We were staying a week in Pitlochry, such a pretty town in Perthshire. We had travelled there by train from our home in Sussex so were dependent on public transport – and our legs. Having done a lot of exploring locally on foot we decided to go by bus to visit Blair Castle. My only previous visit there was about 55 years ago when I'd been at a Guide camp in Braemar.
We caught the No. 87 bus at 10am from the West End Car Park and it was a pretty quarter of an hour ride to Blair Atholl and then right along the tree-lined avenue up to the Castle door. We intended to spend several hours there but the driver said when we got off, that he would be back again at 12.45 and if we had seen all we wanted to by then, we might like to hop back on and go a bit further along the route so that we could get off and see the Falls of Bruar. We appreciated his kindness and said we'd certainly consider it.
However, when we approached the foor of the imposing white castle a kilted lady came down the steps and asked how long we had for our visit. We said "all day" so she suggested that we either go and relax over a coffee or head for the gardens first as they had three coach loads of visitors arriving to see round the rooms in the castle and "it will be like a tsunami". She pointed out the way to the life-sized statue of Hercules which overlooks the walled garden that has recently been restored. We went through the gate into an amazing 9 acre garden that includes an orchard, a folly, a Chinese bridge, landscaped ponds and beautiful herbaceous borders.
There were hardly any other visitors there when we arrived and we were able to stroll round at our leisure admiring the gardens and the various sculptures (there were laminated description sheets for them in one of thesmall building).
A couple of hours later, after enjoying a snack, we entered the Baronial Hall, an amazing place with its dark wood and all the weaponry displayed on the walls, as well as the stag (deceased) relaxing on the carpet. We were able to move around in our own time through the 30 rooms that were open to view. We loved the grand Drawing Room, the picture staircase, antique furniture, art and tapestry and displays of china and other family treasures.
We read about how the Castle had changed through the ages and as this year there is a special exhibition showing the involvement of the 7th Duke of Atholl and his family in the war. There were pictures of when the Castle had been used as a Red Cross hospital and what I found particularly intriguing, were letters, photos and other memorabilia that had belonged to people staying in the Castle – even a dainty embroidered silk handkerchief that had been sent home to a sweetheart from a soldier serving in France.
Photos weren't allowed to be taken in any of the rooms apart from the last one we visited, the magnificent Ballroom, and the walls of that were covered in hundreds of pairs of antlers.
Before we caught the 4.20pm bus back to Pitlochry we just had time to walk along to Diana's Grove past some of Scotland's tallest trees, to find the ruins of St Bride's Kirk, where the Jacobite Leader, Bonnie Dundee, is buried. We'd seen his helmet and breastplate in the castle.
When the driver picked us up we told him what an interesting day we'd had and he seemed really pleased for us. Everyone had been so friendly and helpful – it's certainly a visit we shan't forget.