Within the grounds of Blair Castle, the ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl, stands a 9 acre walled garden – Hercules Garden, the largest cultivated walled garden in Scotland. It was planned by John Murray, the 2nd Duke and Marquess of Tullibardine, and work began under the supervision of head gardener John Wilson in the early 1740s and took till 1756 to complete, although there was a temporary interruption when the castle was besieged by the Duke’s younger brother during the Jacobite uprising of 1745. Built into a shallow valley the centre piece of the gardens is an elongated lake or series of ponds, narrowing in the middle and crossed by a Chinese bridge. Several ‘gardener’s cottages’ and outhouses are built into the external walls, including McGregor’s Folly, a gazebo added in 1888. Sadly, as was the case with the gardens of many large estates during WWI and afterwards, it was left untended and by the late 1940s after WWII it had become overgrown, unkempt and derelict. Subsequent plans to use the garden as a ‘market garden’ were unsuccessful too and the garden’s demise continued until the 1980s.
Then the 10th Duke began a programme of restorative work, which continues today, to return the garden to its former Georgian design and glories. Long herbaceous borders, fruit trees and vegetable beds once again vie for your attention along with statues, stone urns and garden ornaments, swan and duck houses, and all under the stern gaze of a statue of Hercules himself, a fixture there since 1743.
If touring Scotland and Perthshire I hope you find an opportunity to visit. In the meantime here are a few pictures.