Discover Blair Castle, the ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl and home to Europe's last remaining private army, the Atholl Highlanders.
Blair Castle is nestled in the dramatic landscape of Highland Perthshire and has been home to 19 generations of Stewarts and Murrays of Atholl. Unique amongst Scottish castles, the story told here will take you from a visit by Mary Queen of Scots to the Civil War and from the Jacobite cause to the disaster of Culloden following Bonnie Prince Charlie's own stay in the castle. You'll hear how the lucky inheritance of a smuggler-infested island helped turn the castle into a comfortable home and how a visit from Queen Victoria led to the creation of Europe's only surviving private army, the Atholl Highlanders.
More than 30 rooms are on display, full of Scottish cultural history, architectural design, period furnishings, family portraits, landscape paintings and a colourful military past. Highlights include the Victorian Ballroom which is decorated with 175 pairs of antlers, the Entrance Hall which features weapons used at the Battle of Culloden, the classic Georgian styling of the Picture Staircase and the granduer of the Drawing Room and State Dining Room.
New for 2016, the Year of Innovation, Architecture & Design
The distinctive contribution past and present by members of the family are highlighted in displays which include designs for the 18th century plasterwork still to be seen in the castle; these were based on the threatened Syrian city of Palmrya. Inspiration from the Hercules Garden, conceived by the 2nd Duke in the 1750s, is reflected in an exhibition of needlework specially created by the Embroiderers’ Guild. Also, information on Blair Castle’s hydro scheme of 1908 is displayed which will enhance a visit to the refurbished powerhouse which today provides the castle’s electricity. The original plans for the newly-designated World Heritage Site of the Forth Rail Bridge are on display, too.
In addition, we continue our exhibition demonstrating the involvement of the Duke of Atholl and his family in the First World War which was added to the castle tour in 2014. Discover how the Duke's three sons were sent off to battle, how his daughters helped with the war effort and how the ballroom was transformed into a Red Cross Hospital. The exhibition includes letters, photos and documents belonging to the Duke's sons; a section on the ballroom as a hospital; and information about the fundraising effort for the National War Memorial.
The castle grounds feature a magnificent nine acre walled garden, recently restored to its original Georgian design, of fruit trees and vegetables, complete with Chinese bridge, gothic folly and a trail of contemporary and 18th Century sculptures. A peaceful wooded grove with some of Britain’s tallest and finest trees sits alongside the ruins of St Brides Kirk, the final resting place of Jacobite leader Bonnie Dundee. Around the grounds, visitors can spot local wildlife and enjoy picturesque views across Highland Perthshire while younger visitors can explore the adventure playground and Red Deer Park.