Curling was invented in medieval Scotland. For those interested in tracing some of its history there are several places to visit. The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum claims to have the world’s oldest curling stone dated 1511. The first written reference comes from the records of Paisley Abbey in 1541.
By around 1800 curling had become the most popular sport in Scotland and was played by all classes. Almost every parish in the land had its custom made curling pond. Newtonmore curling pond survives to this day and can be found within The Highland Folk Museum. A replica of their curling hut has been built beside the pond.
In Edinburgh with the draining of the Nor’ Loch a new curling venue had to be found. In 1795 a group of gentlemen formed the Duddingston Curling Society. William Playfair designed a new curling hut for them in 1825. Today the lower chamber of this hut, where the curling stones were stored, is a museum of curling with many fascinating exhibits. Known as Thomson’s Tower it sits beside Duddingston Loch within Dr Neil’s Garden.
The Grand Match is an outdoor curling game arranged between the north and south of Scotland. The first one was held on Penicuik Loch in 1847 and then on Linlithgow Loch in 1848. Between 1853 and 1935 twenty five Grand Matches were played at Carsebreck, north east of Stirling. Since then only three have been played – 1959 on Loch Leven and 1963 and 1979 on the Lake of Menteith. With approximately 2400 curlers on the ice at one time 20 acres of ice with a thickness of 7 inches is required.
Following a visit by Queen Victoria to Scone Palace in 1842 and a demonstration by the Earl of Mansfield of the game of curling on his polished ballroom floor, royal patronage was granted. The Royal Caledonian Curling Club today has branches, affiliated associations and clubs all around the world which look to it as the mother club.
Currently there are 22 ice rinks in Scotland which have facilities for curling.
Curling has been an official sport in the Winter Olympic Games since 1998.