Highland Football League

The Scottish Highland Football League (SHFL, commonly known as the Highland League) is a senior football league based in the north of Scotland. The league sits at level 5 on the Scottish football league system, acting as a feeder to the Scottish Professional Football League.

Highland Football League
Country Scotland
Number of teams18
Level on pyramid5
Promotion toScottish League Two
Relegation toMidlands Football League
North Caledonian Football League
North Superleague
Domestic cup(s)Scottish Cup
Scottish League Cup (champions)
Scottish Challenge Cup (top 4)
League cup(s)Highland League Cup
Current championsBuckie Thistle (12th title)
Most championshipsClachnacuddin
Caledonian (18 titles each)
Current: 2023–24 Highland Football League

Founded in 1893, it is currently composed of 18 member clubs in a single division. Geographically, the league covers the Scottish Highlands as well as Moray, Aberdeenshire, the cities of Aberdeen and Dundee, Angus and parts of northern Perthshire.

Since 2014–15, it has featured in the senior pyramid system. The winners take part in an end-of-season promotion play-off with the Lowland Football League champions, with the winners then competing against the bottom club in Scottish League Two for a place in the SPFL.[1] Promotion and relegation also exists between the three Highlands-based regional leagues at level 6 (Midlands League, North Caledonian League, and North Region Junior Football League).

The league's current sponsorship deal is with the Breedon Group.[2]



Each team in the league plays each other twice during a season – once at home, once away, for a total of 34 matches. The standard league scoring system of 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw is applied, with ties in the league table broken by goal difference. The champions are presented with the League trophy and a flag, either immediately after the match which secures the victory, or at the next match at which it is practical to do so.

With the introduction of the new pyramid structure in Scottish football, a new schedule was introduced in the 2014–15 season, in order to ensure that all matches affecting the title are completed in time for the promotion playoffs beginning in April. As the region is prone to severe weather in winter, postponements have sometimes caused the conclusion of the season to be delayed (e.g. in 2013, a prolonged spell of bad weather meant the final matches were not played until 25 May). Various proposals which would have reduced the number of matches a team would play (either by instituting a two-phase season like that used in the Scottish Premiership, or by dividing the League into two smaller divisions), were considered but did not find favour with League members. Instead, clubs now play both a Saturday and a Wednesday fixture most weeks from August through October, taking advantage of milder weather at the start of the season. The new schedule builds in a four-week buffer near the end of the season during which no matches are initially scheduled, allowing any backlog of postponed matches to be cleared before the final fixtures.

Scottish Cup


All clubs are full members of the Scottish Football Association, so qualify automatically for the following season's first round of the Scottish Cup. The league champions and the runner-up team receive a bye into the cup's second round. Since 2014 the champions have taken part in the Scottish Challenge Cup; this was extended to the top four clubs from 2016. In 2016 the champions also gained a place in the Scottish League Cup.





The Highland Football League was formed on 4 August 1893, at the Inverness Workman's Club by employees of the Highland Railway Company who had their Company Headquarters, Locomotive and Carriage & Wagon Workshops (Loch Gorm Works), based in the Highland capital and where they employed circa 700 staff. The original league consisted of seven teams: Inverness Thistle, Caledonian, Clachnacuddin, Forres Mechanics, Inverness Union, Inverness Citadel and Cameron Highlanders. Dingwall Victoria United (later renamed Ross County) were an eighth original member, but resigned membership in November 1893. The inaugural champions were Inverness Thistle. Of the original teams, two are still playing in the league today (Clachnacuddin and Forres Mechanics) while Caledonian and Thistle merged to become current Scottish League club Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Departures and expansions


The league has been somewhat weakened by the departure of many former members who have subsequently joined the SFL. In 1994, Caledonian, Inverness Thistle and Ross County left. Until then the HFL had operated with 18 clubs; this was reduced by the departure of the three mentioned clubs, but Wick Academy from the North Caledonian Football League were elected, to create a league of 16 clubs. This was the state of affairs till 2000 when Elgin City and Peterhead were elected into the SFL. In 2002 Inverurie Loco Works were elected into the HFL to give it a membership of 15 clubs. Inverurie Locos are another Highland League football club with its origins in the Scottish railways, having been formed by employees of the Great North of Scotland Railway who had their Locomotive and Carriage and Wagon Workshops in Inverurie, hence the football club's name.

