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Ashbourne Shrovetide Football

Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football

Did you know that the oldest football game is just twenty minutes away from Wheeldon Trees Cottages? Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football is an annual spectacular not to be missed.

If you’re staying with us on February 21st or 22nd you’ll not want to miss it.

Played in Ashbourne every Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday the game is thought to be one of the oldest forms of football in the world. Every year the town’s streets, fields and streams are filled with thousands of players and spectators who follow the match. We live in Ashbourne and most evenings you can already see groups in training for the big event.

Is it just like a normal football game?

Absolutely not. For a start, it’s much longer than a normal game. In fact, it’s played over two eight-hour periods. The goals are three miles apart and there are very few rules. The ball is rarely kicked but instead moves through a giant huddle. There is no set pitch – the game is played throughout the entire town, so shops and businesses board up their windows in preparation.

The history

The game has been played almost every year since at least 1667, although its exact origins are unknown because records were destroyed in a fire. It’s the event in Ashbourne and was even played in the First World War by soldiers in France who originated from the town.

Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football got its royal title after Edward VIII, who was then Prince of Wales, opened the game in 1928.

What time does it start?

The game starts on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday at 2 pm when the ball is ‘turned up’ from a stone plinth on Shaw Croft car park in Ashbourne town centre.

The ball is thrown into the air and into the huddle by the ‘turner up‘, a respected local person. Famous ‘turner-ups’ have included Prince Charles and The Duke of Devonshire.

The match continues until 10 pm. If a goal is scored before 5 pm, then a new ball is ‘turned up’ again and a new game started. If the goal is after 5 pm then the game ends for the day.

Which team are you on?

Hundreds of players take part in the game which divides the town and reignites local rivalries. Your team depends on which side of Henmore Brook you were born on. If you were born South of the Brook you’re a Down’ards, and try to goal the ball at the old Clifton Mill. Those born in the North are the Up’ards and try to goal the ball at the old Sturston Mill.

What happens when a goal is scored?

Unlike traditional football, the process is called ‘goaling’ rather than ‘scoring’. To goal the ball, a player needs to hit the ball against their millstone goal three times. The scorer is usually elected en route to the goal and is typically someone who lives in Ashbourne. It is a huge honour to ‘goal’ the ball and the scorer often becomes a local celebrity.

Wheeldon Trees Cottages 

Wheeldon Trees is the perfect location for a visit to Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football. Our chocolate box cottages are in one of the Peak District’s most stunning valleys just 20 minutes from Ashbourne. In addition to great accommodation, we offer free EV charging, free electric bikes, an honesty shop and amazing views in our 12 acres of Peak District National Park. Above all else, luxurious Derbyshire cottages. Wheeldon Trees is packed full of amenities and is currently in the running for the Peak District and Derbyshire Tourism Awards‘ best self-catering accommodation.

Want to know more? Click here to view our availability.