Glamis Castle

Glamis  is included in our 16 days "Best Castles of Britain and Ireland" tour.
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Location: Glamis Tayside, Scotland

The following information was  researched  by our volunteer team member
Carolyn D. Ahrns from Las Vegas, NV. Thank you very much!

It is hard to believe that this beautiful castle which looks like it is right out of the pages of a children's fairytale is considered the most haunted castle in Scotland. Legends tell of Glamis to be home to a vampire, a witch, and several ghosts.


Long before there was a royal hunting lodge or castle, there was a village. Glamis Village's roots can be traced back to the 8th century. In 710 A.D. an Irish missionary named Fergus settled here. It is believed he lived in a cave near the church. Baptizing early converts at the church's well he brought Christianity to the area. Fergus lived here until his death after which he was canonized. The church was named St. Fergus Kirk after him. The well's water is still used today to baptize church members. The present church was built in 1459, rebuilt in 1790, Strathmore Aisle is the only original part that remains from the 13th century. In the church's graveyard one can see many old gravestones which display evidence of plague and the diseases of Medieval Europe. The headstones are carved with the trade symbols of the deceased. A sculpture carved in stone by the Picts still stands, evidence that they were living in the area around the time of Fergus. Today village is over 300 years old. Most of the original houses built by the 3rd Earl have been replaced, only a few of the original buildings still stand. According to the earliest records Glamis Castle was originally a hunting lodge owned by the Scottish Crown. The first thane age of Glamis was granted in 1264. In 1372, Robert the II, the first Stewart King of Scots, granted thane age of Glamis to Sir John Lyon of Forteviot, (a ancient Celtic thane age) as a reward for his services rendered to the crown. The royal hunting lodge existed on the site already. The lodge was very different from the castle we see today. In 1376, Sir John married Joanna the king's daughter. Shortly after he was appointed Chamberlain of Scotland, the most important office to the crown. Sir John's son, also Sir John Lyon, the 2nd Earl, started construction of the main building after 1400. This is the east wing of the present day castle. Sir John's decedents have lived at Glamis throughout the centuries, and it remains home to the Lyon family today. Glamis was the childhood home to Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, mother of Queen Elizabeth II, and is the birth place of Princess Margaret (1930) who is the first royal baby born in Scotland in over 300 years.


There is a feeling of overwhelming sadness when one enters the chapel and the sounds of hollowing knocking is sometimes heard. The sadness intensifies around the Grey Lady. She can been seen kneeling in front of the altar praying. She is one of Scottish history's most tragic victims. Over 400 years ago the 6th Lord of Glamis married Janet Douglas. They had one son John. They lived a peaceful and happy life at Glamis until the of death her husband Lord Glamis, in 1528. Lady Janet was born into the Douglas Clan. Her brother was the stepfather of King James V. King James hated his stepfather, obsessed by a deep hatred for anyone who bore the Douglas name, King James would carry out a ruthless vendetta against them. Lady Janet became the center of King James' hatred. Lady Janet no longer had the protection of her marriage to Lord Glamis. King James confiscated Glamis Castle for the crown by accusing Lady Janet of witchcraft and of making deadly potions with which to kill him. No one ever doubted that these accusations were not true, but Lady Janet and her son were imprisoned in the dark dudgeons of Edinburgh Castle. Occupying Glamis, King James held court there from 1537 to 1542. Still in existence are many charters and royal decrees from the castle dated from this period. Throwing Lady Janet into prison was easy for King James, but convicting her of his trumped up charge of witchcraft would be difficult. Her character was impeccable, without blemish, and she was very much respected by everyone who knew her. In order to get the testimony he needed to convict her, the King resorted to torture. Her clansmen and servants were put on the rack and stretched to the point of agony. They finally gave false evidence against her. John, her son, who was 16 at the time was forced to watch in horror, before being brutality tortured himself. Using these savage tactics the King got his confessions. Lady Janet was convicted of witchcraft, and she and her son were condemned to death. On July 17, 1537, almost blind from her long imprisonment in the dungeon, Lady Janet Glamis was burned alive at Edinburgh Castle. On lookers fell silent. Lady Janet was a beautiful young woman. An eyewitness of the execution described her suffering with great commiseration. Being in the prime of her years, of singular beauty, she endured her suffering, and although being a woman, with a man like courage. Her innocence was never doubted. It is believed that she was not executed for witchcraft, but for the hatred James V had for her brother. Her son John, the 7th Lord of Glamis was released after King James V died. Parliament restored Glamis back to him. Sadly upon his return to the castle he found that everything of value had been taken by James V. Before his death, it is said King James V had felt remorse for his actions. After Lady Janet's execution the Grey Lady began appearing at the castle. The hollow knocking sound heard is thought to be the hammering of the workmen building the scaffold on which Lady Janet was burned alive. Lady Janet's spirit wanders the castle and can not only be seen in the chapel but above the clock tower as well.

In the 15th century the 2nd Lord of Glamis (known as Earl Beardie) was an avid card player. Earl Beardie and the Earl of Crawford were playing cards late on a Saturday night. According to the story about this event, a servant came to remind Earl Beardie that it was nearing midnight. The servant urged them to stop playing. It was sacrilege to play cards on the Sabbath. Lord Glamis shouted for all to hear they would play until Dooms Day if they wanted and ordered the servant out of the room. The game continued and at five minutes to midnight the servant again warned his Lord of the time. Earl Beardie said he would play with the Devil himself and ordered the servant out. At the stroke of midnight there was a knock on the door and a tall stranger dressed in black entered asking to join the game. The stranger sat down and placed a handful of rubies on the table. Earl Beardie and Earl Crawford did not object to his company. Soon after, an argument was heard to erupt between the two Earls. When the servant peered into the room he saw the two men engulfed in flames. It is said that Earl Beardie had played cards with the Devil and for playing on the Sabbath he was condemned to play until Dooms Day. His ghost still roams the halls trapped for eternity doomed to return to the room to play cards with the Devil. Sounds of stamping, swearing and dice rattling are heard from the tower where Earl Beardie is said to have cursed God and played with the Devil.

Another Glamis ghost is the apparition of a toungeless woman seen running across the castle grounds at midnight tearing at her mouth.

Glamis' vampire is believed a servant woman who was caught sucking the blood of her victim. According to legend she was walled up alive in a secret chamber, where she waits to be let lose again.

Sometime in the 1700's a rumor had started telling of a room which a secret so horrible only the Lords of Glamis, their heirs and the steward of the castle were allowed to view it. It is said this secret changed the Lords so much that even after their 21st birthday when they were shown the room, some refused to acknowledge the room for fear they would lose their sanity. In recent years several guests attending a party at the castle decided to look for the secret room. By placing towels in every window of the castle, they went outside to see only one window without a towel, but no one has ever been able to find the entrance to the secret room.

Other ghostly occurrences are of a more recent time including screams, banging noises, sheets being ripped off beds in the middle of the night, and doors that mysteriously open even though they are locked and bolted.

A guest staying at the castle was sitting up late one night; he glanced up at the window where he saw a face appear. It was very plae, with great sorrow in its eyes, and appeared as if it wanted to attract his attention. Suddenly it vanished, almost as if some superior strength had ripped it away from the window.

Another guest was staying in the Blue Room. She was awakened by a hand being brushed against her cheek. She awoke to see a ghostly face of a man with a beard hovering over her. Terrified she closed her eyes and when she opened them again the ghastly face had disappeared.

Information obtained from: Castle Ghosts of Scotland, Haunted Castles, Haunted Britain and Ireland, the Glamis Castle web site and various other articles.


For pictures and historical information on Glamis Castle, click here.


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