Blair Castle Visitor Guide

By Craig Neil
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Table of Contents


Summary

Blair Castle – situated near Blair Atholl in Perthshire – has been the ancestral home of Clan Murray since its construction in the 13th century. The castle is privately-managed but is open to the public for tours.

Discover Blair Castle in this guide which features an overview and handy visiting advice.

Address:Blair Atholl,
Pitlochry,
Perthshire,
PH18 5TH
Opening Hours:Mon-Sun - 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (Last entry 4.00 pm)
Admission Price:Adults £16.00
Senior Citizens (60 years+) £13.60
Students (with ID cards) £13.60
Children (5-16 years) £9.50
Family ticket (2 adults, 3 children) £48.00
Parking:Free on-site car park.
Contact:01796 481 207
bookings@blair-castle.co.uk
Facilities:Gift shop, toilets, cafe, partial disabled access, video tour

The highlights

1: This is a beautiful castle with a fascinating history, and it’s large enough to keep families busy for most of the day.

2: There’s a lot to do in the gardens after you’ve toured the castle interior, especially for children who can burn off energy in the on-site playpark.

3: The exhibitions at Blair Castle are first-class and give a real insight into Scotland’s past. Entry is included in the standard ticket price.

Blair Castle

Visiting tips

1: The ticket price is reasonable for a 5-star attraction but if you intend to return I recommend purchasing an annual pass which allows unlimited re-entry for 12 months.

2: The Atholl Gathering at the end of May is definitely worth experiencing, as is the Blair Castle International Horse Trials in August.

3: Blair Castle is located on the edge of Tay Forest Park which offers stunning walks on a spider’s web of well-maintained paths. You’ll find more woodland walks in my Guide to the Best Forest Walks in Scotland.


Overview

Blair Castle, located close to Blair Atholl in Perthshire, is one of the grandest stately homes open to the public in Scotland.

Not only does this historic building have a rich history but it sits alongside some of the nicest gardens you’re ever likely to come across in this part of Scotland, and between the castle and the grounds there’s easily enough to keep visitors entertained for an entire day.

Throughout the thirty rooms that are open to public viewing, visitors will discover a story that begins over seven hundred years ago with David Strathbogie, Earl of Atholl, who started building the castle in the late 1200s.

Blair Castle

You will learn how for the last seven centuries Blair Castle has served as home to the Atholl family through wars, feuds and uprisings, and how it eventually became one of Scotland’s best-loved historic tourist attractions.

In addition, you can wander through the Scottish baronial-style building with its extravagantly decorated 18th-century furnishings and explore the walled garden, coniferous woodland, tranquil grove and sculpture trail as well as take the kids to a play park, a woodland adventure course, and a superb café.

There’s also a very good gift shop, and if you’d rather learn about its history from a professional then guided tours are available for groups at no extra cost.

Tourist information

There’s so much to look at as you wander through the rooms of Blair Castle that you might end up missing sections out just so you’ve got enough time to enjoy the gardens, but before leaving make sure you’ve spent some time in what I believe are the castle’s highlights.

First, go and check out the Victorian Ballroom – which you can’t miss because it’s decorated all the way around the walls with 175 pairs of deer antlers.

Blair Castle

If you’ve got kids then make sure you check out the clothes chest where you’ll find a huge selection of costumes to dress up in, and the ballroom is big enough that you can chase them up and down while playing whatever crazy games they come up with.

My second highlight is the entrance hall which most visitors seemed to rush through while I was there but if you stop to look up you’ll find a remarkable collection of weaponry mounted all over the walls, some of which were actually used at the ill-fated Battle of Culloden.

Finally, make sure you have a good look at the state dining room and the incredible silverware that was used during the castle’s grand banquets. They sure knew how to throw a party back then.

There’s plenty to keep you occupied in the castle grounds too.

For starters, there’s one of the biggest Georgian walled gardens in Scotland which is just over nine acres in size and you can’t help but be impressed by the amount of work it must have taken to restore it.

Blair Castle

Inside the walls you’ll find sculptures, a Chinese bridge, a gothic folly, over 100 fruit trees and more vegetable plots than you’re likely to see outside of a city allotment.

