Curling is thought to have been invented in medieval Scotland, with the first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire in February 1541. Further evidence that curling existed in Scotland in the early 16th century includes a curling stone inscribed with the date 1511 when an old pond was drained at Dunblane, Scotland.
The sport of curling also features heavily in the history of Kinross, with curling having been played on Loch Leven from the 16th Century. Kinross Curling Club, which has been based at our Curling Rink since it opened in 1977, is believed to be the oldest Curling Club in the world, tracing its formation all the way back to 1688. The Kinross Club played a very important role during the formation of the ‘Grand Club’ – later to become the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.
In addition to the Kinross Curling Club, there are about 35 other local clubs who either use our Curling Rink as their 'home' rink or who stage many of their club competitions here.
Although nowadays, nearly all club curling is staged indoors, no opportunity is lost to curl outdoors if the weather is cold enough. There is an outdoor curling rink (2 sheets) situated beside the golf course car park opposite the hotel which was recently renovated by Kinross Curling Club. Rarely a winter goes by without some curling on the outdoor rink.
The photo opposite shows players from Kinross & Dunfermline taking part in an evening 2 team bonspiel in December 2012. Unlike with indoor curling, whisky plays a big part in keeping everyone warm!
However, the highlight of any local curler is being able to curl on Loch Leven, taking ther sport right back to its origins. Several decades of warmer winters have meant that chances to do this are few and far between because it requires a long cold spell to get ice of sufficient quality and thickness for curling to take place safely (ranging from about 4 inches thick for a small bonspiel to at least 7 inches for a Grand Match).
The last time any curling took place on Loch Leven was on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day 2010. Snow was cleared away and eventually 3 sheets were produced and there was some fabulous outdoor curling under azure blue skies. An outdoor broadcast unit from Sky TV turned up and beamed pictures of the outdoor bonspiel live around the world!
However the Holy Grail for Scottish Curlers is The Grand Match which is an outdoor curling game arranged between the North and South of Scotland. An imaginary line is drawn between the River Forth and River Clyde to decide the two sides. The last three Grand Matches have had in the region of three hundred rinks on each side, making 2400 curlers on the ice at one time.
The first Grand Match was held on Penicuik Loch on the 15th January 1847 with three hundred curlers taking part. It was last staged on Loch Leven in 1959 when a rink from Kinross Curling Club emerged as winners of the gold medal (the photo to the left shows David Montgomery, the Kinross Skip).
Nowadays, Health & Safety regulations are so demanding that most possible venues within Scotland, including the Lake of Menteith which staged the last two Grand Matches in 1963 and 1979, have now been ruled out of contention. Only two venues, Loch Leven and Piperdam (near Dundee), are considered as viable going forward. Now we just have to wait for the next Ice Age!