After leaving Stirling Castle, we drove to Bridge of Earn, a small village just out of Perth, Scotland. We spent two nights here in the start of the highlands, and I wish we had time to travel further north! Our main motive for coming here was to visit the Glenturret Distillery, Scotland’s oldest distillery. However, it also meant we could tick off a couple of castles that I was really looking forward to.
The first was Balhousie Castle in Perth. As soon as we pulled into the car park here, I could see that the castle, just like Wray Castle, was relatively new. In fact, the newest extension to the building was only added in 2011! But there was a castle on the site, perhaps as early as the fourteenth century. In 1624, King Charles I granted the lands and Barony of Balhousie to Master Francis Hay, and it remained in the family for over 300 years! However, there were many times when the castle lay empty, and by the early 1860s it was in a dilapidated state. Although the oldest building today dates from the seventeenth century, most of the castle was rebuilt in the early 1900s.
It was during the 1960s when The Black Watch, the most famous of the Scottish Highlander regiments, permanently established their Regimental Headquarters and their Museum at Balhousie Castle. Today, the castle is “The Home of the Black Watch”, still housing the regimental history… all the way back to 1739! If you don’t know who the Black Watch are, you probably don’t know your military history, because they have been involved in just about every near-modern and modern military conflict you can think of… War of the Austrian Succession (1745), the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), the Crimean War (1853-1856), the Indian Rebellion of 1857, World War One (1914-1918), World War Two (1939-1945), the Korean War (1950-1953), and even the Iraq War (2003-2011). They were also the last British military unit to leave Hong Kong in 1997. That’s a very long and very impressive history! The Black Watch are identified largely by the red hackle worn on head-wear, and the distinct dark tartan.
Since my Dad is a military nut (he’s ex air force), and I’m a history lover, I was really excited to check this place out. We were fortunate to visit whilst the “Poppies Weeping Window” were on display, marking the first centenary of World War One. Thousands of hand-made ceramic poppies poured from a tower window of the castle to the ground. The effect was dramatic and breath-taking.
After admiring the view and speaking to the volunteers outside, all of them former Black Watch members, we headed inside to buy our tickets for the museum. There were two options; entry, or entry and guided tour, and we went with the latter. It was money well spent. Our guide, the archivist of the museum no less, was absolutely fantastic. He gave us so much information about the Black Watch, their development, and the role they played throughout history. He had an interesting or quirky story for just about every item we came across, and he kept us entertained the whole time. Honestly, if this is your thing, you can’t go wrong with the guided tour. You can still explore the museum leisurely at your own pace afterwards!
I have to admit, once I was inside and on the tour I was pretty distracted that I didn’t take any photos inside. But that’s okay, because I had a wonderful time. If you’re as much of a military lover as I am, and you happen to be in the area, be sure to pop into Balhousie Castle. You won’t be disappointed!