In 2008, North Region Junior League sides Formartine United and Turriff United both submitted bids to join the Highland League, following in the footsteps of past Junior League side Inverurie Locos. Banks O' Dee and Strathspey Thistle also applied. On 25 February 2009, Formartine United, Strathspey Thistle and Turriff United were accepted into the league for the following season, with Banks O' Dee being the unsuccessful club.



Until the reorganisation of Scottish football during the 2012–13 season, the league was historically one of the senior leagues in Scottish football, along with the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League, as well as the East of Scotland and South of Scotland Leagues.

Since the 2014–15 season, the league champions have had the chance to qualify for promotion to the Scottish League Two via a play-off with the winners of the Lowland Football League, the winners then playing off against the bottom team in League Two. Although the introduction of a route into the Scottish Professional Football League was broadly welcomed, it also provoked some concern about the potential financial burden on smaller clubs who may need to significantly upgrade their grounds to meet the required standards. The logistics of travel to away games in a league dominated by central belt teams is also a concern, particularly for geographically remote clubs such as Wick Academy and Brora Rangers.

At the end of the 2018–19 season, Cove Rangers became the first Highland League club to gain promotion to the SPFL via the pyramid play-off, after beating Berwick Rangers 7–0 on aggregate in the League Two play-off final.[3] Two years later, Brechin City became the first SPFL club to be relegated into the Highland League after losing 3–1 on aggregate to Kelty Hearts in the League Two play-off final.[4]

At the end of the 2020–21 season the threat of relegation was introduced to the league, as the North Caledonian League, a newly formed Midlands League, and North Superleague were all brought into the pyramid as feeder leagues. At the end of the following season, Fort William became the first victim of the drop as they failed to play their games against North Superleague side Banks O' Dee in the playoff final, giving the Aberdeen side a bye into the Highland League as Fort William fell into the North Caledonian League.

Member clubs

Team Location Stadium Capacity Seats Joined Titles
Banks O' Dee Aberdeen Spain Park 876 100 2022
Brechin City Brechin Glebe Park 4,083 1,519 2021 1
Brora Rangers Brora Dudgeon Park 4,000 200 1962 3
Buckie Thistle Buckie Victoria Park 3,000 400 1909 12
Clachnacuddin Inverness Grant Street Park 2,074 154 1893 18
Deveronvale Banff Princess Royal Park 2,600 360 1938 2
Formartine United Pitmedden North Lodge Park 2,500 300 2009
Forres Mechanics Forres Mosset Park 2,700 502 1893[note 1] 2
Fraserburgh Fraserburgh Bellslea Park 3,000 480 1922[note 2] 4
Huntly Huntly Christie Park 3,500 270 1928 7
Inverurie Loco Works Inverurie Harlaw Park 1,400 250 2001
Keith Keith Kynoch Park 2,362 370 1924 7
Lossiemouth Lossiemouth Grant Park 2,050 250 1946
Nairn County Nairn Station Park 2,250 250 1914 1
Rothes Rothes Mackessack Park 2,700 184 1938 1
Strathspey Thistle Grantown-on-Spey Seafield Park 1,600 150 2009
Turriff United Turriff The Haughs 2,135 135 2009
Wick Academy Wick Harmsworth Park 2,412 102 1994

Former members

Elected to the Scottish Football League

*Caledonian and Inverness Thistle combined to form Inverness Caledonian Thistle upon joining the Scottish Football League in 1994. ICT now play in the Scottish League One.

Promoted to the Scottish Professional Football League

Relegated to the North Caledonian League/Midlands League/North Region League

Military sides (generally temporarily based in the area)

Other competitions


The main competitions are:

The North of Scotland FA Clubs compete in the:

The Aberdeenshire FA clubs compete in the:

