Blair looks like a classic fantasy castle – gleaming white, encrusted with turrets and set amid broad acres of gardens and parkland. It has been home to the Stewarts and Murrays of Atholl for 19 generations. Since 1703 the head of Clan Murray has had the title Duke of Atholl.
Part of the castle, Cummings Tower, dates back to around 1269. It was extended during the 16th century then the second Duke transformed it into a fine Georgian residence in 1740. The 7th Duke made several additions in the 1860s-1870s. These ranged from a superb ballroom, still in use, to the installation of gas for heating and light. Most recently in 2000, a new exhibition space was added (Banvie Hall).
The landscaped grounds were created during the 18th century. The walled Hercules garden has a large orchard, ponds and a statue of the Greek hero. A beautiful flowering border runs for 250 yards (230 metres) along the south-facing wall. Wooded Diana’s Grove, next to the castle, has some fine tall trees.
Banvie Burn flows through the woods and is crossed by two old bridges. The bridges lead to the ancient ruins of St Bride’s Church. Here lie the remains of John Graham, Viscount Dundee, known as ‘Bonnie Dundee’. He was killed at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 while leading Jacobite troops to victory. This was the first of the Jacobite uprisings that aimed to restore the Stuarts to the throne of England and Scotland.
Interestingly, Blair Castle is home to the only Private Army in the Uk. The ‘Atholl Highlanders’ were formed in 1839 and comprise around 40 troops. Their role is ceremonious although they have the right to defend the castle against attack.