Blair Atholl became the official southern gateway to the Cairngorms National Park in 2010, 7 years after the Park was officially designated due to a great deal of lobbying from the area. Blair Atholl has always been a gateway to the wilds of the Cairngorms and a great many important figures in Scottish history have passed this way from Edward II, Mary,Queen of Scots to Queen Victoria. There are many stories to be told about this.
Its importance as a gateway led to the building of Blair Castle in 1269; well, more correctly started building it. The six story Comyn’s Tower of this date can be seen if you look closely at the castle but it is almost lost in the 16th and 17th century additions. The white harled castle we see today was completed in 1871. You can glimpse it from the A9 but when you get close to it then you will be impressed by the outside. Once you get inside the castle you can travel back through time as you visit the different eras of building in its 30 rooms.
One bit of trivia about the castle is that it is the only one to have besieged by the family that owned it. During the 1745 Jacobite uprising Lord George Murray the younger brother of the 2nd Duke. The seige took place from the 17th of March to the 1st of April, although the Duke wasn’t in at this time. The castle proved impregnable and the siege ended when Lord George Murray left for Inverness and the Battle of Culloden. For more Jacobite battles visit the nearby village of Killiecrankie.
The Atholl Estates and Blair Castle were placed into a charitable trust in 1996 by the 10th Duke of Atholl. The Dukes of Atholl in recent centuries have seldom produced a male heir, so the title has gone to distant cousins and now it resides with the 12th Duke in South Africa!
There is something unique related to being the Duke of Atholl, namely that you have your won private (and legal) army: The Atholl Highlanders. This regiment was formed in 1839 as the Duke’s official bodyguard. In 1842 and 1844 they provided the escort and guard for Queen Victoria for her visit to the area. Queen Victoria was so impressed that she granted the regiment colours, giving them official status. The regiment is purely ceremonial and is predominantly made of or worked or the Atholl Estates.
The Atholl Estates offer all manner of exciting activities to participate in from the sedate to the very exciting. There is also the surrounding countryside to explore and enjoy the countryside that Queen Victoria was so impressed by.
If you are wanting to have something to eat in Blair Atholl then the grand Atholl Arms Hotel is just opposite the very grand entrance gates to the Castle. For somewhere a little more informal and quirky you could visit the nearby Watermill and Tea Room, yes it is an operational 16th century flour and meal mill plus a tearoom. What more could you ask for?
Whether for grand castles or homemade (and ground) oatcakes and much inbetween then Blair Atholl is the place to visit.