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Blair Castle

Blair Castle sits spectacularly in the heart of Glen Garry in Perthshire, commanding one of the main routes (now the A9) through the Scottish Highlands.

The first construction here was a tower built in 1269 by John Comyn. The land, however, didn't belong to him. Its rightful owner, David de Strathbogie, 8th Earl of Atholl, petitioned the King for its return. He won his land back and incorporated the tower into his own castle. Cummings Tower (as it is now called) is still a part of the castle fabric.

The castle stayed in the Stathbogie family until 1322 when David II Strathbogie rebelled against King Robert I of Scotland (Robert the Bruce) and forfeited his lands and titles. The Earldom subsequently passed through a number of hands until eventually it came to the Stewarts of Balvenie in 1457.

Despite its strategic location life at the castle was quite peaceful. The Stewarts made some modifications and extensions, including the rebuilding of Cummings Tower and the addition of a great hall (which is the Dining Room today). The castle didn't see much military action.

The Stewart line died out in the early 1600s and the estates and titles were passed to Clan Murray in 1629.

Jacobite Uprisings

The Murrays were staunch royalists during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in the 17th Century. The castle was taken by Cromwell in 1652 and the parliamentarians held on to it until 1660. The Earl's loyalty did not go unrewarded and the 2nd Earl was granted the title of Duke of Atholl in 1703.

The Jacobite Uprisings of the 18th Century divided the family. The Duke supported the government in London while his heir William Murray took the Jacobite side in the 1715 Jacobite Rising. William was charged with high treason and attainted by an Act of Parliament.

William became one of the Seven Men of Moidart and returned to Blair Castle 30 years later during the 1745 Rising. The castle was occupied by Hanoverian troops under Clan Agnew. Bonnie Prince Charlie besieged the castle almost to the point of starvation in 1746, but they were unsuccessful and subsequently marched north to the Battle of Culloden.

Around this time Blair Castle was being transformed from a medieval fortress to a modern Georgian home, more befitting a Duke. The 2nd Duke removed the turrets and castellations and added some Georgian features.

A Private Army

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed at Blair Castle in 1842 and again in 1844. During her stays she was guarded by a troop of Atholl Highlanders. They so impressed the Queen that she presented them with colours thus giving them official regimental status.

The Atholl Highlanders are still based at Blair Castle and are Europe's only legal private army.

The mid-19th Century saw the castle remodelled yet again. The growing popularity of Scots baronial architecture prompted the 7th Duke to commission a firm of Edinburgh architects to update the castle.

The crenelation and towers that had been removed were reinstated. They added a new entrance hall and a ballroom. All the modern conveniences were added including telephones and gas lines.

The castle first opened to the public in 1936. Although the castle is traditionally the home of the Duke of Atholl, the 10th Duke placed the castle and most of its estates into a charitable trust and the current 12th Duke of Atholl lives in South Africa.

Blair Castle and the Atholl Estates are still open to the public and provide a great variety of activities.

Inside Blair Castle

The castle has over 30 richly furnished rooms containing objects of historical significance, including an original copy of the National Covenant of 1638. There is an ornamental armoury, a family portrait gallery and a fine carved staircase.

Among the more spectacular rooms is the tapestry room. It contains the Mortlake Tapestries that used to belong to Charles I before they were sold by Cromwell. Other hangings on display include the fine silks on the William and Mary State Bed and the embroidered bed hangings in the Derby Suite.

The facilities available at the castle include guided tours, a restaurant, gift shop and parking for both cars and coaches. The castle can also cater for weddings and corporate events.

Outside, the castle has a variety of gardens including a walled garden and grove. The estate provides a variety of pursuits including walking, cycling, horse riding and pony trekking, tractor tours, deer stalking and fishing. The estate also has holiday accommodation for let and a caravan park.

The castle hosts a number of events throughout the year. It is home to the Blair Atholl Highland Games and Blair Castle International Horse Trials and the Atholl Highlanders Parade.

Status: Visitor Attraction/ Wedding Venue / Event Venue
Owner: Charitable Trust
Tel: +44 (0)1796 481207
Opening Times: April to October Daily 9.30am to 5.30pm / November to March Weekends only 10am to 4pm

The front of Blair Castle
The front of Blair Castle

Inside Blair Castle
Inside Blair Castle

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