Carnwath Red Hose Race: The Oldest Race in the World

Carnwath Red Hose Race: The Oldest Race in the World

  • Published in Sports

2008 is a special year for the village of Carnwath in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. The famous Red Hose Race is 500 years old and was recognised as the oldest road race in the world by the World Guinness Book of Records 2006.

James IV, King of Scots, founded the Red Hose Race in 1508The origin of the race goes back to 1508 when James IV, King of Scots, gave a Charter of the Lands of Carnwath to John, third Lord Somerville, in the following terms:

"Paying thence pair of hose containing half an all of English cloth at the feast of St John the Baptist, called Midsummer, upon the ground of the said barony, to the man running most quickly from the east end of the town of Carnwath to the Cross called Cawlo Cross..."

There was probably a military reason for imposing this duty on the owners of Carnwath. A fast runner could bring news of any approaching invasion from the South to Edinburgh, and the Red Hose (Hose is the Scots word for stockings or long socks) would be the insignia by which he would be recognized.

In olden days the event was so prestigious that the name of the winner was cried from the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

Some of the traditions have disappeared through the centuries, but the race still must be run to meet the requirements of the Crown Authorities whose written permission is needed for it to be cancelled as the race is the only one whose terms are determined by Royal charter. Only in an national emergency such as times of war, or local crisis as when foot and mouth disease threatened the district, has permission been obtained from the Crown to cancel the race (as was the case in 2001).

Although the lands of Carnwath have been sold down the years, the local Laird Angus Lockhart of the Lee must still provide a pair of red stockings as the prize.

In 1966 an alteration was made, with the consent of the Crown Authorities, to the Rules governing the entries to the race so that only residents in the Parishes of Auchengray, Braehead, Carnwath, Carstairs, Covington, Dolphinton, Dunsyre, Elsrickle, Forth, Libberton, Quothquan, Thankerton and Walston may compete.

In 2006, The race entered the World Guinness Book of Records as the "Oldest road race" in the world (Page 217, column1).

500 anniversary celebrations

Sir Simon Macdonald Lockhart presenting the Red Hose in 1919In order to celebrate its 500 anniversary, the 2008 competition will be opened to anyone over the age of sixteen and living in South Lanarkshire (limited to 150 runners).

The day's events will commence at 12.00 noon on Sunday 22nd June 2008 at the John Mann park, Carnwath.

A fun day has been organized to entertain all the family with music, food, and exciting things to do. Everybody (including the runners) are encouraged to dress up on the day as used to 500 years ago.

The Clydesdale Medieval Society will be making camp and providing entertainment with battle re-enactments, wool weaving and archery; Avon Valley Falconry will be displaying his birds of prey and talking about them; there will be a Red Hose knitting competition, and two unique bands will be providing music in their inevitable style: The notorious Clann an Drumma and another Scottish band playing Ceilidh music with a rock twist.

On this special day, St Mary's Aisle will open its doors to the public. St Mary's Aisle is the Mausoleum of the Lockhart family, and previously of the Earls of Carnwath and the Lords Somerville. This church, built in 1386, is recognized as a Category A listed building.

About Carnwath

Carnwath is a beautiful village of South Lanarkshire, Scotland. It lies about thirty miles south of both Edinburgh and Glasgow, and has a population of about 1,400.

It is believed that the name Carnwath comes from the Brythonic Carngwydd, meaning “cairn or mound among woods.”

Local landmarks include The Wee Bush Inn, The Mercat Cross, The Motte, and St Mary's Aisle.

The Wee Bush Inn dates from the 1750s, built in connection with the turnpike road from Ayr to Edinburgh.

The Mercat Cross, at the centre of Carnwath, was erected by the 5th Lord of Somerville in 1516 to celebrate the granting of burgh status to the village in 1514.

The remains of the prominent Motte can be found at the Carnwath Golf course. The original castle was built in Norman times by the first Lord Somerville.

Adjacent to Carnwath Parish Church (1867), St Mary's Aisle is the only surviving part of the Collegiate church built in 1386, which in turn had been built on the site of a church dating back to the 1100s or even earlier. St Mary's Aisle is the mausoleum of the Lockhart family, and previously of the Earls of Carnwath and the Lords Somerville, and is recognised as a Category A Listed Building.

Do you want to know more about the Red Hose Race?

» Visit the official website

Celtic Countries is the online magazine for people who enjoy the Celtic nations, their natural splendour, culture, and lifestyles.

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Sign up for our monthy Celtic Countries Magazine email newsletter for the latest stories from our website.