It’s Saturday lunchtime and the spring sun is shining over a small rugby stadium in the Scottish Borders. Local teams take to the field as vocal groups in fancy dress start to make their way through the turnstiles and join the growing crowd. Tweed jackets and country dress casual weave in between the occasional kilt and rugby top and the queues at the various alcohol tents start to grow.
Picnic blankets and baskets appear as everyone gets comfortable for the day ahead.
This is the Greenyards and the event is the Melrose 7s. A rugby tournament with the picturesque Eildon hills as a backdrop, set in the historic Scottish home of Rugby Sevens. Founded here in 1883 it is variant of rugby union, with much shorter matches featuring 7 players instead of 15. Now popular around the world, it currently features in the Commonwealth Games and will make it’s summer Olympic Games debut in 2016.
As with every rugby event I’ve attended the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. At one point the Trinbago team dance through the crowd to their own carnival soundtrack and it seems the most normal thing in the world. Everyone is there to enjoy themselves, players included.
There are many options if you want to attend a rugby game in Scotland, but it’s history and location make the Melrose 7s unique. Although there are many fans of the game in attendance, it isn’t necessary to understand the rules or even to be a rugby fan as this event is as much a social occasion as a sporting fixture.
There are 23 games in total, played over 7 hours before the winner is decided. Although mostly Scottish teams there are a few guest teams from around the world invited to take part, this year included SMT Trinbago, USA Tigers and the French team Clermont Auvergne.
Seven hours can be a long day for even the most avid rugby fan. Melrose is a pleasant historic town with a beautifulold abbey at the centre and a walk around can provide a pleasant break from the sporting action. There is a choice of cafes and hotels offering lunch menus and a small local Co-op if you prefer to buy your own supplies.
If you’re leaving the stadium make sure to get a wristband as you exit which allows you back in without your ticket. There are the usual snack vans and beer tents if you prefer not to leave the action.
I would also recommend buying a programme priced at £3 as it lists the fixtures and times and gives background on the teams and officials.
As the day goes on the crowd gets busier as the closing matches start to take place. Twenty two games later and the final two teams play the deciding match. The end of day celebrations begin when the winning team are awarded their cup and the sound of pipes and drums fill the stadium. For some it's time to head home, for others the night is just beginning with a choice of entertainment including a post tournament party or organised events at local hotels.
Rugby 7s was invented at this humble ground in Scotland and has now become a recognised and popular sport around the world. If you're looking to attend a Scottish sporting event with a historical pedigree then the Melrose 7sis exactly that.
For more information visit the Melrose 7s website.
I bought a ticket for the grounds which are the cheapest at £20 for an adult. There is no seating but you can take a picnic blanket or fold up chair, there is plenty of space on the grass if you decide to do this. You can also take a picnic but alcohol can't be brought in from outside, you can purchase it within the ground.
This area is exposed to the elements, great on a sunny day like I had, not so great in bad weather so dress appropriately!
If you prefer to be seated and covered ticket prices start from £34 for an adult.
There is a large tented bar next to the ground which is warm and dry if it is cold and wet or you could head into the town to one of the cafes or hotels.
I drove to Melrose and used one of the official car parks which was a 10 minute walk from the ground and cost £5.
There is also public transport to Melrose, check the Traveline Scotland website for info.
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