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Blair Atholl

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Blair Athole (Gael. ` plain of the pleasant land '), a village and a parish of N Perthshire. The village lies between the left bank of the Garry and the right bank of the confluent Water of Tilt, across which stands another village, Bridge of Tilt, the two together practically forming one, with a post office (Blair Athole), having money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a branch of the Union Bank, and gas-works, whilst each possesses an excellent hotel. Blair Athole is 3½ miles NW of the Pass of Killiecrankie, 48 SW of Castleton of Braemar by Spittal of Glenshee or 30 up Glen Tilt, 18½ ENE of Kinloch Rannoch, and 21 N of Aberfeldy; its station on the Highland railway is 19½ miles NNW of Dunkeld, and 60¾ S by W of Grantown. Cattle fairs are held at Bridge of Tilt on 25 June and 4 September, and on the third Wednesday of May at Blair Athole, where also are a general business fair upon 12 February and a great Highland gathering in the second week of September. Pop. of united village (1871) 387,

The parish is bounded N by Kingussie-Insh and the Glenfeshie portion of Alvie in Inverness-shire and by Crathie-Braemar in Aberdeenshire, NE by Crathie-Braemar, SE by Kirkmichael and Moulin, S by Dull, SW by Fortingal, and NW by Laggan in Inverness-shire. From E to W it has an extreme length of 24¾í miles, at 56o 52'; its width varies between 43/8 and 16½ miles, the latter measuring from the head of Loch Tummel northward to the Inverness-shire border; and its area is 182,670¼ acres (2853/7 sq. miles), of which 1556½ are water. The Highland railway runs 19¼ miles west-north-westward up Glen Garry, ascending here from about 390 to 1500 feet above sea-level; on it are the stations of Blair Athole, Struan, and Dalnaspidal, 35¼, 40, and 51 miles NNW of Perth. By the Garry and its innumerable affluents and sub-affluents the features of this parish have been chiefly moulded, those affluents including the Edendon (running 9 miles E and S), the Bruar (9¾ S), the Erichdie (10¼ E by N), and the Tilt (13½ SW), which last has a head-stream in the Tarf (11¼ E). The Tummel itself, to which the Garry flows, and its expansion, Loch Tummel (2¾ x ½ mile), mark 6½ miles of the southern boundary; and in the SW portion of the parish are Lochs Garry (25/8 x ¼ mile), Choin (7½ x 1 furl.), and Bhaic (3 x 1 furl.); in the NE portion, Loch Loch (9½ x 1 furl.), half of Loch an Duin (10 x 1½ furl.), and two or three smaller tarns. Glen Garry, from Struan downward, is an open, fertile, finely wooded vale; but, saving Strath-Tummel and the lower reaches of Glens Erichdie, Bruar, and Tilt, which likewise are beautifully planted with larches and Scotch firs, the rest of the surface is all an assemblage of moor-clad hills and naked, many-ridged mountains. The part to the left of the Garry belongs to the ` Forest of Athole, ' now well-nigh treeless; and here, from W to E, the following summits of the Grampians rise, those marked with asterisks right on Blair Athole's boundaries:- *Ben Udlaman (3306 feet), * Bruach nan Iombrean (3175), *An Torc or Badenoch Boar (2432), and Glas Mheall Mor (3037), westward of the Edendon; *Carn na Caim (3087), *Vinegar Hill (2584), Carn a' Mhurraich (1811), Meall na Maoile (1868), Sron a' Chleirich (2670), Leac Liath (1788), Uchd a' Chlarsair (2587), and *Leathad an Taobhain (2994), between the Edendon and the Bruar; Beinn Bhreac (2992), Ben Dearg (3304), Beinn a' Chait (2942), Fair Bhuidhe (1510), Meall Reamhar (1850), Braigh Sron Ghorm (2882), *Carn an Fhidleir (3276), *An Sgarsoch (3300), An Sligearnach (2577), and *Coire na Craig (2515), between the Bruar and the Tilt; *Sron a' Bhoididh (2131), Craig Dhearg (2141), Benglo (3671), Carn Liath (3193), Meall Dail Min (1748), Meall Gruaim (1372), Carn an Righ (3377), *Carn Bhac (3014), *Beinn Iutharn Mhor (3424), *Glas Thulachan (3445), *Braigh Feith Chuibhsachain (2371), *Ben Vuroch (2961), and Crochton (1954), eastward of the Tilt. S of the Garry, from E to W, are Tulach Hill (1541 feet), Conbhar (1330), Dubh Chnocan (1385), Torr Dubh (1667), and Meall Ban (1657), between the Tummel and the Erichdie; and, between the Erichdie and the Garry, An Teampan (1387), Meall Chabhaidh (1709), Sron Choin (1852), Meall Biorach (1854), and Meall na Leitreach (2544)- The deer and grouse of its hills, the salmon and trout of its streams, the wealth and variety of its fauna and flora (especially rare alpine plants), all make Blair Athole a happy hunting-ground alike to the sportsman and the man of science; to the latter Glen Tilt's geology is for ever associated with the ` Huttonian Theory.' The arable soils, chiefly light loam or gravelly earth, occupy less than 4000 acres, and plantations cover an equal or greater extent. Blair Castle, ¾ mile NNW of the village, is thence approached by a double avenue of limes, and, as restored in 1872, is a goodly four-storied mansion, turreted and battlemented, in the Scottish Baronial style. Its oldest portion, Comyn's Tower, is said to have been built by John de Strathbogie, ninth Earl of Athole (1269); and many are its historic memories. James V. and Mary Queen of Scots must both have visited it, when in 1529 and 1564 they came to hunt in Glen Tilt; and Montrose in 1644 here mustered the 3000 Athole Highlanders, whom he led to victory at Tippermuir. In 1653 the castle was stormed and ' destroyed by powder ' by Colonel Daniel, a Cromwellian officer; yet in 1689 we find it garrisoned by Claverhouse, whose corpse was brought back to it from Killiecrankie, for burial in the secluded old church of Blair. The Young Pretender lodged here three nights (30 Aug. to 2 Sept. 1745); in the following March it was held a fortnight by Sir Andrew Agnew for Government against Lord George Murray, the Duke of Athole's brother. After this siege, its last, it was docked of two upper stories and whitewashed, so that the Queen, who, with the Prince Consort, resided here from 11 Sept. to 1 Oct. 1844, describes it merely as ` a large plain white building.' The present Duke of Athole owns 194, 640 acres in the shire, of a yearly value of £40,788; and 3 other proprietors, Wm. M`Inroy of Lude (1 mile ENE of the village), A. Gilbert Robertson of Struan, and Edgar W. Robertson of Auchleeks (on Erichdie Water, 6 miles W by S of Struan station), hold respectively 15,680,18,000, and 14,732 acres, valued at £2460, £1039, and £1633 per annum. The remaining property is divided among 10,1 holding to the value of more, and 9 of less, than £500. In the presbytery of Dunkeld and synod of Perth and Stirling, Blair Athole comprises the ancient parishes of Blair, Lude, Kilmaveonaig, and Struan, united prior to 1632, but has given off a portion (with 70 inhabitants in 1871) to the quoad sacra parish of Tenandry. Its living is worth £540; and it has two Established churches, one at the village (1825; 650 sittings), the other at Struan (1829; 450 sittings). There are also a Free church, a Baptist chapel (1808), and an Episcopal chapel (rebuilt 1794; 200 sittings), this last representing the old parish church of Kilmaveonaig (1591), and having belonged to the Episcopal communion without a break from the Revolution. Of 3 public schools (Blair Athole, Glengarry, and Struan) and 2 Christian Knowledge schools (Pitlagowan and Strathtummel) Blair Athole had (1879) accommodation for 187, an average attendance of 105, and a grant of £101, 5s., whilst the total corresponding figures for the other 4 were 185, 100, and £163, 3s. Valuation (1881) £21,050, 14s. 5d. Pop. (1755) 3257, (1791) 3120, (1801) 2848, (1831) 2384, (1851) 2084, (1861) 1553, (1871) 1718, (1881) 1687.—Ord. Sur., shs. 55,64, 1869-74. See pp. 32-41,167-171 of The Queen's Journal (ed. 1877); pp. 198-202 of Dorothy Wordsworth's Tour in Scotland (ed. by Princ. Shairp, 1874); and Dr Wm. Marshall's Historie Scenes in Perthshire (1880).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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