Best time to visit Scotland

The Ba' Game in Scotland

When charged up Uppies and Doonies fight for the leather trophy ball, the townspeople protect their dwellings with wooden barricades

The Ba' Game
The Ba' Game
The Ba' Game

Ba' Game is a kind of football played in Kirkwall traditionally twice a year: on Christmas Day and more frequently on the 1st of January, hence it is also called New Year Ba' Game. The game is actually a battle between two teams Uppies and Doonies who compete for the leather trophy ball—the Ba'.

Teams' names originate from the Old Norse "gata" or road and regard those who come from Up-the-Gates side as the Uppies team, while those coming from the opposite side of Doon-the-Gates as the Doonies. The action starts at 1 pm when a veteran winner throws a leather ball into the crowd of hundreds of anxious men. Thousands of excited spectators observe the match that often continues for hours until one team overcomes the other one.

Interestingly, the townspeople prevent their houses from the possible damages by building wooden barricades on the eve of the competition.

The heated game often involves jumping into the icy waters of the Forth river, but Scotsmen and women are not afraid of such a trivial discomfort.

The female Ba' Game, however, was only held twice through Scottish history—in 1945 and 1946. The story has it that they were much too devoted and their feverish battles were too dangerous and thus were stopped.

We can draw some parallels between the Ba' Game with the Lelo Burti in Georgia, as both games are rooted in the traditions, and participants, as well as spectators, have a similar experience, even though the rules are so different.

Practical info

When do people play the Ba' Game in Kirkwall, Scotland, and what is it also called?

The Ba' Game, also known as the New Year Ba' Game, is played twice a year in Kirkwall, Scotland, on Christmas Day and January 1st. Thousands of spectators gather to watch the intense game, which goes on for hours until one team emerges victorious. Show more

In what location can visitors observe the Ba' Game in Scotland, and who is allowed to take part?

The Ba' Game takes place on the streets of Kirkwall, Scotland, and is open to everyone, including visitors. The game can get heated, and players are known to jump into the cold waters of the Forth river. The event has been a part of Scottish culture for centuries, and thousands of spectators gather to watch. Show more

What do the team names Uppies and Doonies signify, and where do they come from?

The Uppies and Doonies team names have their roots in Viking influence. The Uppies, who battle to get the ball into the opposing team's church, originate from Up-the-Gates side, representing the Viking attacking forces. The Doonies, on the other hand, come from the lower side of the town and aim to take the ball to the harbor shore, symbolizing the Viking defenders. Show more

What measures do townspeople take to prevent damage to their properties during the Ba' Game, and what is the game notorious for?

The night before the Ba' Game, wooden barricades are put up to prevent possible damage to houses and businesses. Despite the security measures in place, the game can get heated, with players determined to win, leading to occasional clashes and damages. Nonetheless, the townspeople look forward to this centuries-old tradition that is an integral aspect of Kirkwall life. Show more

Has a female version of the Ba' Game ever been played, and why was it discontinued?

The female version of the Ba' Game took place only twice in recorded Scottish history, in 1945 and 1946, but was considered too dangerous to be continued because of the high level of intensity. The Ba' Game has always been a predominantly male activity, but everyone is welcome to take part in the game or just watch the exciting spectacle from the sidelines. Show more

Ask a question

Find hotels and airbnbs near The Ba' Game (Map)

Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin