Scotland's top ten sporting sites

27 June 2014
imports_CESC_20140214-bowling-chatelherault-rcahms-crop-1-_20567.jpg Scotland's top ten sporting sites
To celebrate the start of the Commonwealth Games this summer, here's our pick of Scotland's top ten sporting sites. ...

To celebrate the start of the Commonwealth Games this summer, here's our pick of Scotland's top ten sporting sites.

Hamilton High Park (1732-1744)

William Adam designed surely the grandest of bowling greens and pavilions for the Hamilton Palace estate of James, 5th Duke of Hamilton and Duke of Brandon, in 1732. The primary purpose of the magnificent Chatelherault buildings (named after a former family title) was as a hunting lodge for the duke and his guests, but the raised central compartment of the rear gardens appears to have been laid out as a bowling green from the start.

Jokingly described by Adam as 'The Dogg Kennell att Hamilton' the hunting lodge formed the spectacular skyline climax of a 1.5 metre axial avenue from Hamilton Palace.

Kirkcaldy (1937-38)

A number of local businessmen formed a company in 1937 to plan a new ice rink for Kirkcaldy. A former assistant to Sir Robert Lorimer, Harry Hubbard of Williamson & Hubbard, designed the £38,000 building which was planned to hold 4,000 spectators for ice hockey and to accommodate six curling rinks.

A feature of the design was the ability to use the building as an entertainment hall when the floor area was not flooded. Although the bulk of the building comprises a utilitarian shed for the rink, the white-rendered entrance is marked by Art Deco details of streamlined fins and grilles.

Doocot Park, Kincarrathie (1925)

Arthur Kinmond, 'AK Bell' of the Perth whisky company Arthur Bell & Sons, played for the Wolfhill, Perthshire and Grange Cricket Clubs and was president of the Scottish Cricket Union in 1912.

He was a friend of the star Australian batsman Don Bradman. AK's love of cricket led him to establish a fine cricket ground and pavilion in the grounds of his home, Kincarrathie House, in 1927.

The pavilion and grounds were gifted to the Gannochy Trust, established in 1937 to continue AK's philanthropic interests. Smart, Stewart & Mitchell's quirky design for the Doocot Park Pavilion includes an octagonal clun-room and balcony. the larch-clad building is so rustic in character that it is often described as the 'tree house'.

It opened on 25 April 1925 with a match between the local Jeanfield and Balhousie teams.

Old Course, St Andrews

Although probably built for drovers and their stock, and subsequently much reconstructed, this little hump-backed bridge dates back to at least the eighteenth century as the 'Goffers' Bridge' or 'Golfers' Bridge'. 

More recently it has appropriated the name 'Swilken Bridge' from the old bridge that stood to its south. Straddling the Swilken Burn between the 1st and 18th fairways of the Old Course, the Golfers' Bridge is now one of the most famous structures in any sport. 

John Henry Taylor, James Braid, Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Bobby Locke, Peter Thomson, Jack Niklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods, Lorena Ochoa and Stacy Lewis are just some of the golfers to make their way across the bridge on their way to victory in Open Championships staged on the Old Course.

Main Stand (1822)

The racecourse at Kelso has had three locations in its history. Sir Alexander Don first established the Kelso Races in 1751 at Caverton Edge, some five miles from the town, where according to James Haig, the 3rd Duke of Roxburghe built an 'elegant stand for the accommodation of the company, the lower part of which contained stables for the running horses, where they were kept during the races'. 

In 1818 the duke moved the course even further away to Blakelaw (Blaicklaw) in order to plant trees at Caverton (now Bowmont Forest). The old stand was demolished to placate local farmers, who complained about the nuisance of gypsy revels at the building. The Blakelaw course proved extremely unpopular with the townsfolk, who tried to burn the new planting at Caverton.

Before a stand could be built, the course was moved again to Berrymoss, its current location, only a mile from the centre of Kelso. On 12 July 1822 the duke laid the foundation stone for a new stand by an as yet unidentified architect.


The name Murrayfield is synonymous with around the world with the home of Scottish rugby. The original Murrayfield Stadium (pictured) was built on the same site in 1925, on nineteen lands acres of land originally belonging to the Edinburgh Polo Club. 

