Blair Castle Tours – Inside the Castle
Our castle tours give you the opportunity to experience for yourself the sheer grandeur and timeless majesty of Blair Castle. Some of the rooms you’ll encounter on your castle tour include:
The Entrance Hall
David Bryce designed the dual-purpose entrance hall under the direction of the 7th Duke, to serve also as an ornamental armoury.
Weapon displays were a feature of the Scottish Baronial style, but this one even includes targes (shields) and muskets which were used at the Battle of Culloden.
An impressive form of a favourite park stag, Tilt, who died fighting in 1850, now presides over the hall.
The Picture Staircase
The staircase forms a family portrait gallery, completed in 1756 as part of the Georgian remodelling scheme.
At first sight the walls appear to be panelled, but actually they were formed in plasterwork by the Edinburgh stuccoist Thomas Clayton and his Italian assistants, working under the architect James Winter.
The 2nd Duke took a great interest in the design of the staircase and determined the layout of the pictures.
The Dining Room
The present Dining Room was formed during the 18th century from the 16th century Great Hall. It incorporates more of Thomas Clayton’s plasterwork, ceiling roundels by Thomas Bardwell showing the four seasons, and local landscape scenes by Charles Stewart, an artist patronised by the 3rd Duke.
At one time marble used to be quarried in nearby Glen Tilt, but imperfections in the stone and difficulties of transport made it uneconomic. A sample of Glen Tilt marble can be seen as a mount for a silver stag presented as a wedding gift to the 7th Duke and Duchess in 1888. There are other examples in the castle of the use of this marble.
The Ante Room
This room now commemorates the life of Iain, 10th Duke whose vision and insight led him to place Blair Castle and the surrounding estate in trust for the benefit of the nation. He died in 1996 and was succeeded by John, the 11th Duke.
The Derby Suite
The daughter of the 7th Earl of Derby, Lady Amelia Stanley, married the 1st Marquis of Atholl in 1659 and this suite is named for her. The bed hangings were embroidered in 1650 by Lady Amelia’s mother.
Queen Victoria used this suite on her visit to Blair Castle in 1844 and it was on this occasion that she was so impressed with the guard provided by the Atholl Highlanders that she granted them the right to bear arms.
The Drawing Room
After the Ballroom, the Drawing Room is the largest room in the castle and represents the pinnacle of the 2nd Duke’s aspirations to grandeur.
The ceiling and cornice represent Thomas Clayton’s very finest work, set off by the exquisite marble chimney piece by Thomas Carter.
The crewel work curtains have recently been restored over some ten years by volunteers from the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies.
The Tapestry Room
Castle tours also take in the stunning tapestry room, which contains the Mortlake Tapestries that once belonged to King Charles I and were sold by Cromwell after the King’s execution. They were discovered in Paris and purchased by the 1st Duke who brought them to Blair Castle to hang in this room which forms part of the ancient Cumming’s Tower.
The great William and Mary State Bed is hung with fine silks made by the Huguenot silk dressers of Spitalfields. It was brought to Blair from Holyrood Palace by the 1st Duke who had an apartment there as Lord Privy Seal to the Scottish Parliament, until he was arrested for opposing the Act of Union.
The Main Staircase
This fine carved staircase was designed by Abraham Swan for the 2nd Duke. It displays various curiosities including the skull of a prehistoric Irish Elk. Also on the staircase are narwhal tusks – these were often brought home by early travellers and gave rise to the legend of the unicorn.
Commissioned by the 7th Duke for the annual gathering of the Atholl Highlanders, this grand ballroom remains unchanged today. It is still used for its original purpose and for many Highland balls, wedding receptions, corporate hospitality and private dinners.
Designed by David Bryce and completed in 1876, just before his death, the ballroom is essentially Scottish in style and setting.
The celebrated fiddler Neil Gow was closely associated with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Dukes and his portrait by Sir Henry Raeburn, his chair and fiddle are displayed on the stage.
Step Back in Time with Blair Castle Tours
The collections displayed in 30 rooms give a rich and varied impression of Scottish life over seven centuries. Fine pictures and furniture, arms and armour, porcelain, embroidery and lace, Masonic regalia, Jacobite relics and many family treasures provide fascinating insights into Scottish social history.
Visitors taking the castle tour become acquainted not only with the Dukes and Earls of Atholl, their circles of friends, visiting Royalty and Scottish nobility down the age, but also with the ordinary people who have lived and worked at the castle through the centuries.
Foresters and gamekeepers, gardeners and maids, butlers and estate managers have all left their mark and have an equally fascinating tale to tell.
There are too many rooms and artefacts encompassed in our castle tours to show more than a small selection here, but they illustrate some aspects of the full castle tour. Steeped in the rich cultural heritage of Scotland, Blair Castle has a fascinating and illustrious past that really comes alive when you take the full tour of this historic castle.