List of HFL championship winners

Season Winner Runner-up
1893–94 Inverness Thistle Caledonian
1894–95 Clachnacuddin Inverness Thistle
1895–96 Caledonian[note 3] Inverness Thistle
1896–97 Clachnacuddin Caledonian
1897–98 Clachnacuddin Caledonian
1898–99 Caledonian Clachnacuddin
1899–1900 Caledonian Clachnacuddin
1900–01 Clachnacuddin Caledonian
1901–02 Caledonian Inverness Thistle
1902–03 Clachnacuddin Inverness Thistle
1903–04 Clachnacuddin Inverness Citadel
1904–05 Clachnacuddin[note 4] Black Watch
1905–06 Clachnacuddin[note 3] Inverness Thistle
1906–07 Inverness Thistle Caledonian
1907–08 Clachnacuddin Highland Light Infantry
1908–09 Inverness Citadel Clachnacuddin
1909–10 Inverness Thistle[note 3] Elgin City
1910–11 Caledonian Buckie Thistle
1911–12 Clachnacuddin[note 3] Caledonian
1912–13 Aberdeen 'A' Buckie Thistle
1913–14 Caledonian Aberdeen 'A'
1914–15 unfinished[note 5]
1919–20 Buckie Thistle Clachnacuddin
1920–21 Clachnacuddin Inverness Thistle
1921–22 Clachnacuddin Buckie Thistle
1922–23 Clachnacuddin Elgin City
1923–24 Clachnacuddin Buckie Thistle
1924–25 Aberdeen 'A' Caledonian
1925–26 Caledonian Inverness Thistle
1926–27 Buckie Thistle Clachnacuddin
1927–28 Buckie Thistle Clachnacuddin
1928–29 Inverness Thistle Elgin City
1929–30 Huntly Elgin City
1930–31 Caledonian Buckie Thistle
1931–32 Elgin City Keith
1932–33 Fraserburgh Elgin City
1933–34 Buckie Thistle Forres Mechanics
1934–35 Elgin City Huntly
1935–36 Inverness Thistle Peterhead
1936–37 Buckie Thistle Peterhead
1937–38 Fraserburgh Clachnacuddin
1938–39 Clachnacuddin Buckie Thistle
1939–40 unfinished[note 6]
1946–47 Peterhead Huntly
1947–48 Clachnacuddin Peterhead
1948–49 Peterhead Clachnacuddin
1949–50 Peterhead Caledonian
1950–51 Caledonian Buckie Thistle
1951–52 Caledonian Huntly
1952–53 Elgin City Buckie Thistle
1953–54 Buckie Thistle Elgin City
1954–55 unfinished[note 7]
1955–56 Elgin City[note 3] Buckie Thistle
1956–57 Buckie Thistle Caledonian
1957–58 Buckie Thistle Elgin City
1958–59 Rothes[note 3] Fraserburgh
1959–60 Elgin City Caledonian
1960–61 Elgin City[note 3] Keith
1961–62 Keith Elgin City
1962–63 Elgin City Caledonian
1963–64 Caledonian Nairn County
1964–65 Elgin City Nairn County
1965–66 Elgin City Caledonian
1966–67 Ross County Elgin City
1967–68 Elgin City Ross County
1968–69 Elgin City Inverness Thistle
1969–70 Elgin City Caledonian
1970–71 Caledonian Inverness Thistle
1971–72 Inverness Thistle Elgin City
1972–73 Inverness Thistle[note 3] Ross County
1973–74 Elgin City Inverness Thistle
1974–75 Clachnacuddin Keith
1975–76 Nairn County[note 3] Fraserburgh
1976–77 Caledonian Peterhead
1977–78 Caledonian Peterhead
1978–79 Keith Caledonian
1979–80 Keith Brora Rangers
1980–81 Keith Fraserburgh
1981–82 Caledonian Peterhead
1982–83 Caledonian Elgin City
1983–84 Caledonian Keith
1984–85 Keith Caledonian
1985–86 Forres Mechanics Elgin City
1986–87 Inverness Thistle Caledonian
1987–88 Caledonian Buckie Thistle
1988–89 Peterhead Cove Rangers
1989–90 Elgin City Caledonian
1990–91 Ross County Caledonian
1991–92 Ross County Caledonian
1992–93 withheld[note 8]
1993–94 Huntly Caledonian
1994–95 Huntly Cove Rangers
1995–96 Huntly Cove Rangers
1996–97 Huntly Keith
1997–98 Huntly Fraserburgh
1998–99 Peterhead Huntly
1999–2000 Keith Fraserburgh
2000–01 Cove Rangers Huntly
2001–02 Fraserburgh Deveronvale
2002–03 Deveronvale Keith
2003–04 Clachnacuddin Buckie Thistle
2004–05 Huntly Inverurie Loco Works
2005–06 Deveronvale Inverurie Loco Works
2006–07 Keith Inverurie Loco Works
2007–08 Cove Rangers Keith
2008–09 Cove Rangers Deveronvale
2009–10 Buckie Thistle Cove Rangers
2010–11 Buckie Thistle Deveronvale
2011–12 Forres Mechanics Cove Rangers
2012–13 Cove Rangers Formartine United
2013–14 Brora Rangers Inverurie Loco Works
2014–15 Brora Rangers Turriff United
2015–16 Cove Rangers Formartine United
2016–17 Buckie Thistle Cove Rangers
2017–18 Cove Rangers Formartine United
2018–19 Cove Rangers* Brora Rangers
2019–20 Brora Rangers[5] Fraserburgh
2020–21 Brora Rangers[6] Fraserburgh
2021–22 Fraserburgh Buckie Thistle
2022–23 Brechin City Buckie Thistle
2023–24 Buckie Thistle Brechin City
* Team promoted to Scottish League Two