In response to the 1990 Taylor Report on stadium design, the Scottish Rugby Union commissioned a new all-seater bowl stadium from the Miller Partnership (now Holmes Miller). It opened in phases between 1992 and 1994 and was built at a cost of £50 million, funded by a debenture scheme. The new stadium, capable of seating 67,500 spectators, opened with a match between Scotland and South Africa in November 1994.

Ardross Street, Inverness (1865)

The Northern Meeting Park Grandstand is thought to be the earliest and largest permanent structure associated with Highland games.

Designed by the local firm of Matthews & Lawrie and opened for the September 1865 meeting, the 178-foot-long by 34-foot-wide stone built stand accommodated 700 seats with a 'ladies' waiting room, gentlemen's room, competitors' room, two apartments for the keeper of the grounds, and two refreshment rooms on the ground floor beneath.

Half the seats were reserved for members of the Northern Meeting, and the other half were made available to the general public. Iron columns support the roof, and a decorative iron parapet railing runs along the length of the stand. Portable shutters were designed to enclose the stand in winter.

Victoria Park, Glasgow (1900)

Partick Curling Club gained a twenty-year lease of ground at the west end of the newly-formed Victoria (then Whiteinch) Park in 1893 and soon built a curling pond there. The railway and public works contractor William Kennedy presented a new curling house in 1900, and his business partners M Hunter Kennedy and John G Kennedy added two artificial rinks (lit by electric lamps) in 1902.

The red brick 'house' is a handsome miniature Glasgow Style pavilion with deep overhanging eaves and dumpy red sandstone columns. The pavilion contains three rooms: a club room, heated by an open fire on the west side; a toilet; and a locker room, which still contains the original wooden lockers used for storing the members' stones.

Bellfield Street, Portobello (1898-1901)

The construction of public baths was a stipulation of the act to amalgamate the Burgh of Portobello with the City and Royal Burgh of Edinburgh in 1896. Designed by Edinburgh's City Architect Robert Morham, and his deputy James Anderson Williamson, the flagship building contained men's and ladies' ponds, with second-class single baths in the dividing section between them (now changing rooms), a Turkish baths suite, gymnasium, reading room, smoking area and refreshment room in the upper floors.

Concerned not to repeat the plain design of the Infirmary Street Baths, in the prominent position on Portobello's Promenade, the town council ordered a more ornate arcitectural treatment and Turkish baths to rival those of Dundee and Aberdeen, but sought to offset some of the additional costs by using free filtered salt water from the Firth of Forth rather than piped fresh water. The baths are no longer supplied with salt water, but the original inlet can still be seen at low tide.

Falkland Palace (1539-41)

The Royal Tennis Court of 1539-41 at Falkland Palace is Scotland's earliest surviving work of sporting architecture, and the oldest tennis court still in use anywhere in the world. The master of works records for James V's remodelling of the palace identify the master mason John Brownhill in connection with the tennis court project. 

The high walls of the court were never roofed, but it had a 'toofall', penthouse or 'pentice' - a lean-to roofed viewing gallery along two sides of the interior. The accounts detail the construction of hazards, which possibly include the four openings (lunes) in the back wall.

The interior walls appear to have been painted black. Although the adjoining late sixteenth-century structure has been used as stables/byre, it is possible that it was used originally for games such as billiards and bowling. 

John Kinross restored the tennis court for the 3rd Marquess of Bute in 1892-94, Walter Schomberg Scott repaired it for the National Trust for Scotand in 1955, and repairs were carried out in 2010-11. 



Material taken from 'Scotland's Sporting Buildings', published by Historic Scotland. This book celebrates the extraordinary range and outstanding quality of the country's historic sporting architecture. Using the results of Historic Scotland's nationwide study of sporting buildings, the book focuses on listed buildings and charts the development of buildings in which to play and view sport, store sporting equipment and socialise after the game.

Image credits

Chaterhault :  © RCAHMS (aerial photography collection)
Partick Curling Club -  © Nick Haynes
Northern Meeting Grandstand -  © Crown Copyright Historic Scotland
Horse Racing At Kelso  © Crown Copyright (RCAHMS)
Murrayfield -  © Crown Copyright (RCAHMS)
Royal Tennis Court -  © Nick Haynes
Portobello Swim Centre © M J Richardson
Gannochy Cricket Pavilion © Nick Haynes
Golfers' Bridge © Nick Haynes
Fife Ice Arena © Nick Haynes




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