Glamorous Glamis Castle

Monday, 1 August 2017 Lindsay and I headed south from Aberdeen to this very interesting castle.  The castle is pronounced “Glams” and like many I’ve been visiting lately, I have some ancestral connections to this place in many convoluted ways, which I will try to unravel. It relates to the Stewarts and that is always problematic as they had a tendency to get around! Plus both my mother and my father have ancestral lines leading to the Stewarts.

This castle dates back to the late 14th century.  Originally it was a hunting lodge used by the Kings of Scotland. In 1372, Sir John Lyon was granted the thaneage of Glamis by King Robert II for services rendered to the crown. Four years later Sir John married the King’s daughter, Princess Joanna, and it is from this union that the current family descends. Princess Joanna Stewart was my great aunt and sister to King Robert III – my 17th great grandfather. Joanna was the daughter of King Robert II (my 18th great grandfather – through my father’s line).  The castle has been the family home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne ever since.  The current 18th Earl, Michael Bowes-Lyon currently resides here with his wife and son.

IMG_1666Sitting proudly at the end of a mile-long tree-lined avenue, this fairytale castle sits proudly in the sunshine beyond, beckoning us to explore it’s red sandstone towers, turrets and spires reaching up to the sky.


Mary, Queen of Scots spent the night here, as well as Scottish novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott. During World War I, it was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers. It also has, of course, close connections with the present Royal Family, being the childhood home of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (the youngest daughter of the 14th Earl), and the birthplace of Her Royal Highness, Princess Margaret. The beloved Queen Mum died at the age of 101 in 2002.  The late Princess Margaret (Queen Elizabeth II’s younger sister) was born in this castle in 1930, the first royal baby born in Scotland in more than 300 years!

In addition, it is the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth and is referred to several times in the play: – “Glamis thou art” “and yet woulds’t wrongly win: thou’dst have great Glamis”. It is widely believed that Duncan was murdered here by Macbeth. It was immortalized by William Shakespeare according to the tour guide. In Duncan’s Hall, one of the oldest areas of the castle, and, according to Shakespeare, the slaying of King Duncan by Macbeth took place here, although the actual killing took place near Elgin quite a distance from this locale. Although Shakespeare wrote “Macbeth” for King James VI, he probably just heard stories about Glamis Castle and used it as the setting for his play; the castle wasn’t even built yet when King Duncan was slain!

Above Right – the life-size lead statue of King Charles I dressed in a suit of armour; King James VI on the left. These statues flank either side of the entrance when you reach the castle.

The castle didn’t have electricity until 1929. It must have been really difficult, at best, for servants to manage their way in the darkened passageways, holding a flickering candle or lantern to climb 143 stone steps on the spiral staircase winding their way to the to the 17th-century tower!


After driving past the castle and around to the back, we found the car park and the entrance for the tour. Disappointedly the tour began at the back door instead of the main entrance in the front.


Once we started the guided tour we weren’t allowed to take any photos.  I did find some pictures of the interior with a google search online however and have included them below.  The guided tour was quite good and very informative. We started out in the lavish dining room with large family portraits hanging on the walls, a massive oak fireplace and the table laden with valuable antique silver, china, etc.

Afterwards, we passed through a large hidden door in one of the walls and entered the old servant’s quarters where suits of armour were displayed amongst other treasures. The room was the lower hall of the 15th-century tower house. We then went to the library, the drawing room and a few more rooms including a three-room suite in the royal apartment which consisted of the sitting room and the king and queen’s bedrooms.  It was one of the oldest parts of the castle and were the private rooms of the Queen Mother. She and King George VI spent part of their honeymoon here. It was pretty much the same as she left it since she didn’t like to have anything changed.  There were lots of pictures of her family adorning the walls.  Her four-poster bed had an embroidered canopy with the names of her 10 children and grandchildren with birthdates.

After the tour, we were left to explore the exhibition of items in the old kitchen and were allowed to take photos again. There were some very pretty and interesting items to see.




