Glamis Castle: The mysterious home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne and setting of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Glamis Castle is a magnificent building situated beside the village of Glamis in Angus, Scotland. It has been the family home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne since 1372 when King Robert II of Scotland gave the property to Sir John Lyon, who married the King’s daughter, Princess Joanna, in 1376. After that, many members of the Scottish and British royal families would spend time in Glamis Castle. It is the childhood home of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, the youngest daughter of the 14th Earl and wife of King George VI. It is also the birthplace of Princess Margaret.

Glamis Castle is home to the eponymous main character in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, and is the location of the king’s murder in the play. The first building on the site was probably a royal hunting lodge. It is believed that King Malcolm II was murdered here in the 11th century. However, it was the son of Sir John Lyon and Princess Joanna, also named Sir John Lyon, who began transforming the old royal hunting lodge into an L-plan castle in 1404. The final result was called the Palace House, and now is the core of the castle’s eastern wing. His son Patrick was the 1st Lord Glamis.

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In 1435, the 1st Lord Glamis started working on the castle’s great tower, which was completed in 1484. The L-shaped building contained the round stair tower that is the highlight of the castle today. A century later, the buildings on the southern side were constructed and the castle was surrounded by a fortified court. In the 17th century, the west wing and the chapel were added. In 1773, the addition of a billiard room, kitchens, and new courtyards continued to the far side of the east wing. In 1797, the pitched roofs of the east and the west wings were substituted with castellations.

Glamis Castle. Author: Rev Stan. CC BY 2.0

Among the impressive rooms of the castle are the dining room, the drawing room, and Duncan’s Hall. The dining room is decorated with astonishing ceiling and wood paneling, made of the finest English oak. The huge drawing room measures 60ft long and 22ft wide, and once served as the great hall of the medieval castle. Duncan’s Hall is among the oldest parts of the castle and contains the portraits of King James IV and his granddaughter, Mary Queen of Scots, who visited Glamis on 22nd August 1562. Other remarkable rooms are the royal apartments of the Duke of York and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and the Glamis Gallery.

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Flag over Glamis Castle. Author: pettifoggist. CC BY 2.0

Glamis Castle is surrounded by wonderful parks and gardens. On the east side of the castle is the Italian Garden, laid out by Countess Cecilia, the Queen Mother’s mother, around 1910. The garden includes a raised terrace, stone fountain, and adorned gates commemorating the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday. It is planted with varieties of flowers, among which are colorful rhododendrons and azaleas, whose scent is everywhere in the Italian garden.

Glamis Castle in the snow, circa 1880

The estate also includes a Dutch garden laid out by the 13th Earl in 1893. The walled garden was formerly used to produce fruit and vegetables for the residents of the castle, but today is planted with flower beds and features a spectacular fountain.

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Rosa ‘Glamis Castle’, a rose named after Glamis Castle by the English rose grower David Austin. Author: Roozitaa. CC BY-SA 3.0

Glamis Castle is surrounded by legend and mystery. The most famous legend is about a hideous deformed child of the Bowes-Lyon family, born in 1821, who spent his life in a hidden room of the castle. Known as the “Monster of Glamis,” the handicapped son never left the castle, and after his death, his suite of rooms was bricked up. Rumour has it that in every generation of the family, a vampire child is born who shares the same destiny of the so-called monster. As the legend goes, the guests in the castle would hang towels from the windows of every room in order to find the chambers of the monster. As they reported, when they looked from the outside, several windows were towel-less.

Staircase – Glamis Castle. Author: rekre89. CC BY 2.0

The legend of the monster is similar to the story of the aristocratic family, the Ogilvies. They arrived at Glamis in 1486, seeking protection from their enemies, the Lindsays, but instead were walled up in a chamber under the castle to die of starvation. The castle is also said to be haunted. There are many reports of seeing the Grey Lady in the chapel, who is generally believed to be the spirit of the Scottish noblewoman Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis, who was burned at the stake in 1537 after being accused of witchcraft and plotting to poison the king. Despite its dark secrets and legends, Glamis Castle remains one of the most majestic Scottish castles.