Glamis, Nr Forfar,
Tel 01307 840393
I have to admit ignorance yet again and apart from the fact I had heard that this was where the Queen Mother was brought up I knew nothing more about this place. Strangely the Queen Mother was not born here as I had thought; she was born in London but spent her childhood here. Princess Margaret was born here and in fact there I also a memorial to her in the grounds near the Italian Gardens.
If you are visiting a number of Scottish palaces and castles then you can buy a combination ticket for three which includes this one Glamis Castle, Scone Palace and Blair Castle for the price of £26 per adult, £24 for concessions and a family ticket for £65 and children £16 which saves you 25% of ticket prices. We did visit two but not the third so didn't but the combo ticket.
The castle is only open seasonally, a bit longer than Balmoral which we missed, sadly but it is open from April 1st to 31st December.
From April to October it is open 10am till 6pm
From November to December it is open 10.30am to 3.30pm
This castle is the home of the Earls of Strathmore & Kingshorne whose family name is Bowes Lyon which many of you will recognize as the maiden name of The Queen Mother and indeed this is her family home.
The man who we paid at the gate was lovely and friendly and chatty. He showed us where to park and also suggested we go the 'The Hub' to have a coffee first as they show a dvd of the castle and tells you a bit about the place before you go on your tour. We followed his advice and I am so pleased we did as I was then able to look out for some of the things and be prepared for things I thought might be interesting to me as we got to them.
You enter the castle down stairs at the back, the toilets are just here so if needs be you can visit before heading up the stairs for the tour. The tours go every twenty minutes and they are offered in different languages too. We waited in a room until our guide was ready then a 'secret' door opened and we entered the dining room.
This was as impressive as any castle or palace dining room I have visited. In every room in the house there was evidence of lions in emblems or statues or embroidered on beds or curtains or tapestries. In this room the crockery had lions on the plates, there were figurines and the fireplace had the family crest. All around the room were paintings of family members including the Queen Mother's grandparents. The guide told us who a lot more were but it was hard to take everything in as we spent all of five minutes in each room. In the middle of the table was a display of a silver pheasant and four smaller birds I think and this was a gift from the tenants to the Earl and Countess on their anniversary ( silver or gold I forget which) which must have cost them quite a bit.
We then went through another 'secret' door in the wooden panels around the room and we went into the main entrance room and what a weird place that was. On every wall there were trophies of horn and stuffed animals killed by family members when on hunting safaris, often in 'Kenya Colony'. There was a reproduction knight in armour, made in Victorian days but also more authentic breastplates from Oliver Cromwell's time. It was a typical castle trophy room full of things I have no desire to see at all. Our guide did tell u a ghost story which has to do with a blocked off window and a game of cards. The Earl at the time and a friend were playing cards and went on playing after midnight on Saturday thereby into the Sabbath. They were joined after midnight by a tall dark gentleman who then disappeared at dawn. They are believed to have been 'dicing with the devil'. He is supposed to appear in this room after midnight on Saturdays.
From here we walked down as though going to the front entrance and we could see the portcullis across the door. According to our guide if you apply to the crown to have one of these and it is granted you then have a 'fortified' home. We then turned up the stairs the other way and into a series of other rooms. I forget the order now so will just pick out a few places or things that I found interesting to share with you.
One room was the billiard room but it was also the library, card tables, a piano and once again several 'kill's were displayed around the room. I could picture the ladies as in one of Jane Austen's books playing the piano while others embroidered or played cards. In every room there were more portraits of family members.
In one room there was a portrait of the countess who father had said that when she married her husband should take her name of Bowes, his name was Lyon and after some time the names became joined so the family name Bowes Lion began then. The gentleman in question died and she remarried one who was a Mr Stone, a gambler who almost imprisoned her in the house and lost her fortune.She took him to court but it was too late and she had lost her fortune. Hence the term 'Stoney broke' came into usage. I am not sure if this is true but I like stories like this about how saying start.
