Scotland is famous as the home of golf (although St. Andrews is not the oldest golf course in the world, despite its reputation - that honor likely goes to the Musselburgh Golf Course, where Mary, Queen of Scots is said to have teed off in 1567). What you may not know is that Scotland is also the home of a sport that is currently the hottest show on ice: curling!
Well, actually, the Scots are in a dead heat with the Belgians for originators of the sport, as the evidence is inconclusive. Still, the Belgians must yield to Scotland on one score: official, Olympic-grade curling stones come only from the island of Ailsa Craig in Scotland. This is the world's only known site of blue hone granite, also called ailsite. Ailsite is prized for curling stones because it doesn't absorb water, and thus is more resistant to pitting and damage caused by the melting and freezing of water surrounding it during curling events.
Unfortunately, ailsite is a bit endangered. Ailsa Craig is a prime and protected puffin procreation post. The UK government hasn't allowed the curling stone manfacturer, Kays of Scotland, on the island since 2001, when the company sent people scrambling to pick up as much loose stone as they could (no active quarrying or blasting was permitted, lest it interfere with the puffins' mojo). The company says that barring unexpected demand spikes, it can continue to supply stones through 2020. The new craze for curling, however, might cause a shortage.
Bonus Scottish curling connection: I believe it should be illegal to discuss curling without mentioning the Norwegian Curling Team's ludicrous pants. They look like Olympic harlequins. But what's the Scottish connection? The Norwegian pants pattern pictures is a white, red, blue, and gray argyle pattern, which derives its name from Argyll, Scotland. If you recall, the house we visited in Stirling was once the residence of an Earl of Argyll. The argyle pattern is a variant on a local tartan.
And I say bravo to Norway. Golf has too long held the crown for ugly-pants-wearing-sport-of-Scottish-origin. Time for curling to rise up and take its rightful place in the sun. Or maybe in the overcast cloud bank - this is Scotland, after all.