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.


hauntings2


‘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… 😉

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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.

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'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

Book your Tour

How to book your Tour

There are no cash payments at the premises, so all tours must be booked in advance, or paid by debit or credit card (at the shop/hub) prior to the tour. All our tours starting in Pitlochry can now be booked online.

Please note that there are only a maximum of 4 places on any given tour.

It is also worth mentioning that if the ‘private tour’ option has been booked in advance then there are no other places or bikes available on that day. For more info about the ‘private tour’ (from 1 up to a maximum of 3 people for the same fee) please see our Tours section, or simply contact us by email or via the website.

To reserve your place on one of our tours that start in Perth, you can either send us an email to [email protected], or simply complete the Contact Us section. As there are only 4 slots on any of our tours we operate on a first-come first-served basis with all our bookings. Please also include the height of each person - We will then supply you with the correct frame size.

Highland Bike Tours (HBT) make use of Hybrid E-Bikes with a classic Dutch design, so suitable to use while wearing casual clothing. You can view images of these e-bikes on the FAQs page (see above), or on our Instagram link (see below).

Guided E-Bike Tours also in the Dutch language. NL: Samen met een Nederlandssprekende tourgids ervaar je al het moois dat de Schotse Hooglanden te bieden heeft op een unieke manier. Vanaf 2023 zijn er tours die vertrekken vanuit Pitlochry! - Voor meer info zie ook: highlandbiketours.nl (our Dutch language website)

Atholl Road, Pitlochry PH16 5BL, Perthshire, Scotland

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