Blair Castle

Home of the Atholl family for seven centuries

Blair Castle

Situated in the dramatic Highland Perthshire landscape has, for centuries, been a strategic stronghold at the Gateway to the Grampians and the route to Inverness.

Blair Castle is not only a historic Scottish castle, but it is also a vast estate. Activities include; Off-Road Safaris, Hiking, Biking (cycling) and fishing. With 140,000 acres of varied terrains to explore, the Blair estate can be a full-day experience. 

Come and discover the colourful history, grand rooms, and stunning gardens on a driver-guided private tour of Scotland or a day tour from Pitlochry or Edinburgh.

The classic Scottish estate

A brief history of Blair Castle

700 years of drama
The Castle has a long and fascinating history. It spans a period from Mary Queen of Scots through the Civil War, the Act of Union, and the Battle of Culloden to Queen Victoria and her presentation of colour to the Atholl Highlanders. Throughout its long 700-year history, it has experienced the highs and lows of political favour, has enjoyed victory in battles, and endured defeats.

The early days
On this site in 1269, John Comyn built a Tower House. Possibly, he overlooked that he didn't own the land, the actual owner being David Strathbogie, the Duke of Atholl, who was away on Crusade. He seized the building on his return and used it for his residence, giving it the name Comyn's Tower. It passed onto his son, whose rebellion against Robert the Bruce in 1322 resulted in him forfeiting the Castle. It was given to Sir Neil Campbell, whose son, John, had been granted the Earldom of Atholl in 1320.

The following 137 years saw the Castle undergo many ownership changes. In 1457, James II gave it to his half-brother, Sir John Stewart of Balvenie. It remained for almost 140 years, finally passing to John Stewart, Fifth Earl of Atholl. Major building works were undertaken during his ownership, notably the Great Hall in 1530. 

Battle and rebellions
With the death of the 5th Earl, the Castle reverted to Crown ownership until 1629, when the Castle and title were granted to John Murray to recognise his loyalty to the crown. The Battle of Dunbar In 1650 saw an English invasion led by Oliver Cromwell defeat the Scottish Covenanters and the Castle seized by the English. (The Covenanters were a Scottish force that had remained loyal to the English Parliament.) Under the restoration, five years later, the Castle was returned to the Murray family.

The Jacobite rebellions marked another milestone in the history of Blair Castle when the Jacobites took it. The Jacobite movement was a group of Scots who opposed the loss of the Stuarts' claim to the British throne by expulsing James II and VII and its transfer to the Protestant Mary II and her husband William III. The Murrays, the Castle owners, were the English parliament supporters.

Battle for the castle
Lord John Murray (the owner's son) besieged the Castle to win it back for his father and the government. At the Battle of Killiecrankie, the Jacobites defeated Lord John and the government forces, resulting in his death. After a series of minor skirmishes over a couple of years, the Jacobites were offered an amnesty. In 1691 the Castle was returned to the Murrays, eventually owned by James Murray.

In 1740 James set about converting the Castle into a Georgian mansion and removing many medieval defences. Whilst James had remained loyal to the government, many of his relatives still held Jacobite sympathies, and in 1745 forces supporting Prince Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) took the Castle. Government forces retook it, but James's Jacobite brother, Lord George Murray, besieged it, causing significant damage. A major battle (the Battle of Culloden) ensued. The Jacobites lost, and James Murray resumed ownership and repaired his family home.

Further works to transform and remodel the Castle took place in the 1860s in less violent circumstances. Two eminent Victorian architects, David Bryce and William Burne, noted for their Scottish baronial style work, were commissioned, giving the building the interesting turrets.

In more recent times, the Castle was used as a field hospital in World War I and opened to the public in 1936.

Visitor highlights 
A visit to Blair Castle is both fascinating and absorbing. Given its long and eventful history, it's perhaps unsurprising that it has undergone many changes. Today, it provides a fascinating insight into the lives of the Highland aristocracy of the time.  

With over 30 rooms displaying a vast collection of artefacts and treasures, it is a formidable collection worth visiting. In addition to the China room with over 1,700 pieces, exhibits in the Victorian armoury include targets and muskets used in the Battle of Culloden (1746). This battle marked the Jacobite end, with Blair Castle the last to be under siege. 

Another highlight is the ballroom, lined with 175 pairs of antlers. Other gems include paintings by Sir Edwin Landseer and tapestries and plasterwork by Thomas Clayton.

Queen Victoria visited the Castle in 1844 and was sufficiently impressed by the experience to confer upon the Duke of Atholl the distinction of maintaining a private army. The Atholl Highlanders are now the only remaining private army in Europe. While they have no military role, they are armed with Lee Metford rifles and have a pipe band. Membership of the Highlanders is by invitation only under the Duke of Atholl's command based at the Castle. 

Gardens and grounds
The gardens are set against breathtaking scenery and were laid out in the 18th century. They include a nine-acre walled garden where delightful walks, ponds, a disused Kirk, a gothic folly, and a Red deer park.

Red squirrels, native to Scotland, are often glimpsed along with beautifully coloured Peacocks. Worthy of special mention is Diana's Grove, a peaceful wooded area near the Castle and home to the UK's second-largest tree, a Grand Fir measuring 62.70 metres.

Running through Diana's Grove is a Burn (stream), spanned by two 18th-century bridges that give access to the ancient Celtic St Brides Kirk. The resting place of Viscount Dundee (Bonnie Dundee), who fell at the Battle of Killiecrankie.

Touring and accommodation
Our Tour-Designers are here to tailor a private tour of Scotland for you. For a first-time visit, choose our Classic tour of Scotland; it includes all the famous sights and is flexible on the day, like everything we do.

Pitlochry sits in the centre of Scotland, allowing you access to most of the Highlands. The Whisky TrailSt Andrews and Stirling Castle are within reach. For those with limited time to stay in Edinburgh and Pitlochry only. This will allow you to tour the Highlights of Scotland. For any itinerary, Pitlochry is a town useful as a launch pad for exploring large swathes of Scotland. 

Within the same region is Scotland’s greatest resort, Gleneagles Hotel. Our recommended Pitlochry Hotel is Fonab Castle Hotel - Fonab is a short walk from the town centre and has all the amenities you would expect from a five-star property. Blair Castle is an easy day tour from Gleneagles Hotel and Fonab Castle Hotel. Cromlix Hotel is also ideally located to tour the region, although a little further south. It is a boutique establishment with "Chez Roux", a high-end restaurant.

Traditional Scottish Stronghold

Spend the day on the estate

  • Tour the Castle
  • Hike the Estate
  • Off-Road-Safari's
  • Fishing Available
  • Mountain Biking

Help us make your trip exceptional

Our UK, US and EU office based staff will listen to what you want to see and experience.

Whether you are a honeymoon couple, a family or a corporate incentive group, our team’s collective resources will be brought together to build the experience that’s right for you.

We will require your arrival and departure dates, details of your personal preferences and places that you would like to visit as well as the events you would like to experience.

We will then prepare a draft itinerary and send it to you by email for your approval. Once agreed, we will send you a Booking Confirmation with Personalised Itinerary and Information Pack via email.

Contact information

From the UK: +44(0)20 8669 3666

FREE from Canada or the USA: 1-888-472-1799