Historic Atholl Gathering draws 4,000 spectators

The Atholl Highlanders are Europe's last remaining private army. PIC: Contributed.
The Atholl Highlanders are Europe's last remaining private army. PIC: Contributed.
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More than 4,000 spectators turned out to watch the historic Atholl Gathering at Blair Castle in Perthshire.

The Atholl Highlanders, Europe’s last remaining private army, gathered for their annual inspection by Lord Duncan of Springbank on Saturday afternoon, before parading on the forecourt of the Castle accompanied by the traditional sounds of pipes and drums.

The yearly ritual then gave way to the Highland Games on Sunday, which the army officially opened.

READ MORE: A history of Highland Games in Scotland

Andrew Bruce Wooton, General Manager at Atholl Estates, said: “The Atholl Gathering always proves to be an incredible weekend, with visitors coming from near and far to take part in the weekend’s events and watch the fantastic Atholl Highlanders’ Parade, and this year was no different.”

The Atholl Highlander regiment was created by the Duke of Atholl during Queen Victoria’s travels to Scotland in 1844.

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The regiment is made up of men from the surrounding estate with its recruits including a gamekeeper, a farm manager and the sons of the estate’s former caravan park manager.

The regimental uniform of Murray tartan and a Glengarry hat had stayed much the same since the Atholl Highlanders were formed.

Queen Victoria granted the Highlanders the right to carry the Queen’s colours and thus to bear arms.

While in the early days the men carried Lochaber axes, the Highlanders now carry rifles. However, their bodyguard role is purely ceremonial.