Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle is only half an hour away from Carnoustie and if you only resolve to visit one Scottish ‘castle’ during your stay, Glamis would be a worthy representative.

In 1034 AD King Malcolm II was murdered at Glamis, (then a hunting lodge) in a betrayal made famous in literature by William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. Shakespeare’s Macbeth might have committed the crime at Glamis, but there is no evidence to link the real King Macbeth to the castle. Indeed, the play involves King Duncan, and that murder took place miles away at Elgin. Not surprisingly Glamis Castle gives a different account which has Malcolm mortally wounded in a nearby battle, after which he was taken to the hunting lodge, where ultimately he perished

Glamis Castle is probably most famous for its ghosts and ghouls however and it’s normally these that capture the public imagination ahead of any state rooms, gardens, or architecture!

Rumours have been rife for centuries that the castle contained a secret room which concealed something so horrible only the Lords of Glamis, their heirs, and the steward of the castle were allowed to view it. Some refused to acknowledge the room for fear they would lose their sanity. In recent years guests attending a party at the castle decided to look for the secret room by placing towels in every window of the castle. When they went outside they did indeed spot windows without a towel, and so lend credibility to the story that the castle does indeed contain walled up secret rooms.

Glamis Castle

It’s definitely worth familiarising yourself with the Glamis ghost stories before you visit

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Amongst the castle’s super natural inhabitants there is a tongueless Woman, alleged to be the spirit of a girl mutilated by castle guards for illicit relations with the Earl. There is the ghost of ‘Jack the Runner’, a slave boy, said to have been killed by the Earl and his mounted party by their dogs in a variation of fox hunting. The grounds have a White Lady, and the chapel has a Grey Lady believed to be Janet Douglas, daughter of the Master of Angus. In December 1528 Janet was accused of treason. She was then charged with poisoning her husband, Lord Glamis, and eventually, she was accused of witchcraft, and burned at the stake at Edinburgh on 17 July 1537. She has been seen sitting at the same seat in the chapel, a seat which no one to this day is allowed to occupy. Another much told story concerns “Earl Beardie”, believed to be Alexander Lyon, 2nd Lord Glamis. He is said to have demanded a game of cards on the Sabbath, and when no one would oblige, the Devil appeared at the castle gate and played cards with the Earl all night long. Before long the servants heard horrifying sounds coming from the room. One of them tried to peer through the keyhole and had their eyes immediately burned out. The room was sealed up for 300 years, and later permanently. Some say he still plays in a secret, hidden room, condemned to gamble for eternity for his sin. A subsequent story developed that a stonemason who accidentally saw inside the room, the horrors were so great that they caused him to die from shock. The stonemason’s wife was given several thousand dollars compensation, and packed off to Australia to prevent any scandal (we suspect that this could be a cover story to explain something very different!). Another story suggests that in 1486, Lord Glamis offered sanctuary to a fleeing band from a rival clan called the Ogilvies. They were led to a room, the door was locked and barricaded, and it was over a month before anyone ventured to look inside. Only one Ogilvie was still alive, having survived by eating the starved corpses of his companions. He was killed, and the room was permanently bricked up and sealed, to conceal the crime of having betrayed a promise of sanctuary.

The most celebrated of all however is the so-called ‘Monster of Glamis’. Remarkable as it seems, this one might have legs! The earliest surviving reference dates from 1908, in which it was claimed that “in the Castle of Glamis is a secret chamber. In this chamber is confined a monster, who is the rightful heir to the title and property, but who is so unpresentable that it is necessary to keep him out of sight and out of possession”. The monster is thought to be Thomas Lyons Bowe, a child born so horrifically deformed his infant death was faked. He was then locked away in expectation that he would inevitably perish. Only a loyal servant was charged with feeding him through a grate and conducting exercise walks along the ramparts under the cover of darkness. Instead, the child survived and grew into a horribly grotesque adult who the family dare not admit to.

Arbroath Abbey

The Abbey was founded in 1178 by King William, and consecrated in 1197 with a dedication to the deceased Saint Thomas Becket. The Abbey, became the richest in Scotland, and is most famous for its association with the 1320 ‘Declaration of Arbroath’, drafted by Abbot Bernard, who was the Chancellor of Scotland under King Robert I ‘The Bruce’. The Declaration of Arbroath is arguably the most important document in Scottish history. It’s a letter written in Latin and submitted to Pope John XXII, dated 6 April 1320. It confirms Scotland’s status as an independent, sovereign state and defending Scotland’s right to use military action when unjustly attacked. So much of the historic ‘independence’ argument today hinges on the legitimacy of the Declaration of Arbroath

Sealed by fifty-one magnates and nobles, the letter is the sole survivor of three created at the time. The original is in National Archive at Edinburgh

The Abbey fell into ruin after the Reformation. From 1590 onward, its stones were raided for buildings in the town of Arbroath. This continued until 1815 when steps were taken to preserve the remaining ruins.

The distinctive round window high in the south transept was originally lit up at night as a beacon for mariners. It is known locally as the ‘Round O’, and from this tradition, inhabitants of Arbroath are colloquially known as ‘Reid Lichties’ (Scots reid = red)

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On Christmas Day 1950, the Stone of Destiny was stolen from Westminster Abbey. On April 11, 1951, the missing stone was found lying on the site of the Abbey’s altar.

The Arbroath Smokie

Before signing off on Glamis, Arbroath and Angus, we really ought to name check the ‘Arbroath Smokie’, a local haddock delicacy. Local legend has it a store caught fire one night, destroying barrels of haddock preserved in salt. The following morning, the people found the haddock cooked inside. Inspection revealed the haddock to be superior in taste. Please take the time to try at least one