Celtic Sports & Leisure

The Celtic nations have produced some truly unique sports. Shinty, hurling and Gaelic football have many elements of hockey, soccer and rugby, but add their own Celtic twist. They may be little known outside their home nations, but when the All Ireland Finals of hurling and Gaelic football each attract more than 80,000 spectators to Dublin, it’s obvious how big a deal these sports are. Celtic wrestling can also be found across all the nations, including Brittany and Cornwall.
And while it’s now a global game, golf was originally a Celtic sport, having been invented in Scotland. St Andrews boasts the oldest golf course in the world and the country is now home to more than 500 other courses.
When it comes to sports with a noble history, the Highland Games take some beating. Their origins go back to a time when Clans competed against each other in trials of strength such as caber tossing and tug o’war. But there was a gentler side to the festivities as well, with music and dance featuring prominently. Today, while the Games are most associated with Scotland, traditional gatherings take place around the world, particularly in the USA and Canada, but also New Zealand and Australia.
Then there are the other more ‘mainstream’ sports in which Celts shine. Rugby is practically a religion in Wales, while the Irish and Scots are also passionate – and world class – participants in the sport. Wales’ Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey play at the highest levels of football, the global game. In cycling, the Isle of Man’s Mark Cavendish has followed in the wheel tracks of Scotland’s Chris Hoy who has five Olympic gold medals to his name. And Gerraint Thomas took the sport’s ultimate prize home to Wales when he won the Tour de France in 2018.

Celtic Sports

Explore the sport of the Celtic nations

Find out about Celtic Sport

Shinty

With origins going back almost 1,500 years, shinty (camanachd in Scottish Gaelic) is now played mainly in the Scottish Highlands, though Highland migrants have taken it to some of the country’s cities.

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Hurling

Hurling, played mainly in Ireland, has a claim to be even older than shinty and may date back as much as 4,000 years. It’s also said to be the fastest game played on grass. One thing is for sure though; it has elements of many other games and requires formidable skill and not a little courage to play.

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Gaelic Football

With around 2,600 clubs, Gaelic football is Ireland’s most popular spectator sport. In its current form, Gaelic football is more recent sport than hurling or shinty, dating from the late 19th century, and is played with a round leather ball a bit bigger than a volleyball. It has elements of soccer and rugby and bears a close resemblance to Australian Rules Football. With no pads or body protection, it’s not a game for the faint-hearted.

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Wrestling

Celtic wrestling survives in three main forms and regions: Gouren In Brittany, Cornish style in Cornwall and Backhold wrestling in Scotland.

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Highland Games

Several sports feature prominently in the many Highland Games held in Scotland and overseas each year between May and September with peaks in July and August when there are more than 30 events per month.

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Rugby

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