Balhousie Castle, Perth

18 July 2023
B Wcastle

Balhousie Castle and The Black Watch museum is located on Hay Street, on the outskirts of Perth city centre, and the majority of our bike tours from the Perth hub heading northwards pass it either on the way out, or on our return. This summer they have a unique addition on display (a sculpture called ‘The Hauntings’), which is free to view in their courtyard.

Balhousie Castle was restored and extended (rebuilt) during the 1860s in what is described as Scottish Baronial style (similar to the Gothic Revival across some parts of Britain during the 19th century) and is actually from the same period that Balmoral Castle was designed and re-built for Queen Victoria.

This is now also the regimental museum of the Black Watch, that moved here in 1960, while The Black Watch regiment continue to serve as part of the British Army, and are currently based up in Fort George near Inverness.

If you are interested in military history, or how the Black Watch was formed here in Perthshire back in the 1720’s, then a visit to the museum is highly recommended, but there is an admission charge.


‘The Hauntings’ (see photo) is a sculpture currently on display at The Black Watch Castle and Museum courtyard, and can be viewed from 1st July to the 12th November. This sculpture, which stands approx. 6 meters high, was commissioned in 2014 for the First World War centenary, and commemorates those who served in the war. It is made from over 1,000 pieces of scrap metal including horseshoes, brake discs, and car jacks, and its bewildering and elaborate design allows the light to filter through his body giving it a ghostly aura. ‘The Hauntings’ sculpture is free to view. Photo taken by HBT.

The history of The Black Watch; for more info about this famous highland regiment several books have been published over the years, the museum is definitely worth a visit, and they have also been featured in several film or theatre productions (from the Oscar nominated biopic ‘Jackie’ with Natalie Portman portraying Jackie Kennedy during events in 1963, to the multi award winning theatre production ‘Black Watch’ that premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 2006), and they even have their own tartan!

And then a bit of trivia or strange facts relating to ‘The Hauntings’ and the Black Watch museum; This is just something I picked up on.. has nothing to do with our bike tours, but it may be of interest to someone who wishes to read beyond those press releases or FB posts that are often just copy and paste jobs into an article about the current exhibition.. because when you x-reference the sculpture of this ‘Tommy’ or British/English soldier currently on display in the museum courtyard, and then take a closer look at a painting in this museum by the artist Frank Feller, read more books than just use google, add a publication by Rudyard Kipling from 1892, and another painting from 1899 by a different artist depicting the very same battle, and you can then actually make a link and draw a line back to a Black Watch soldier who wrote a poem in the aftermath of the same battle during the 2nd Boer War in 1899… 😉


Photos; Balhousie Castle… ‘The Hauntings’ sculpture… Black Watch tartan (banner)... ‘No Surrender’, 1900 by Frank Feller (photo credit The Black Watch Castle & Museum), and below ‘All That Was Left of Them’ 2nd Boer War, 1899 by Richard Caton Woodville II

When you compare ‘No Surrender’, 1900 by Frank Feller that is currently on display inside The Black Watch museum with ‘All That Was Left of Them’ by Richard Caton Woodville II there are some discrepancies - colours used on the kilt hose (socks), uniforms, etc - although both are described as being set during the very same battle in the 2nd Boer War, 1899.

one is described as 'The Black Watch after the Battle of Magersfontein, 11 December 1899', and Feller's artwork as depicting an incident in the Battle of Magersfontein: a kilted Officer of the Black Watch, bleeding from a head-wound, stands defiantly on a kopje, surrounded by six of his dead or desperately-wounded soldiers.

However, it is also worth pointing out that both Frank Feller and Richard Caton Woodville II were in fact 'illustrators for magazines', and both artists then also painted battle scenes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In fact, Richard Caton Woodville II is probably most famous for his painting of 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' (1894) that is currently owned by Palacio Real de Madrid, the official residence of the Spanish royal family.


'The Hauntings' sculpture - The Black Watch connection;

Tommy Atkins or Thomas Atkins has been used as a generic name for a common British soldier for many years. The origin of the term is a subject of debate… however, one version and a popular reference can be found in the poem ‘Tommy’ published in 1892 that was by none other than Rudyard Kipling (The Jungle Book, The Man Who Would Be King). This was more than likely the inspiration for another mention of ‘Tommy Atkins’ only a few years later in 1899 following the British defeat by the Boers at the Battle of Magersfontein, when the animosity that the troops on the ground felt towards their leadership is captured in this contemporary poem by a soldier of the Black Watch who wrote;

Such was the day for our regiment,
Dread the revenge we will take.
Dearly we paid for the blunder
A drawing-room General's mistake.

Why weren't we told of the trenches?
Why weren't we told of the wire?
Why were we marched up in column,

May Tommy Atkins enquire...

- Private Smith, December 1899

This 'Tommy Atkins' featured in these poems evolved and then became ‘Tommy’, the slang term for the common British soldier during WW1, and was used from then onwards…so by strange coincidence here we have a name used in a poem by a Black Watch soldier during the 2nd Boer War in 1899 that would become the nickname for the common British Army soldier?! – ‘The Hauntings’ sculpture now standing in the courtyard of the Black Watch museum in Perth depicts a ‘Tommy’ from WW1

What our guests say

We had a great time on a private tour. The bikes were excellent and Terry was able to customize the tour to what we wanted. Highly recommend booking this tour.

Morgan Elk

Loved our day with Highland Bike Tours! Equipment was in great shape (helmets, vests, and bikes). I learned and saw things I would not have been able to see by car or if I had biked on my own.


Had a great tour around Perth. Great cycling and learned a lot about the landscape (and also whiskies). Of course, it is also an added bonus that you can do this tour in Dutch. Terry speaks perfect Dutch as a Scot and can also tell a nice story. Recommended!

Pim Bleeker

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