In the chapel there was one painting with Jesus wearing a pair of glasses which was rather unusual and then a young lad once pointed out to the guide that he was on his mobile phone. It did indeed look as though his hand on his ear was a mobile phone. The painting was pretty old so the glasses were quirky but the mobile phone just a figment of our imagination. The ceiling in the chapel was covered with religious dark oil paintings depicting scenes from the bible. This was the only room in the house with no lion represented.
A suite of rooms was created specially for the Queen Mother when she went back to her family home for her honeymoon. A rather strange place for a honeymoon, your parents' home but still the suite created was liked so much that they returned many times to use them. They had a lovely cosy looking sitting room with comfortable looking normal sofas. The bedroom has the most beautifully embroidered four poster bed . The present Queen's grandmother had embroidered the names and dates of birth of all her children including the Queen Mother on the canopy. The bed cover was a hand embroidered copy of the original which mysteriously disappeared when it was sent to London to be cleaned.
The King's bedroom, so called because James the Pretender spent the night there after the loss of a battle. He left in such a hurry that he forgot his pocket watch under the pillow. The servant found it and kept it. Many years later her family returned it to the castle and visitors can see it in the lat room which displays the family treasures and keep sakes.
In this same room is a very tall armoire or set of even drawers. According to what we were told this set of drawers was to keep your clothes in for each day of the week. Monday were kept in the bottom drawer and Tuesdays next until from the top drawer you took your Sunday best clothes out. This is where the term coming from the 'top drawer' comes from.
A rather gloomy stone room was called Duncan's room but was in fact an entrance where visitor's left their weapons in the iron cage. It is reputedly where Macbeth murdered Duncan but this is but a tale it seems. The stuffed bear was a pet at one time and escaped to be killed by a bull in a field which was a bit sad.
The tour guide was excellent, interesting, knowledgeable, willing to answer questions and yet moved us on quickly so that the whole tour of the ten rooms was less than an hour long. Although we moved at quite a pace he told us such a lot that is was hard to remember everything. Obviously some things were more interesting to others while I found different aspects amusing, quirky or just historically interesting. I though having a guided tour was good and he certainly told us a lot but we were moved on quite quickly in each place which some might find rather too quick.
THE VICTORIAN KITCHEN
This was on the ground floor along the corridor from the entrance passed the toilets. Along the corridor were displays of uniforms, photos and information about the family.
The restaurant was obviously either in the original Victorian kitchen or made to look as though it was. There were a number of wooden tables and chairs in two rooms. We chose to sit in sofas near the 'original' stove fire place which wasn't lit.
We had a coffee each which was brought to u in proper china cups and saucers. I did look longingly at the enormous meringues which were not a lot smaller than a football and rough looking, they serve them with cream but I honestly think I would have been ill had I eaten even half one of them. The cakes looked really tempting as did the scones.
The food offered ranged from around £5/7 for starters and then around £10 plus for mains. The menu looked pretty good and the staff were very friendly and pleasant. There were five waiting on staff but as we were the only people in there they were not exactly over worked.
You can, we were informed, hire the castle for the evening and you have drinks in one room and then eat in that main dining room we went into first on our tour. This I where the food is prepared for this dining so it must be pretty good food I would imagine.
We enjoyed our coffee and then went out via the very posh toilets. The ladies toilet had peacock wall paper and was very nice. We then at in the car and ate our home made sandwiches watching the highland cattle in the field behind the castle.
The front lawn in front of the castle has a number of trees planted by various dignitaries including the Queen's Acer under which the information board stands which tells visitors about the different items of interest. The thing I found most interesting was a huge statue with four lions standing on their hind legs each holding a glass sundial. It was certainly not the sort of thing found in your average garden.
Closest to the castle was a lovely rose garden but that was private and so we could only look over the side wall and admire this.
We walked to the Italian garden which is a sort of combination of a formal Italian garden and an English herbaceous one. It was very nice but a long way from being the most impressive garden I have visited. I did like the sort of beech arbours very formally cut but if you went under them you had a lovely shady archway. It would make a great place to set up a long table for a big fancy family feast outside on a hot day.
