'That little sugarloaf Island': Ailsa Craig, romance, reality and the branding of scottish sport and leisure, 1707-2013

Matthew L. McDowell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article examines the post-1707 history of Ailsa Craig, a small island off of the Ayrshire coast in the west of Scotland. The island was a site of tourism for Scots, and for English and other foreign travellers, who offered romantic depictions of what they saw as a uniquely Scottish natural landscape, inclusive of rare species of nesting seabirds. Of more relevance to the world of sport was that granite from Ailsa Craig comprised the majority of the world's curling stones. In terms of its imagery, the island was also used as both a selling point and narrative device by journalists covering British Open golf tournaments at nearby Turnberry. These uses both represented globally-transmitted ideas of what was represented as an authentic Scottish sporting material culture. This article goes beyond these depictions, however, to examine the island as a food store and as a playground for its aristocratic owners, and to examine the quarrying industry-both as a small-scale family affair, and later as a larger, even riskier venture. The place of Ailsa Craig in discourses on Scottishness will be balanced against the difficulty of life on the islands, and concerns over the environmental damage done by man's presence there.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-275
Number of pages27
JournalSport in History
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2014

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