Travel: Blair Estate

Blair Castle in the Atholl Estate
Blair Castle in the Atholl Estate
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It’s 8am. The sun is already beating down on me as I run along a deserted country road, past a field of horses and into the grounds of a most magnificent castle.

Back in my Edinburgh home, I’d still be lying in bed on this weekend morning, but while staying on the doorstep of the stunning Blair Castle in the Atholl Estate, I’m definitely going to make every second count.

On my morning run I come face to face with a red deer who stares at me intently but doesn’t move a muscle and I finish in a 17th century graveyard, the most peaceful and serene location.

Feeling pleased with my efforts, and happy with life, I relax in the garden of Old Blair, the Highland lodge which is our family home for the weekend and gaze at the ruined St Brides Kirk which overlooks our large and picturesque garden.

Stepping inside for the first time, we are amazed by the size of it and the sheer number of rooms.

The downstairs boasts a formal dining room and comfortable lounge complete with log fire, while the kitchen offers instant warmth and a homely feel with the Aga.

We choose our rooms, with my daughter and I opting for the top floor, with our own private bathroom.

We spend the afternoon exploring the house and sitting outside on the lawn, admiring the surrounding countryside, spotting deer and buzzards before take a short stroll ato Blair Castle, which we are booked in to take a tour round the next morning.

The castle grounds are fantastic - beautifully kept, well manicured and complete with a pretty burn. There’s even the odd peacock roaming gracefully around.

The Hercules Garden is well worth a visit. Set over nine acres, the stunning walled garden area has been restored to its original Georgian design and boasts a beautiful Chinese bridge, landscaped ponds and an impressive orchard with more than 100 fruit trees.

Also within the castle grounds is Diana’s Grove - a tranquil wooded area and an adventure playground to keep the little ones entertained.

We retreat to the house to make dinner - quite a novelty using the Aga - and light the fire while relaxing with a glass of wine or two. An annexe provides a great area for older children to go to to watch TV and play board games - of which there are plenty available .

We have our evening meal in the rather grand dining room, overlooked by portraits of the many earls who once resided in the castle - then after a couple more drinks beside the roaring fire we retire.

Refreshed from a peaceful sleep - the only neighbours making any noise would be the cattle in the field - we head round to the castle for an early tour.

It’s already busy, with bus loads of foreign tourists eager to soak up this special piece of Scottish history.

We are greeted by our tour guide Mo Tracey. The castle, she tells us, dates back to 1269, though it has gone through many transformations over the years, where it became a Georgian mansion and a Victorian castle in the baronial style.

There are more than 30 rooms on display, with stories of the greatest Scottish historical figures unveiled along the way, from Mary Queen of Scots to Bonnie Prince Charlie, both of whom enjoyed the castle’s hospitality during their lifetimes.

The rooms themselves are stunning, the epitome of style with ornate period furnishings and impressive family portraits. We finish in the Victorian ballroom, a room oozing grandeur.

The afternoon is spent in the nearby town of Pitlochry, which is buzzing in the midst of tourist season, drawn by its mix of bars, restaurants and shops.

Dinner that evening is in the nearby Atholl Arms, a short walk from the entrance to the castle grounds. Again, the place is buzzing and we are lucky to get a table. It’s clear to see this part of the world is a popular place to visit in summer.

Next morning we have one last activity scheduled before having to say our goodbyes to our lovely countryside escape - a pony ride for my daughter.

The staff at the riding school are fantastic at putting her at ease as she gets on horseback for the first time in her young life.

A short stroll past the beautiful river, under a picturesque bridge and alongside the ancient graveyard and we are back to Old Blair, ready to bid farewell to the most breathtaking of beauty spots and a truly relaxing and wonderful weekend.

FACTFILE: Prices for October: 2 bedroom caravan holiday home £330 (short break) £545 (week); 3 bedroom CHH £380/£595.

Blair Estate has a discount of 20% for caravan holiday homes only in October, subject to availability - quote EDINBURGH EVENING NEWS offer.

2 bedroom lodge £395/£645; 3 bedroom lodge £460/745

To book call 01796-481263 or visit www.atholl-estates.co.uk