Blair Atholl

Blair Atholl's most famous feature is Blair Castle (NN 865 662), one of Scotland's premier stately homes, and the last castle in the British Isles to be besieged, in 1746 during the last Jacobite rising. The Castle was the traditional home of the Earls (later Marquesses, now Dukes) of Atholl. The Duke of Atholl is the only person in the United Kingdom allowed to raise a private army. This army, known as the Atholl Highlanders, conducts largely social and ceremonial activities, and primarily consists of workers on the extensive Atholl Estates.

The Castle no longer belongs directly to the Duke of Atholl, as the 10th Duke, George Iain Murray (1931–96), left the Castle in trust upon his death. His distant cousin the 11th Duke, John Murray (1929–2012), lived in South Africa, and visited annually to review the Atholl Highlanders. The oldest part of Blair Castle, known as Comyn's (or Cumming's) Tower, a small tower-house with immensely thick walls, is claimed (perhaps dubiously) to date from as early as the 13th century. The majority of the Castle is 16th century in date, though much altered. After the siege referred to above, the upper storey and battlements of the ancient Castle were removed to render it indefensible. A medieval appearance becoming fashionable again during the 19th century, the Castle, which had become known as Atholl House, was raised in height and adorned with battlements once more. The many alterations in the fabric are largely concealed by the white harling (roughcast) on the walls. The collections of furniture, paintings, historical relics, weapons, embroidery, china, Highland artefacts and hunting trophies preserved in the Castle are among the finest in Scotland, as is the plasterwork and other décor of the principal rooms. Thirty-two rooms are open to the public, more than in any comparable stately home.

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