Find out more about Scotland's Highland Games

Missed the highlights of the Commonwealth Games?