By James Irvine RobertsonT
his spectacular Gothic edifice is one of the grandest buildings in Scotland. Most was completed in 1807 by the first marquis and his successor added the west wing in time for Queen Victoria's visit in 1842. In 1819, 1238 Breadalbane tenants paraded dressed as pantomime Highland warriors to greet Prince Leopold, later King of the Belgians. They mustered again to welcome Victoria and her husband. The royal couple, who processed down the loch in a fleet of barges watched by thousands of spectators, were so enraptured by the beauties of the Highlands and the mighty thighs of the kilted Highlanders who danced for them at Taymouth and Blair that they bought Balmoral.
On the Queen's visit, the marquis was rather upset to find only 200 tenants answering his summons to come and play soldier rather than the multitudes of twenty years earlier. It was explained to him that they had gone, replaced on his instruction by sheep which yielded a better income for him than the rents of the people. The marquis cleared Glen Quaich just over the crest of the ridge to the south, both sides of the loch and behind Drummond Hill. Some people left for the factories of Glasgow, others emigrated to America and Australia. Now this country and the hills surrounding it are scattered with scores of sad ruins marking the little settlements from which they were expelled.
The Breadalbanes, brought down by extravagance and gambling debts, sold most of the estate in 1922 and the last fragments in 1948. The earldom is now dormant, with a couple of enterprising Campbells trying to claim it. Their elephantine seat has since been a hotel, a school, a hospital, and government establishment. The castle grounds are open to the public and, aside from the golf course, have been largely neglected for the last century. As a result the unspoilt ghost of the eighteenth and nineteenth century landscaped gardens have been preserved and the rides and formal walks are now bordered by massive and ancient trees.