This castle also has a lot of spooky stories including a past Earl that eternally plays cards with the Devil in a walled up room, a horribly deformed baby who was kept hidden in a small room off the castle’s chapel, but perhaps the most chilling is the tale of Lady Janet Douglas who was the wife of the 6th Lord Glamis. She was falsely accused of being a witch three separate times by King James V (my 16th great uncle, through the Gordon’s of Huntly no less, on my dad’s side) and on her third trial was found guilty.  She was burned at the stake in 1537 at Edinburgh castle.  Since then, her ghost is occasionally seen dressed in grey praying in the castle’s chapel. They even have a special unique chair for her in the back corner of the small chapel. Since the chapel is still used to this day, visitors are asked to knock three times before entering so they don’t frighten the “Grey Lady” – or get frightened themselves.

After the tour, we headed back outside and enjoyed the sunshine.

While we were out there we had the splendid opportunity to hear a woman Piper proudly playing. Her name is Louise Marshall. She had been giving a private bagpipe workshop to some rich visitors that had arrived in a helicopter. Lou was a great piper and we really enjoyed her energetic tunes. You can find out more about her and her enthusiasm for piping in Scotland on her website. If you ever want to hire a piper, I highly recommend her. She has piped for quite a few very special dignitaries and would be a great choice!

After that wonderful music, we went into the old Coach house to take a look at the Coronation Exhibition of King George VI and Elizabeth of Glamis in 1937. Quite fascinating! I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.







Back outside after all that glitter, glamour and gold, we worked our way back to the front of the castle to have another look and soak up some more of the sunshine.



There’s the helicopter that some very rich visitors had arrived in. We also walked over to enjoy the multi-faced sundial in the lawn and get a peek at the private gardens of the current Earl.


IMG_1790As usual, I wanted to capture a lot of the elements and features that adorn the front of every castle.

This one had soooo many Coats of Arms for each successive Lord or Earl!

IMG_1799Even though we were disappointed about having to enter the castle for the tour via the back door, once we were on the tour, we realized that the current Earl and his family live in the lower floors of the castle as seen from the front. No wonder they didn’t want us visitors barging in the front door!  That’s understandable!



These lions were just about completely consumed by ivy!  Before long, they’ll disappear altogether!

Next stop, the gardens, so we started walking along the route toward the woodlands and found the path to the Italian Gardens.


Just after entering the woods, we came upon this pet cemetery for the dearly beloved dogs, guinea pigs and other family pets over the years.  So sweet….

IMG_1830Before long we could see the gate to the Italian gardens beyond…

What a lovely formal garden.  Let’s stroll through it leisurely and take in its beauty.





I’ve never seen a flower this tall before. The yellow flower above is what blooms on this very, very tall stem which is way higher than the hedge that surrounds the garden. Amazing!IMG_1871Lovely carved marble statues flanked both ends of the garden….

Walking back to the castle, we couldn’t resist the sundial one more time…

IMG_1787…the private boxed gardens…

IMG_1825…taking in the surrounding extensive grounds as well…




What a beautiful, fascinating and royal castle this is. One more look around the backside before getting in our car and finding a table on the grounds to enjoy our picnic lunch. We passed through the main gate via the gift shop on our way out.

After our pleasant and leisurely picnic, we left the grounds. Just as we exited we came upon the Kirk so we just had to get out again and take a look around that too. Unfortunately, the Kirk wasn’t open, so we weren’t able to see the tombs of the Earls and Lords of Glamis which are within the church, but we did get to see very unusual and highly decorated tombstones outside. Most of the gravestones are from the 18th and 19th century, although the earliest is dated 1604.

This church was built in 1793, but probably had origins dating back to the 8th century. It is reputed that a church has stood on this site since the 8th century when St. Fergus established a small ecclesiastical structure. Records show that a church has existed here since at least 1242, when David de Bernham, Bishop of St Andrews Cathedral, dedicated the church at Glamis and granted it to Arbroath Abbey. From humble beginnings, this medieval church likely grew into a sizeable cruciform-form plan building with nave, transepts and chancel. The only survival from this building is the Strathmore Aisle, which was likely originally a transept of the medieval building. The transept was built circa 1459 and was used as the burial vault of the Earls of Strathmore until 1865. It is roofed and has a modern window and doorway in the south wall.



Another wonderful day, exploring another wonderful castle and churchyard – discovering even more ancestral ties with my cousin Lindsay.  It just doesn’t get better than this!


Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving 68-year young American great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

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