Blair Castle is the seat of the Murrays of Atholl. More than any castle or country home I’ve been to so far, the decor is all about hunting which is understandable when you consider the beautiful grounds it sits on.
Its hard to paint a full picture, but visiting the castle was a highlight of our visit to Pitlochry. One of the first things you notice is the wild man of Atholl. He is absolutely everywhere.
He is part of the Murray family crest, and is usually holding a key and an axe with both his arms raised. According to the legend, the wild man of Atholl was supposed to be a great hunter from the area who was sent after a marauding MacDonald who was stealing cattle and terrorizing the countryside. He brought his quarry back in chains.
The groundfloor hallway is lined from end to end with stag antlers and the grand ballroom is filled with taxidermy. The Murray family have also collected paintings, furniture, and tapestries with a definite hunting theme. The drawing room was filled with stuffed birds and small animals wearing hats.
I couldn’t place where I’d seen it before, but it probably would have been at the National Gallery of Scotland by Princes Street Gardens. Apparently, this was a controversial portrait at the time because the Duke was wearing a kilt at a time when wearing tartan was banned (because of its association with the Jacobite uprising).
You can see the castle in the background, but I like the sleeping dog in the foreground – he looks like he has had a full day helping the master with the hunt.
Blair castle has gone through several transformations over the years, and is still a residence even today. The earliest part of the castle dates back to the 13th century, but it went substantial renovations during the Georgian and Victorian periods.
We walked through each of the rooms, and saw some interesting artifacts including the armor worn by Bonnie Dundee when he died at Killecrankie and a chair made almost entirely from deer antlers on the central staircase. The house and furniture is all very luxurious, and you can imagine that each item has a lot of history.
Outside we explored the woods and made our way over to the old Kirk and Hercules Garden where we could look back for some impressive views of Blair Castle. The surrounding trails on the estate provide some more idyllic views, but since this was a short visit we made our way back to Blair Athol and then Pitlochry.