The landscape around Ardblair Castle has changed beyond all recognition from the medieval period when the site was surrounded by Rae Loch. Although now largely drained, it was the presence of this water feature that made the location ideal for a fortification - not only did it offer a natural defensive barrier, it also provided abundant resources for the castle. For this reason a fortification may well have existed here long before the current structure was built. One author, Nigel Tranter, considers that the boulder footings of the Tower House could be the remains of an earlier castle. Furthermore a mound, just to the east of the current castle, is suggestive of a Norman era fortification although this has not yet been excavated. Certainly a Stephen de Blair owned land near Blairgowrie in the late twelfth century and this may well have included the Ardblair site. Despite this evidence however, the earliest known reference to Ardblair itself dates from 1399 when Robert III granted it to Thomas Blair of Balthayock. What he built on the site, if anything, is uncertain.
The oldest part of the structure seen today is a Tower House which dates from the late sixteenth/early seventeenth century. Built in an L-plan, the tower was a three storey structure plus an attic. The ground floor was a vaulted chamber, presumably a storeroom and kitchen, whilst the Great Hall was on the first floor and accommodation was on the upper levels. A stair tower provided access to all levels and was capped with a conical roof. Unusually this tower was not flush with one side of the main block and thus enabled enfilading fire along both the west and south sides.
Today the Tower House stands in the north-west corner of a courtyard which is surrounded on three sides by additional wings dating from the seventeenth century and later. It is likely these buildings were constructed over the original barmkin (curtain wall) within which would have been the ancillary buildings associated with such a settlement including brewhouse, bakehouse and stables. To the north the barmkin survives although a coat of arms dated 1688 suggests it was rebuilt, or extensively modified, from its original form.
The Blairs were powerful Lairds within Perthshire with the Ardblair estates comprising around one fifth of the land around Blairgowrie. Like many such families they were regularly in feuds and in 1554 Patrick Blair of Ardblair was executed (by beheading) for the murder of George Drummond of Ledcrieff and his son, William. Ardblair remained with the Blair family until 1792 when it passed through marriage to Laurence Oliphant of Gask. The castle was modernised in the mid nineteenth century and further buildings were added within the courtyard at this time. The castle remains the property of the Blair Oliphant family and is a private residence with no public access.
CANMORE (2016). Ardblair Castle. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
Cruden, S (1960). The Scottish Castle. Edinburgh.
Forman, S (1961). Ardblair House. Edinburgh.
MacGibbon, D and Ross, T (1892). The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries. Edinburgh.
Tranter, N (1962). The fortified house in Scotland. Edinburgh.
Ardblair Castle is a private residence with no public access. Furthermore the site is surrounded by thick woodland that conceals the castle from the nearby public right of way (which passes the mound of the original castle). The only view visitors can get of the structure is from the main road. Should you wish to view this you must take extreme care as the road is national speed limit, it is near a blind bend, there is no footpath and precious little verge. Should you decide to brave this, you can get a view of the exterior of the Tower House (as seen in the photo below right).
Ardblair Castle is an L plan Tower House that has subsequently been augmented by additional wings. Probably replacing an earlier fortification on or near the site, the castle was originally surrounded by a loch that was later drained. It remains a private residence with no public access.
Ardblair Castle is found around one mile west of Blairgowrie. It is not open to the public and therefore not sign-posted but is directly adjacent to the A923 and therefore easily found. On-road parking is possible at the eastern end of the A923 Dunkeld Road but the best option is to park in Blairgowrie. The road has a pavement up until the last 200 metres and thereafter the only way to view the castle is to walk on the busy (and high speed) road. Extreme care must be taken.
Blairgowrie Car Park