All around the walled sides were Italian style classical white marble statues, one I thought looked like 'Mary had a little lamb' while others looked more classical.
After leaving this Italian garden we found Princess Margaret's memorial at the end of a drive leading from there to the castle again.
If you then keep walking you can follow the nature trail or make your way to the Pinetum, We went both ways hoping to see red squirrels which we were assured could be seen there. We didn't see any sadly. Some of the trees must be extremely old as they were massive and it made a very pleasant walk in the shade and out of the wind.
If you keep on walking you eventually come to the walled garden where they are replanting fruit trees and trying to restore the garden to its former glory and use with local fruit trees .
The gardens are huge and you can walk in many directions exploring the more natural areas or the more formal ones. My favourite part was actually the field behind the car park where there was a small herd of Highland cattle with their calves. I just love these cows that look like shaggy sheep with horns. They remind me of our bearded collie dog and the calves look more like Shetland ponies except for the youngest which looked like a bouncing little bear cub. I spent quite some time with these lovely hairy beauties and find them a lot more appealing that the more usual cows we have all around us.
I really enjoyed the day we spent here and would say if you are anywhere in the area then make the effort to come and visit this castle that has such an interesting history, is connected to our royal family and is a really beautiful building too. I forgot to ay that one photo on the stairwell showed the Countess and at least one of her children in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We were being moved along at that time so I didn't get a chance to see why it was there. I don't know if part of the film was filmed there as the castle does look a little like Neuschwanstein castle where some of the film was shot.
I found it well worth a visit and good value for money. Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same username.
Apologies for people who don't know how Taggart says Murder!
Glamis castle is in Angus, Scotland just 5 miles from Forfar (the home of Forfar Bridies) and reputedly is where Macbeth murdered King Duncan according to Shakespeare's play. It is open from 10am in April to October and 11am in November and December.
Glamis castle looks rather more like a French Chateau than a Scottish castle due to the fact much work has gone on over the centuries. It has been the family home of the Earls of Strathmore since 1372 when it was given to Sir John Lyon, now the Bowes-Lyon family. The original Tower house still remains at the centre of the castle. Glamis was the childhood home of the late Queen Mother and Princess Margaret was actually born there.
The ticket booth is at the bottom of a long drive and as you travel along the tree lined drive to the car park you get a lovely view of the Castle against a backdrop of hills. There is plenty of space for children to run and play and to have picnics, as well as walks and a children's play area. Dogs are allowed in the gardens. The Castle tour lasts about 50 minutes and is guided, it costs £9.50 for adults, £7 for children, £27.50 for a family ticket and £8.75 for concessions. We even got an extra £1 of each ticket as we had a leaflet with money off vouchers when visiting other places in the area. If you only want to visit the gardens it is cheaper and you can go in the restaurant, shop and Coach House exhibition. Children are given a souvenir booklet which explains the story of Glamis in a simple and fun way and foreign visitors are offered written translations available in several languages. We had many foreign visitors in the group we went round with and some were rather noisy speaking in their own language but were politely told by our Guide to be quiet as they could read the information as they had been given leaflets but the rest of us needed to hear what she was saying! I was a bit surprised but grateful as I had missed much of what was said in the one room.
The tour goes through 15 rooms, how I wished I had taken a notebook!
The Dining Room
This was installed in the 1850's by craftsmen from northern England. The ceiling was stunning and the plaster was decorated with thistles of Scotland, roses of England and Lions of the Lyon family. There are stained glass windows, wooden panelling and some lovely paintings, including one of the Queen Mother's parents. The huge mahogany table seats 40 guests and is available for corporate events. There was a wonderfully ornate nef or ship centrepiece on the table presented by the estate tenants to celebrate the 13th Earl and his Countesses Golden Wedding in 1903.
