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Published March 13th 2016
Families and Weaponry; Scottish Life in Ancient Times
The imposing and stunningly beautiful Blair Castle sits in Scotland's Highland Perthshire, between Perth and Inverness, about 56km north of Perth.
Dating back to 1269, Blair Castle has been home to 19 generations of Stewarts and Murrays of Atholl and was principally developed over three distinctly different periods in history. Many grand buildings of this nature started life quite humbly and Blair Castle is no different. The Medieval Period (5th to the 15th century) saw the commencement of building at Blair Castle with the erection of the Cumming's Tower. The original tower was extended in 1530 by the 3rd Earl to include a Great Hall, which is now the Dining Room, and resides over a series of vaulted chambers.
Further additions and renovations occurred during the Georgian Period (1740) and the Victorian Period (1860s/1870s). Interestingly, some of the features such as turrets and castellons, which were removed to suit the architecture of the day in the Georgian period, were restored during the Victorian period.
Banvie Hall, the new exhibition hall was later added along with electricity, lighting and plumbing. The Hall is now a popular location for functions and weddings.
As you approach the Castle, you cannot help but be impressed by its imposing structure including medieval turrets. A tour of the castle will allow you to experience seven centuries of Scottish life. On display are fine pictures and furniture, arms and armour, porcelain, embroidery and lace, Masonic regalia and Jacobite relics. As you enter the castle you find yourself in the entrance hall which is also the ornamental armoury. The walls are literally covered in medieval weaponry. At this point, my son was in awe due to his passionate interest in medieval weaponry. While weapon displays are a feature of the Scottish Baronial style, this particular display includes targes (shields) and muskets which are said to have been used at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. From here you are invited to ascend the picture staircase which also serves as the family portrait gallery.
The Castle consists of some 30 rooms including a dining room, ante room, derby suite (named for Lady Amelia Stanley, the daughter of the 7th Earl of Derby), drawing room, tapestry room and ballroom (which remains unchanged since its completion in 1876), all with their own unique beauty and history.
The Estate however is not just what is inside the castle. As you wander around the outside of the castle you are greeted by ancient weaponry in the form of cannons, however Blair Castle is surrounded by breathtaking ancient gardens, all of which were laid out in the 18th century. There is a beautiful walled garden, a wooded grove, a ruined kirk and a red deer park.
Blair Castle is a delight both inside and out. The artefacts to be found within make the heart go pitter patter for those amongst us with a passion for all things ancient and the castle itself is a stunning example of architecture from many eras. There has been so much love and tragedy here that it permeates the very walls. Its story includes Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Victoria, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Civil War and the Jacobite cause, famous for the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
If visiting in July and August, you can take a 90 minute tractor and trailer ride exploring the landscape and encountering the local wildlife. Tractor rides run from Sunday 3 July to Sunday 21 August on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 10 am to 11.30 am.
Land Rover Tours come in many forms. The Roaring Stags Safari runs throughout October on Sundays at 7 am, 10 am and 2 pm and run for 2 1/2 hours. October is the annual mating season and the hills come alive with red deer. This tour enables you to hear their bellowing and watch them lock antlers as they battle for mates.
On the Red Squirrel Safari you will join the rangers to look for red squirrels in the woods and learn about their habits. You will visit the hide to sit and watch them gathering food for winter. This tour is suitable for adults and children alike and runs Saturdays in October at 9 am for 1.5 hours.
If you are tracing a family member who you believe lived on the estate, you can ask for the archives to be searched. The cost is £10 for an initial search.
The Castle is included on many tours, however if travelling independently you can book tickets online for Tractor Tours, Land Rover Safaris, the Castle Tour, Archives and the Castle Annual Pass at the website. During summer of 2016 (25 March - 28 October 2016) the Castle is open to visitors from 9.30 am - 5.30 pm each day. Cost is Adults £10.70, Seniors and Students (with ID) £9.10, Children (5-16 years) £6.40 and Families (2 adults & 3 children) £28.90. Safaris (other than Red Squirrel) cost Adults £40 and children (3 - 13 years) £20. Red Squirrel Safaris cost Adult £25 and children £15. Tractor tours cost Adults £8, children (under 16) £3, under 1s free and family ticket £20.
Where:Blair Castle, Blair Atholl, Perthshire, United Kingdom
Cost:Adults £10.70, Seniors and Students (with ID) £9.10, Children (5-16 years) £6.40 and Families (2 adults & 3 children) £28.90. Safaris (other than Red Squirrel) cost Adults £40 and children (3 - 13 years) £20. Red Squirrel Safaris cost Adult £25 and c