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The Out About Scotland complete guide to Blair Castle
Category: Castle, Forest or woodland, Gardens, Historic building
Suitable for ages: 0 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 8 out of 10
About Blair Castle
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 you’ll 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, and you’ll learn how for the last seven centuries Blair Castle has served as home to the Atholl family through wars, feuds and uprisings.
During your visit 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 interesting sculpture trail that make this attraction one of the best in central Scotland.
Things to do at Blair Castle
There’s so much to look at as you wander through the rooms of the 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! 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 was 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 walled gardens I’ve ever seen, and at over nine acres in size you can’t fail to be impressed by the meticulous detail that’s gone into restoring this Georgian masterpiece. Inside these 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 garden walls you’ll find a sculpture trail winding its way through the grounds and into the castle, while a two-acre grove containing some of the tallest conifers in the country can be seen nearby, and you might even see one of the native 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 attraction to visit.
The history of Blair Castle
Blair Castle has seen nineteen generations of the Atholl family over the years and there’s a huge amount of family 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. And there’s enough history here that you’re bound to be asking questions.
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.
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, and these soldiers – the Atholl Highlanders – are still in operation today, thanks to Queen Victoria giving 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 even see them parading outside in the castle grounds in full Highland dress.
What I liked about this attraction
- It’s a beautiful castle to explore
- There’s a lot to do in the gardens after you’ve toured the castle interior
- The ticket price is reasonable for an attraction like this
My top tips
- The conifer grove offers a lovely walk – don’t miss it
- The Atholl Gathering at the end of May is definitely worth experiencing
Address and directions map
Prices and opening times
|Individual per person||House and gardens||Gardens only|
|Students (with ID cards)||£11.25||£7.70|
|Children (5-16 years)||£8.30||£3.50|
- The castle is open 30th March until 31st October (excluding Saturday 27th October).
- The daily opening hours are 9.30am – 5.30pm with last admission at 4.30pm, 7 days per week.
Getting there: Car park on-site
Getting around: Easy-access paths, Disabled access, Pushchair access
On-site conveniences: Gift shop, Hot drinks, Picnic area, Restaurant, Snacks, Toilets