This had thick stone walls and a domed roof, here we heard a story about a dark secret of Glamis, as this room hides a secret room which has been bricked up but you may hear cards being dealt as here some of the ancestors lost their souls to the devil by playing cards on the Sabbath. The room is lined with hunting trophies and armour and there is an old well at the bottom of the stairs which was the castle's only water supply although it has since dried up.
The Drawing Room
This is above the Crypt and was originally the great hall. It is a really large room and has an arched ceiling and some old but beautiful plaster work. The walls are 8ft thick and there is an enormous fire place which had two little stools at the sides where the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret used to sit. Again they are some beautiful paintings. In most rooms there can be found the Glamis Lions carved in wood.
We were invited to sit in the chapel and could feel the peace, it is said to be one of the finest private chapels in Europe. The ceiling has amazing paintings on it of the life of Christ and the walls have paintings of the 12 Apostles. Our guide told us that there is a ghost, although she is friendly called the Grey lady and someone was sitting on her seat! She is said to be the ghost of Janet Douglas who was burned at the stake as a witch in 1540 by JamesV. The stained glass window depicts an angel collecting the blood of Christ whilst he was on the cross and is surrounded by roses and thorns and thistles.
The Billiard Room
Apart from an enormous billiard table and huge lights, there are some tapestries and other games. There is also a grand piano and lots of more modern photos. This used to be the Library and some books still remain.
King Malcolm's Room
Named in memory of King Malcolm who died at Glamis in 1034, this room has some embroideries, a fine oak fireplace and samples of china, including a dinner service part of which was a wedding present o the Queen and Prince Phillip, but they returned it to keep it complete as it was made in China in 1770.
The Royal Apartments
In 1923 the Countess converted part of the castle into private apartments for her daughter the Queen Mother and her husband, they remain much as they were then. The wonderful four poster bed has a cover embroidered by the Countess with roses and thistles and the names of her 10 children are embroidered inside the canopy! The sitting room looked comfortable enough to relax in, but the King's Room had a very small four poster bed, although we were told this was a study and dressing room rather than a bedroom and has some of the most valuable pieces of furniture.
A ghost of a small boy servant is often seen waiting patiently on a stone seat just inside the Queen Mothers Sitting Room.
This was quite small and a bit dull and cold feeling. Everyone entering the Castle came in this way and it also had a stuffed bear that was reported to have been a pet at one time. Duncan is said to have been killed here.
We ended the tour in a room full of exhibits in glass cases that were quite interesting to look at and a lovely dolls house.
Other things to do at Glamis
There is a restaurant in the former Victorian Kitchen, using fresh local produce and also a kiosk with ice cream, coffee, sandwiches etc. There was a small shop selling local food and also a larger shop with the usual Scottish gifts.
The coach house exhibition had a short video about Glamis castle and the exhibition changes each year, we saw various Royal wedding dresses which were lovely to see.
The Italian Garden was well worth visiting and fortunately the rain stopped to allow us to enjoy it. I loved the beech trees which had grown together to make covered walkways.
We walked down to the Princess Margaret memorial and along part of the Nature trail and Pinetum. The trees were named so you could learn a bit more about them and although we didn't see any red squirrels or roe deer they can sometimes be spotted. We didn't have time to walk down to the Walled garden which is being restored, but walked to see the towers and Sundial in the garden.
The toilets - I only went in the ladies were busy but fairly clean, and there is a toilet for disabled people but unfortunately the Castle tour isn't suitable for disabled people because of the stairs, although the gardens and restaurant were accessible.
I enjoyed my visit to Glamis Castle and found it very interesting because of the connection with the Queen Mother. Our guide certainly knew all her facts and was very good at telling us about all the ghostly and spooky stories. I thought it fairly good value for money as there was a lot to see and you could easily spend all day there in good weather enjoying the walks.
It is possible to buy a special ticket giving you access to Blair castle and Scone Palace at a reduced rate and also throughout the year there are some special events.
If you happen to be in the Angus or Perthshire area I can recommend Glamis castle as a place to visit.
Also on Ciao under my name jo145 with some photos!