Falkland Palace has the oldest real tennis (also called court tennis or royal tennis) court in Britain. King James V of Scotland ordered it built in late 1538, as one of the final touches to lots of building activity at the palace, as well as at other royal residences such as Linlithgow, Holyrood and Stirling.

James was young and was making a mark to establish himself as a respected European leader. He had married the King of France’s daughter and spent time at the French Court, where he would have played on the tennis court (built in 1530 but now gone).

Tennis was originally played by French monks before it became popular with nobility. The original 14th-century game was called ‘paume’ (palm), because the ball was passed back and forth with a bare hand. A leather glove becoming a later addition to the kit.

When you see the court you will realise that real tennis is very different from the game we know today. There are a series of lines, numbers and crowns marked on the floor and walls, which are all used to calculate scores. All four walls and the roof of the spectator’s gallery are used, plus players gain extra points if they get a ball through a hole in the wall! It is worth experiencing how heavy the racket feels and how difficult it is to play the game.