Castle History and Evolution
As with all of Scotland’s historic castles, Blair Castle has grown and developed throughout the centuries as the times have changed around it. There have been three main development periods – Medieval, Georgian and Victorian – followed by a recent millennial project.
The earliest known part of the present castle dates from 1269 and is known as Cumming’s Tower. The original tower had an extension added to it by the 3rd Earl in 1530 to form a Great Hall (the present Dining Room) over a series of vaulted chambers below.
In 1740 the 2nd Duke transformed the medieval structure into a stylish home of the period, removing the turrets and castellations and applying fashionable Georgian finishes. The painting to the right shows the completed Georgian transformation just eight years before the next stage in the historic castle’s evolution.
Following the growing popularity of Scottish Baronial architecture, the 7th Duke commissioned the Edinburgh architects David Bryce and William Burne to remodel the castle once more in the 1860s/70s.
Crenallations and turrets removed during the Georgian period were reinstated, a new entrance hall was erected and a magnificent ballroom added. New gates were installed and the latest services including bathrooms, telephone and gas were introduced for the first time.
David Bryce’s fine ballroom is unchanged to this day and is used for many Highland balls, banquets and functions. During the Great War the castle was used as an auxiliary hospital and, from 1922, the family found it more convenient to live in the private apartments.
For the new Millennium, architects Jamie Troughton and Hugh Broughton constructed a new exhibition hall known as the Banvie Hall. New electrical, lighting and plumbing services were installed, fitting the historic castle as a flagship venue for Scotland in a new era.
The Chequered History of One of Scotland’s Most Historic Castles
Over nineteen generations, the Stewarts and Murrays of Atholl have backed winners and losers, fallen in and out of political favour, won battles and lost them. They have been adventurers and politicians, Jacobites and Royalists, entrepreneurs and agriculturalists, soldiers and scholars. And they have almost all, in one way or another, left their mark on Blair Castle.
The historic story of Blair Castle and the Dukes of Atholl will take you from Mary Queen of Scots to the English Civil War, from Lord George Murray and the Jacobite cause to the disaster of Culloden, and from the Isle of Man to Queen Victoria’s love affair with the Scottish Highlands and her presentation of Colours to the Atholl Highlanders.
Our castle tours walk you through the castle’s unique history, bringing you face to face with antiques, artworks and artefacts that vividly illustrate the rich heritage of the castle and document the integral role it has played in Scotland throughout the ages. Find out more about why Blair Castle is unique amongst Scottish castles.