Click for Bookshop

Glamis Castle

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2014.

It has taken much time and money to make the six-volumes of Groome's text freely accessible. Please help us continue and develop by making a donation. If only one out of every ten people who view this page gave £5 or $10, the project would be self-sustaining. Sadly less than one in thirty-thousand contribute, so please give what you can.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry Arrow

Glamis Castle, the seat of the Earl of Strathmore, in Glamis parish, SW Forfarshire, near the left bank of Dean Water, 7 furlongs N by E of the village. Ascribed by tradition to the 10th or 11th century, it mainly consists in its present form of reconstructions and additions of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, and is a stately pile in the style of Chantilly and other great French chateaux, such as the Chevalier, who stayed here in January 1716, declared he had not seen matched upon the Continent. The central part is a great square tower, whose top is gained by a flight of 143 steps, and from which project three wings; and the whole exterior is profusely adorned with sculptures, corbellings, battlements, pinnacles, pepper-box turrets, and the like. In front stands a curious old sun-dial, presenting an extraordinary number of faces to the sun. Within, the most interesting features are the great hall, bearing date 1621, and containing portraits of Charles II., James VII., Claverhouse, Lauderdale, etc.; a quaint little Jacobean chapel, with paintings by De Witt; and ' Sir Walter Scott's Bedroom, ' of which, in Demonology and Witchcraft Sir Walter writes:-' I was only 19 or 20 years old when I happened to pass a night in this magnificent baronial castle. The hoary old pile contains much in its appearance, and in the traditions connected with it, impressive to the imagination. It was the scene of the murder of a Scottish king of great antiquity, not indeed the gracious Duncan, with whom the name naturally associates it, but Malcolm II. * It contains also a curious monument of the peril of feudal times, being a secret chamber, the entrance of which, by the law or custom of the family, must only be known to three persons at once, viz., the Earl of Strathmore, his heir-apparent, and any third person whom they may take into their confidence. The extreme antiquity of the building is vouched by the immense thickness of the walls and the wild and straggling arrangement of the accommodation within doors. I was conducted to my apartment in a distant corner of the building; and I must own that, as I heard door after door shut, after my conductor had retired, I began to consider myself too far from the living, and somewhat too near the dead. We had passed through what is called the '' King's Room, " a vaulted apartment garnished with stags' antlers and similar trophies of the chase, and said by tradition to be the spot of Malcolm's murder, and I had an idea of the vicinity of the castle chapel. In spite of the truth of history, the whole night scene in Macbeth's castle rushed at once upon my mind, and struck my imagination more forcibly than even when I have seen its terrors represented by the late John Kemble and his inimitable sister. ' The thanage of Glamis possesses a fictitious interest from its imaginary connection with Macbeth; in history we do not hear of it till 1264 (Skene's Celtic Scotland, iii. 266, 1880). It seems to have been held by the Crown from the War of Independence till 1372, when Robert II. erected it into a barony, and granted it to John Lyon, whose grandson Sir Patrick was created a peer by the title of Lord Glamis in 1445. John, sixth Lord, who died in 1528, had wedded Janet Douglas, a sister of the banished Earl of Angus; and she, in 1537, was burned on the Castlehill of Edinburgh on a trumped -up charge of conspiring the destruction of James V. by poison. Her son, the young seventh Lord, was involved in the charge, and did not recover title and estates till 1543. John, eighth Lord, chancellor of Scotland, was shot at Stirling in a chance fray between his followers and the Earl o Crawford's (1578); his brother, the Master of Glamis, was a chief conspirator in the Raid of Ruthven (1582). Patrick, ninth Lord, was created Earl of Kinghorne in 1606; and in 1677 Patrick, third Earl, obtained a charter providing that himself and his heirs should in all future ages be styled Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, Viscounts Lyon, Barons Glamis, etc. This Patrick retired from public life at the Revolution (1688), and ' spent,, one is told, ' the last six years of his life in improving his estates and in repairing and modernising his castle of Glamis under the direction of the celebrated Inigo Jones, ' who died, however, in 1652. John, fourth Earl, was father of ' four pretty boys, ' who all in turn succeeded to the earldom-John, killed at Sheriffmuir, 1715; Charles, killed in a brawl at Forfar, 1728; James, died 1735; and Thomas, died 1753. John, ninth Earl (1737-76), married Mary Eleanor Bowes, heiress of £1, 040, 000; and the present and thirteenth Earl, Claude Bowes Lyon (b. 1 824; suc. 1865), is their grandson. He is twenty-first Lord Glamis, but thirteenth only in descent from Patrick, first holder of that title. The Glamis estate-22, 850 acres, of £25,000 annual value-comprises 16, 850 acres of arable land, 4000 of natural pasture, and 2000 under wood. Since 1860, at an outlay of over £43, 000, it has undergone great improvements in the way of building, draining, fencing, reclaiming, and road-making. Lord Strathmore's Clydesdale stud, dating from 1869, may also be noticed. See Andrew Jervise's Glamis, its History and Antiquities (Edinb. 1861); James C. Guthrie's Vale of Strathmore (Edinb. 1875); and pp. 91-94 of Trans. Highl. and Ag. Soc. (1881).

* 'The later chronicles,' says Skene, 'state that Malcolm was slain by treachery at Glamis,-and Fordun adds by some of the stock of Constantin and Grym; but this tale is quite inconsistent with the early notices of his death, which clearly imply that he died a natural death. Thus the contemporary chronicler, Marianus Scotus, writes simply: " 1034 Malcolm, king of Scotia, died 24 November. ''' In the secret chamber that follows, according to olden tradition, Earl Beardie, of the Crawford line, still drees his weird-to play at cards until the day of doom.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer


Please complete a short questionnaire to help a student project that has added climate information to the Gazetteer for Scotland.

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better