- Explore the huge castle filled with hundreds of years of mystery and intrigue.
- Look out for roe deer and other wildlife on the Macbeth nature trail.
- Discover the beautiful Walled Gardens, and cross the unique Monet-style bridge.
- Find out about the royal secrets of this building's past, on a guided tour of Glamis Castle.
Known as one of the most picturesque castles in Scotland, as well as one of the oldest, Glamis Castle has centuries of history hidden within its four walls. With tales of Scottish legend that include witchcraft, murder and royal dispute, Glamis has long been a place of mystery, making it an inspiration for creatives throughout the years. In Shakespeare's infamous play, Macbeth resides at Glamis Castle, so it is absolutely a place that should be on the to-do list for literature lovers.
The area we now know as Glamis Castle has been home to kings and royalty for over 1,000 years, but there have also been indications that this location might even date back hundreds of years more. The Eassie Stone, a Pictish engraved stone thought to date from the 8th century, was found in the nearby river in Eassie, and indicates that this area might have been home to people who lived over 1,300 years ago. The first documentation of a building on the site of Glamis Castle as we know it today, is the presence of a hunting lodge that was used by royalty. Here, King Malcolm II of Scotland was thought to have been killed in 1034. Over the next 300 years the Royal Hunting Lodge eventually was built into a castle, and was given to the Thane of Glamis, Sir John Lyon, by King Robert II in 1372. Sir John Lyon had married the daughter of the King, and to this day Glamis Castle still belongs to the descendants of this royal family.
Over the years, Glamis Castle passed down through the generations, notably to multiple Earls of Strathmore who were in the Lyon family. Changes were also made to the architecture of the castle itself, notably in 1606 when the 9th Lord Glamis, Patrick Lyon commissioning a redesign. There is even an inscription on a tower in the castle that credits him and his wife with the building of Glamis Castle. More renovations took place later that century, with the 3rd Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, Patrick Lyon, adding a large garden and additions to the castle building. The interior of the castle also underwent major changes as styles and fashions changed through the centuries, and now you can see rooms from the 17th and 18th centuries as you explore the castle. Glamis Castle also played an important role in World War I, and was used as a military hospital. Since then, it has returned to being a place of historical interest, as well as a private residence. The castle was the home of Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and her second daughter with King George VI, Princess Margaret, was born there in 1930. Now, Glamis Castle is currently owned by Simon Bowes-Lyon, who is the current Lord of Glamis.
As well as many historical tales of kings and queens, Glamis Castle also has a fair few myths and legends that have survived the years. These mysteries do not all have explanations and add to the fascinating history of this old castle. One such story is the Lady of Glamis, Janet Lyon, who married the 6th Lord Glamis and was accused of poisoning him in 1528 and causing his death. She was then accused of witchcraft, and eventually was taken to Edinburgh and burned at the stake. Another famous Glamis Castle story is much more recent, and dates to the 19th century. On 21 October 1921, a child named Thomas was born to Lord Glamis Thomas Lyon-Bowes and his wife Charlotte. While the child was documented to have died on the same day, rumours began to spread that the child was alive, but had birth deformities and was being kept in a secret part of Glamis Castle so as to avoid prying eyes. It was never confirmed if the rumours were true, but there were several stories that told of the midwife being asked to leave when the baby was born, despite seeing him in good health, and of walled up areas of the castle that contained a hidden chamber where Thomas lived. There have also been sightings of Glamis Castle ghosts, including Earl Beardie, the cruel 4th Earl of Crawford who, according to legend, lost his soul to the devil in a card game bet. David Bowes-Lyon, the son of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, reported seeing a young girl staring out of one of the windows of the castle, but she quickly disappeared before he could speak to her. At Halloween, you can take a haunted tour of Glamis Castle, to hear all about the spooky stories and see if you experience the supernatural for yourself.
With so much history and mystique surrounding the castle and its land, Glamis Castle is certainly worth a visit if you are planning a trip to Scotland. There are lots of great things to do as a family, and activities that are perfect for kids. The extensive gardens are the perfect place to talk a walk, explore the nature trails and keep an eye out for wildlife. The Walled Garden, after falling into abandon, was repaired and renovated in 2015, and now sports beautiful flowerbeds, ornamental fountains and even a charming Monet-style bridge. In years gone by, the Walled Garden would have been used to supply food for the inhabitants of the castle, and to this day you can see the fruit and vegetables that grow here. The Apple Celebration Day which takes place as part of the Autumn Festival, is one of the most popular Glamis Castle events for families. Here, you can pick your own apples from the Walled Garden and learn how to press them, making them into drinkable apple juice! Created in 1910, the Italian Garden is also a top spot to visit. With beautiful flower displays and a formal layout, this is a great place to see minibeasts and wildlife that are attracted to the plants, such as butterflies and bees, as well as squirrels and pheasants.
To experience more of the nature that surrounds the castle and gardens, check out one of the two nature trails that Glamis has to offer. The Macbeth Trail is a short 20-minute walk through the woodland, where you can see wooden sculptures of various scenes in the famous play carved from the fir trees grown on the Glamis Estate. While the historical King Macbeth who ruled in the 11th century never actually had any connection to the castle, Shakespeare presumably chose Glamis for its grandeur and atmospheric presence, that suited the story well. There is also a Nature Trail that runs past the Italian Gardens, where you can spot even more wildlife including roe deer, otters, herons, birds and more. There are activity sheets available for kids, which are also a great way to get them engaged in the local environment and see if they can spot all the animals as they explore.
While Glamis Castle remains a private residence, you can still explore the inside of the castle as part of a guided tour. Explore the Chapel, Crypt, Dining Room, King Malcolm’s room and more as you make your way around the inside of this huge and historic building. You can even stay at the place that nobility would have spent their time, at Glamis House, that was built on the estate in 1802. The house was occupied by various Earls and their families over the years, and now you can book to stay there yourself if you want to immerse yourself in the story and heritage of Glamis. Glamis House was occupied throughout the 20th century and was often visited by Queen Elizabeth, her mother, and Princess Margaret on their trips to Scotland.
Another element of Glamis Castle that shouldn't be missed is the Castle Kitchen. Once a genuine Victorian kitchen that would have been used to prepare food for the owners of the house, the Castle Kitchen is now a working cafe and restaurant. The Castle Kitchen serves locally sourced food, a lot of which has been grown in the Castle gardens or comes from the farms on the estate. From pheasant and duck burgers to children's lunchboxes, there is something to suit everyone at the Castle Kitchen. Plus, there are also takeaway options from the Kitchen Hub if you would prefer to enjoy a picnic in the grounds.
Glamis Castle is also known for its family-friendly events that take place all year round. In particular, the Glamis Castle Christmas Market is the place to go to get into the festive spirit. With local stalls selling gifts from over 80 traders, winter walks and even a chance to meet Santa, kids and adults alike are bound to have a magical time at this fantastic event.
If you and your family enjoyed learning all about the story of Glamis Castle and its secrets, why not check out a little more Scottish culture and heritage in the area? Around a half-hour drive away are the attractions of Dundee, including the V&A Dundee and the Discovery Point and RRS Discovery.
What to know before you go
- Glamis Castle opening times are 10am - 5pm daily from March - October, and at limited times the rest of the year. Guided tours should be pre-booked, but the grounds, Castle Kitchens and gardens can be visited any time within opening hours.
- The ground floor of the castle and the restaurant are both wheelchair accessible, but the castle tour route requires stair access and there is uneven flooring. Both the Macbeth Trail and the Nature Trail are wheelchair accessible.
- There are baby-changing facilities and accessible toilets available on site.
- Dogs are allowed on the grounds as long as they are on a lead.
- Glamis Castle is easy to access by car from Dundee or Aberdeen via the A90 and A94. From Perth, take the A94, or from St Andrews take the A919 and A92. From Edinburgh take the M90 and A94, and from Glasgow the M8, A9 and A94.
- There is car parking on site, and the price is included in your ticket.
- The nearest train station is Dundee Train Station, which is 12 miles away.
- If travelling by bus, there is a service that travels from Seagate in Dundee to Forfar. From Forfar you can take a connecting bus to Glamis.
- There are also lots of picturesque cycling and walking routes in this part of Angus, that run close to Glamis Castle.