Shinty is a fast and furious game – and not one for the faint-hearted.

But the sport is attracting more and more females who are keen to get stuck in.

The number of women and girls picking up the caman – or shinty stick – has tripled over the past four years, with ladies’ clubs springing up all over Scotland.

“Girls used to have to stop playing once they left school as there were no games for them, but now we can carry on and enjoy the sport just like the men,” said Donna Mackenzie, Scotland player and youth coach.

Like most people in the Highlands, Donna grew up watching the sport – but she also wanted to take part in the rough-and-tumble game.

“My mum and dad played but my mum had to give it up as there were no women’s teams.

“I played at school, and because there are now women’s leagues, I was able to develop my game, play for my local club, Glenurquhart, and ended up playing for Scotland,” said Donna, 22, from Muir of Ord.

“I’m shinty daft – it’s so much fun and all my friends play. The whole community turns out to watch us play.”

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Donna coaches at girls’ shinty camps and goes into schools to encourage participation.

“The girls are really keen when they see a female role model. There are so many more opportunities for women and girls to play shinty now with new teams cropping up all over the place. The skill levels are increasing and last year the women’s Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup final was televised on BBC Alba for the first time.”

Maree Mackenzie, 14, not only plays for Kinlochshiel Ladies but also played for the boys’ under-14 team last year and was selected for the North Select U14, effectively the best ‘boys’ in the north of Scotland. She now plays for the under-17 boys’ team and hopes to play for Scotland.

“I was really chuffed when I got player of the year out of all the boys and girls.

Read more: Rule change sees children barred from shinty competitions

“When I started playing with the boys they were a bit unsure and resistant but as soon as they saw I could play, they welcomed me onto the team,” said Maree, from Glenelg in Ross-shire.

When she was growing up, her girl friends thought shinty was a boys’ game but Maree refused to give up – despite her head being split open by a shinty ball and needing stitches.

“It’s a tough sport with lots of bumps and bruises. I’ve broken fingers and my hands aren’t the prettiest. It’s a hard sport and you have to develop your skills and keep your fitness up, but I love it.”

Katie Macrae, 18, was one of the girls who pushed for Kinlochshiel Ladies to be set up two years ago.

“There was no local women’s club and I couldn’t play for the men’s team, so I would have had to give up shinty,” she said.

“It’s a great sport that creates good bonds between players. Women should have the same opportunities in sport as men – it’s about time it was opening up more for us.”

Derek Keir, Chief Executive Officer of the Camanachd Association, said: “We are keen to develop opportunities in the women’s game.

“When Kinlochshiel asked us to host an open meeting to gauge interest in creating a ladies’ team, more than 30 people attended.

“We also trained coaches and referees and appointed two shinty ambassadors, one of them female, to grow support in the school.”

Sandra MacRae, Kinlochshiel Secretary, said: “Shinty is a great sport for girls and women as it helps them be more confident. There are no other team sports for girls in our area – no football or netball.

“They all get so much out of shinty. I’ve seen shy girls transformed. It instills discipline, confidence and camaraderie. It also helps teenage girls realise that losing is not the end of the world. It encourages resilience.”

Shinty players and fans – both women and men – will be watching the final of the Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup on Saturday 14 September at An Aird, Fort William.

Folk-rock musician and broadcaster Gary Innes, a former Camanachd Cup winner and the trophy’s ambassador, said: “It’s absolutely tremendous that women’s shinty is flourishing and the standard is getting better every year.

“More women and girls taking part will help the game survive in this current climate where there are so many other things competing for people’s attention. Women’s involvement will help the sport to grow and raise its profile.”