Source:Scottish Football Historical Archive – Highland League Final Tables

Performance by club

As of after 2023–24

Clubs currently playing in the league are shown in bold. Clubs no longer active are shown in italics.

Club Winners Runners-up Winning Years
1895–96, 1898–99, 1899–1900, 1901–02, 1910–11, 1913–14, 1925–26, 1930–31, 1950–51, 1951–52, 1963–64, 1970–71, 1976–77, 1977–78, 1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84, 1987–88
1894–95, 1896–97, 1897–98, 1900–01, 1902–03, 1903–04, 1904–05, 1905–06, 1907–08, 1911–12, 1920–21, 1921–22, 1922–23, 1923–24, 1938–39, 1947–48, 1974–75, 2003–04
Elgin City
1931–32, 1934–35, 1952–53, 1955–56, 1959–60, 1960–61, 1962–63, 1964–65, 1965–66, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1969–70, 1973–74, 1989–90
Buckie Thistle
1919–20, 1926–27, 1927–28, 1933–34, 1936–37, 1953–54, 1956–57, 1957–58, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2016–17, 2023–24
Inverness Thistle
1893–94, 1906–07, 1909–10, 1928–29, 1935–36, 1971–72, 1972–73, 1986–87
1961–62, 1978–79, 1979–80, 1980–81, 1984–85, 1999–2000, 2006–07
Cove Rangers
2000–01, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2012–13, 2015–16, 2017–18, 2018–19
1929–30, 1993–94, 1994–95, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1997–98, 2004–05
1946–47, 1948–49, 1949–50, 1988–89, 1998–99
1932–33, 1937–38, 2001–02, 2021–22
Brora Rangers
2013–14, 2014–15, 2019–20, 2020–21
Ross County
1966–67, 1990–91, 1991–92
2002–03, 2005–06
Aberdeen 'A'
1912–13, 1924–25
Forres Mechanics
1985–86, 2011–12
Nairn County
Brechin City
Inverness Citadel
Inverurie Loco Works
Formartine United
Black Watch
Highland Light Infantry
Turriff United


  1. ^ Forres Mechanics did not compete 1895-1896, 1901-1902, and 2020-21.
  2. ^ Fraserburgh did not compete 1926-1928.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i won after a play-off
  4. ^ Clachnacuddin were awarded the Championship after Black Watch refused to play-off due to the referee that the League appointed
  5. ^ Clachnacuddin had most points
  6. ^ Keith had most points
  7. ^ Fraserburgh and Clachnacuddin were equal on points
  8. ^ Elgin City won the league, but were found to have dishonestly requested the bringing forward of their final match in order to avoid two players being unavailable through suspension


  1. ^ "Scottish FA approves Lowland League for next season". BBC Sport. 11 June 2013.
  2. ^ "Breedon Extends Sponsorship of the Highland League". Highland Football League. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  3. ^ "Aberdeen has room for two teams, say Cove Rangers after promotion". BBC Sport. 18 May 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  4. ^ Smith, Tyrone (23 May 2021). "Brechin City 0–1 Kelty Hearts". BBC Sport. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  5. ^ Smith, Tyrone (21 March 2020). "Highland League brought to an early end with Brora Rangers awarded title". BBC Sport. BBC. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  6. ^ "Brora Rangers & Kelty Hearts champions as Highland & Lowland League seasons end". BBC Sport. BBC. 30 March 2021. Retrieved 30 March 2021.