Blair Castle is the ancestral home of the Clan Murray, and was historically the seat of their chief, the Duke of Atholl.
Blair Castle is said to have been started in 1269 by John I Comyn, Lord of Badenoch. John Murray, son of the second Earl of Tullibardine, was created Earl of Atholl in 1629, and the title has since remained in the Murray family.
During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms of the 17th century, the Murrays supported the Royalist cause, which led to Blair Castle being taken by Oliver Cromwell's army following his invasion of 1650.
The oldest part of the castle is the six-storey Cummings or Comyn's Tower, which may retain some 13th-century fabric, though it was largely built in the 15th century. The extensions which now form the central part of the castle were first added in the 16th century. The apartments to the south were added in the mid-18th century to designs by architects John Douglas and James Winter. The south-east range, incorporating the clock tower, was rebuilt by Archibald Elliot after a fire in 1814. Finally, the castle arrived at its present form in the 1870s, when David Bryce remodelled the whole building in a Scots Baronial style, and added the ballroom. It was further remodelled in 1885 when a new ballroom wing was added by James Campbell Walker.
The castle has been open to the public since 1936. Its many rooms feature important collections of weapons, hunting trophies, souvenirs of the Murray clan, ethnographica, paintings, furniture, and needlework collected by the Murray family over many generations.
The castle also provides the garrison for the Atholl Highlanders, the private army of the Duke of Atholl, noted as the only legal private army in Europe.
Most Dukes of Atholl are buried in the Family Burial Ground (photo) next to the ruins of St Bride's Kirk in the grounds of Blair Castle. St Bride's was the village church of Old Blair but fell into disuse after 1823 when the estate village was relocated to its current location.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.