Outside the walled garden there’s a sculpture trail that winds its way through the grounds into the castle, while a two-acre grove containing some of the tallest conifers in the country can be seen nearby.

You might even see one of Scotland’s native but endangered red squirrels jumping between the branches of these enormous trees.

There are even the ruins of an ancient kirk in Blair Castle’s grounds, and the nearby fields are home to Highland cattle.

If you’re looking for somewhere more Scottish than this place I think you’ll have difficulty, and if you’re interested in history and love the great outdoors it should definitely be near the top of your list of Scottish attractions to visit.

Blair Castle

History

Blair Castle has seen nineteen generations of the Atholl family over the years and there’s a huge amount of history crammed into every nook and cranny inside the main building.

There are plenty of information boards dotted about so you’ll quickly about learn about the Atholl family, while the helpful tour guides will be only too happy to fill you in on any other snippets of history that you might be curious about.

The story of the castle takes you from its initial construction to visits by Mary Queen of Scots, to the Jacobite uprising and through to Queen Victoria who had a very special relationship with the place. It’s fascinating stuff.

Blair Castle

One of the things I was most surprised to learn was how in 1839 the 6th Duke of Atholl formed his own private regiment to act as his personal bodyguards.

These soldiers – the Atholl Highlanders – are still in operation today thanks to Queen Victoria who gave the regiment their own colours in recognition of their service during her stays at Blair Castle.

Today, the Atholl Highlanders are the only surviving private regiment in Europe and if you’re lucky you might see them parading outside on the castle grounds in full Highland dress.

Discover more castles to visit in Scotland with: The Best Castles in Scotland – Ultimate Visitor Guide.


Tourist map of Scotland

Blair Atholl,
Pitlochry,
PH18 5TL

Filter by

Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:

Pitlochry & Loch Tummel – OL49 Explorer.

Braemar & Blair Atholl – 43 Landranger.

OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.

OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.


Things to do nearby

Atholl Country Life Museum. Old School, Blair Atholl, Pitlochry PH18 5SP. 15-minute walk. A traditional museum that aims to preserve the heritage of the Blair Atholl community.

There are galleries of photos and a reconstructed post office as well as video displays and reconstructions of a stable, a blackhouse and a smiddy.

River Garry. 10-minute walk. A major tributary of the River Tummel. The river runs between the A9 and the B8079 near Blair Castle.

There are partial walkways along the length of the river, some of which pass through forests. The main river footpath is signposted on the B847 heading towards Tummel Bridge.

Hercules Garden. Pitlochry PH18 5TX. 20-minute walk. Landscaped country gardens that surround a large pond in the grounds of Blair Castle. There is a circular path that takes visitors around the site.

Falls of Bruar. Bruar Water, Pitlochry PH18 5TW. 6-minute drive plus a 30-minute walk. A natural gorge with spectacular waterfalls.

The surrounding woodland was created by the Duke of Atholl after Robert Burns was inspired to write ‘The Humble Petition of Bruar Water’ when he visited in 1787. The waterfall viewing area is at the end of a relatively steep climb.

House of Bruar. Pitagowan, Blair Atholl, Pitlochry PH18 5TW. 6-minute drive. A large upscale department store located in a scenic setting off the A9. There are a variety of shops that sell clothing, homewares and artisan foods. There is also a café and a gift shop on-site.


Frequently asked questions

Is Blair Castle worth visiting?

Blair Castle is definitely worth visiting. The castle has a 4.5/5 rating on TripAdvisor and ranks #2 of 10 things to do in Blair Atholl.
Blair Castle is famous for its stunning grounds, ballroom, and collection of antiquities.

Who runs Blair Castle?

Blair Castle is owned and managed by the Duke of Atholl. The castle is the ancestral home of Clan Murray.

Can you stay in Blair Castle?

It is not possible to stay overnight in Blair Castle, but there is self-catering accommodation on the estate that can be booked.

What was filmed at Blair Castle?

The TV drama series ‘Victoria’ was filmed at Blair Castle. The series portrays the life of Queen Victoria who was known to have a fondness for Highland Perthshire.