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The Queen Mother’s Glamis Castle

Whether you're in the mood for a delightful fairy tale or the darkest of horror stories, Glamis Castle won't disappoint.

BY RICHENDA MIERS

Glamis is a storybook castle built of pinkish stone, with battlements, towers and bartizans topped with conical hats, and the reputation for being the most haunted castle in Scotland. All that is missing, I decided as I approached down the tree-lined avenue, is a knight on a raven-black charger, galloping toward me with a damsel in flowing robes clinging to his waist from behind.... More prosaically, I passed a tree on my right which in the olden days courting servants were not allowed to stroll beyond because it marked the limit of vision for chaperoning eyes. This beguiling, enigmatic castle reminded me of the chateaux of the Loire on which it was so splendidly modelled during its 17th-century rebuilding.

Visitors enter the castle from the north side and the guidebook gives a summary of the main features of the public rooms as well as a potted biography of the long line of the Lyon family, starting with Sir John. I was lucky enough to be shown around by the head guide, Stuart Guthrie Iveson. When I said I was more interested in anecdotal history and ghosts than pediments, porticos and architraves, his eyes lit up and I knew I was in for an entertaining tour. I had heard and read many stories of indelible bloodstains, nightmarish monsters, sinister nocturnal noises and unaccounted for chambers.

Stuart led me from the opulent Dining Room, whose décor dates from a Victorian makeover, into The Crypt where the entourage of the resident lord used to eat. This was in the lower hall of the medieval tower and it is here, within these stone walls hung with chain mail and hunting trophies, that those with a penchant for the supernatural can begin their quest. Tradition has it that there is a hidden chamber within the thickness of the massive outer wall (on the left as you stand with your back to the dining room) where long, long ago the Lord of Glamis and the notorious "Beardie Crawford" sat gaming with the Devil. It was a Saturday night and a servant came timidly to warn the gamblers that they were about to violate the Sabbath. He was ignored...the Sabbath dawned...and the players were entombed for eternity. From then on, stories of unearthly noises, crashes, thumps and curses abound, and it would be a brave person who dared to sleep in The Crypt today.

The full text of this article is available in the Summer 2008 issue of Scottish Life.

Click here to preview our feature article on Durness by Bruce MacGregor Sandison.

Photos above: © Lee Snider/Photo Images. Photo upper right: © VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint