Kirkwall Ba’

Where: Kirkwall, Orkney at the Mercat Cross by the Cathedral
When: Christmas Day and New Years Day
Time: 10.30 Boys' Ba' & 1pm Mens' Ba'


The Ba’ at Kirkwall is a fiercely contested mass-handball game in the streets of the town. It takes place twice a year on Christmas Day and New Years Day, (unless they fall on Sundays in which case the game is played on Monday instead), between teams of Uppies and Doonies. In the past which side you played on was determined by birthplace, but since in modern times most Orcadians are born in the same hospital ,the rules are now more fluid. The Uppies goal is the end wall of a house opposte the Catholic Church, while the Doonie goal is in the harbour – the ball needs to get wet to score and once it is hailed, the Champion gets to keep it for life. Kirkwall Ba’s are heavy, just larger than a conventional football, and filled with cork dust; they’re always brown and black.The history of the game goes back hundreds of years and doumentation started in 1684; over the years it has evolved from football into the handball game of today, tightly packed into the narrow streets. The main game on each day is preceded by a procession of all participants to the Mercat Cross and a Boys game in the morning at 10.30. Expect  to 100 players and plenty more spectators; play can go on well after dusk falls.

Helpful Hints

If  plan to go, you’ll need to make arrangements well in advance as accomodation is limited and ferry travel will be subject to holiday restrictions. Plan on staying for a few days.

Look out for Ba’-related window displays in the shops of the town.

If Christmas Day or New Years Day fall on a Sunday  the games will be on 26th December and January 2nd respectively but this doesn’t happen for some time hence.

Click here to find out more (brilliant photos !) :

Photo by Joeri C.

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