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Official Review by Peter Miles, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The village of Dingwall from where Ross County come has a population a little under 6,000, although the team actually enjoys support from all over the Ross-shire region. The club have always played at Victoria Road since their formation in 1929, when four Caledonian League clubs - Dingwall Victoria United, Dingwall Victors, Dingwall Thistle and Dingwall Jags - were merged to represent Ross County as a single entity in the Highland League.
The Staggies were elected to the Scottish Football League in 1994 after 65 years as members of the Highland League. They quickly progressed through the divisions before winning Division One in 2011/12 and gaining promotion to the highest level of Scottish football. In March 2016 the club won the Scottish League Cup defeating Hibernian in the final at Hampden Park. As the club has risen so rapidly Victoria Park has been modernized accordingly.
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The Scottish game has some unique gastronomic features that you never see south of the border. Be adventurous and try one of the unusual pies and wash it down with an Irn Bru!
There is a really impressive variety of pies with five to choose from, as well as hot dogs and sausage rolls. Prices are reasonable for the quality of food on offer.
The kiosks sell the usual hot drinks, while sodas are in plastic bottles or cartons. The bright orange soda Irn Bru is hugely popular in Scotland. No alcohol is permitted inside the stadium.
The macaroni pie (pasta and cheese baked in a pie!) is superb and the Scotch pie is also highly recommended.
Victoria Park is a compact and homely venue, so despite the modest capacity even a small crowd can generate an effective noise and enjoyable atmosphere.
The newest stand is the North Stand (Academy End) which was built following promotion in 2012 and accommodates visiting supporters. A small section of the East Stand is segregated off should the visiting numbers need extra seats. The main stand is opposite on the west side of the stadium and houses the offices, dressing rooms, hospitality suites and the fans' bar and grill which is only accessible from outside the ground.
The South Stand was originally uncovered terracing funded by the proceeds from a record gate of 8,000 in a Scottish Cup tie against Rangers in 1966. This has been covered with a roof and has had a seating unit wedged inside it to ensure the stadium fits the all-seater criteria for the Scottish Premier League. Curiously the end is known as the "Jail End" as the local prison and Sheriff's Office were directly behind, the latter being still operational.
Sound quality is good with music played throughout the build up, and team line ups and substitutions are read out over the PA.
The side stands (East and West) offer a great unobstructed view of the pitch. The Jail End has a kind of temporary feel about it but is well elevated and with plenty of leg room. Admission prices tend to be slightly cheaper for the Jail End.
With a big city just 14 miles away, many will doubtless decide to stay there and then transit into Dingwall for the match.
The King's Retreat offers a huge variety on its menu for all tastes and in the traditions of the Weatherspoon's chain is superb value.
Inverness is the gateway to the Highlands and some of the finest scenery in the United Kingdom. The Moray Firth, the banks of which Inverness straddles, offers the opportunity to see bottlenose dolphins in their natural habitat. Located 16 miles south of Inverness, the Tomatin distillery is a must for whisky buffs and the curious alike. Guided tours and samplings are offered daily, including Sundays. Also worth seeking out is Northern Meeting Park, the original home of the Highland Games. Its grandstand was built in 1864 and is breathtaking.
The Weatherspoon's chain has a pub with an adjacent hotel which offers rooms from Ł39 per night. There are a huge amount of homely and good value bed and breakfast hotels in this popular tourist destination. The fabled Black Isle Brewery has recently opened a bar in the city center of Inverness offering its premium organic products in a convivial environment which also includes a roof terrace.
The regulars tend to wear the club colors on scarves and shirts and this looks impressive in terms of volume worn. The noise and encouragement is decent and makes for an enjoyable family environment.
Only "derby" matches against Inverness Caledonian Thistle and games against the "big two" - Celtic and Rangers - come close to selling out the full capacity. Attendances for games against other opponents usually hover between 3,000 and 4,000.
There is a good level of encouragement as the fans are in bouyant mood after winning the Scottish League Cup last season. There is a real feel good factor around the ground and it's a pleasant, unthreatening place to watch a game of "fitba."
Dingwall is some 14 miles away from Inverness, the largest city for quite some distance. However, Inverness provides good road, rail and bus links to this remote footballing outpost.
If travelling from Inverness city catch the number 28 bus from Queensgate stop C in the city centre and this drops you on Hill Street beside the Royal Hotel, around 500 meters from the stadium. The train station of Dingwall is even closer and boasts its own pub, The Mallard.
There is ample free parking in the town center while the club charges Ł3 to park in the official stadium car park on match days. Tickets are purchased from a hut outside the main entrance and are of the scannable bar code variety. There are no searches conducted once through the turnstiles but there are signs around the stadium with an extensive list of prohibited items. "Selfie sticks" are on the list of banned items!
Once you are in your sector you are not permitted to enter another stand. That said, the open corners give you a decent area to congregate and have a snack and chat before the game.
Dingwall may be a small town, but its club has big aspirations. I found my visit to Ross County extremely enjoyable and it felt like a good value-for-money day out.
Easy to walk to from the town center, with great food outlets and a well appointed stadium, Victoria Park is an archetypal blueprint for a small-town ground.
There are no real promotions, although cup ties tend to have lower prices set dependent on opposition. Concessionary prices are generous and apply to Over 65s, Under 18s and students in full time education.
The club normally issue a programme for league matches but don't always issue one for cup ties against lower opposition. A team sheet was available from the club's offices.
Dingwall is a great small town to visit and Ross County clearly strive to encourage a family atmosphere. They should be praised for the tremendous success they have achieved in their 20 odd years since leaving the Highland League behind.
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72–74 Church Street
Inverness , IV1 1EN
The Tomatin Distillery
Inverness , IV13 7YT
01463 248 144
72–74 Church Street
Inverness , IV1 1EN