Glamis Castle is known as one of the most haunted castles in Britain. It certainly has more stories and legends attached to it than any other castle within the British Isles, perhaps with the exception of Hermitage Castle in the Scottish Borders. The following provides a brief selection of stories and lore from the castle. The stories differ from source to source, and it is likely the tales became better with each telling, most have their roots in the 19th century
Glamis Castle is the historic seat of the Bowes-Lyons Family, the lands were presented to them as a gift by Robert the Bruce in 1372. The Bowes-Lyons family still own the castle as the earls of Strathmore, its members include the Queen Mother, who was born at Glamis and gave birth to Princess Margaret here. The main keep of the castle dates from the 14th century, and the majestic towers and turrets were added in later years.
Ghosts of the Castle
The family chapel is haunted by a Grey Lady, who is said to be the spirit of Lady Janet Douglas, burned at the stake as a witch on Castle Hill, Edinburgh in 1537, on charges of plotting to poison the King. It is likely that the charges were fabricated for political motives. The apparition has been seen relatively recently in the chapel by a number of witnesses. She is also said to appear above the Clock Tower.
The ghost of a woman with no tongue is said to haunt the grounds, and to look out from a barred window somewhere within the castle. She runs about the park pointing at her mutilated face. There is no suggestion as to who she might be.
A young black boy, the ghost of a Negro servant who was badly treated around 200 years ago, haunts a stone seat by the door of the Queen’s bedroom.
One of the more infamous ghosts is known as Earl Beardie, who is otherwise known as Alexander, Earl Crawford. Allegedly he was a cruel and wicked man, probably stemming from his rebellion against James II. His spirit is said to wander the castle, and there have been reports of children waking to find the figure leaning over their beds. He is also said to be gambling for all eternity in a secret room with the Devil, people have reported loud swearing and the rattling of dice. He is often mixed up in literature with the second Earl of Glamis.
Legends and Folklore
According to legend the castle is as haunted as it is because of an ancient curse brought on the family by Sir John Lyon, who removed an ancestral chalice from their seat at Forteviot, where it was supposed to reside for ever. The castle is also mentioned in Shakespeare’s play MacBeth, and the murder of King Malcolm the II is supposed to have taken place in one of the rooms. It is highly unlikely as the castle dates from the 14th century and the murder from the 11th century.
Probably the most resounding piece of folklore that crops up, is the story of a secret room somewhere within the castle, that harbours a dreadful secret. At one time a towel is said to have been hung from every window in the castle, but from the outside a window without a towel was visible, suggesting a hidden room.
The secret room has many tales as to its origin; the most popular is that it holds a monster. In 1821 the first son of the eleventh Earl is said to have been born horribly malformed. To hide this fact the story was circulated that the boy had died, and the infant was locked up in a secret room within the castle. The malformed boy survived, and in time a second son was born, who was told of his older brother when he came of age. In some stories the boy grows to become incredibly strong, and lives for over a hundred years. The secret of the hidden room had to be passed down to each heir on their 21st birthday. The ‘Mad Earls Walk’ on the castle ramparts is said by some to have been the place where the malformed Earl was exercised.
There is suggestion that a workman accidentally broke through a wall while making alterations to the castle, revealing a passage into the secret room. He was given a large sum of money to leave the country and keep his silence. In other tales the room holds the bodies of men who were enemies of the family, walled up and starved to death.
As we have mentioned above one of the most notorious characters in the castles history was Earl Beardie, a Lord Crawford, who was a cruel and indulgent man. One of the tales most commonly told about him is the loss of his soul to the Devil while playing cards.
One Sunday, Earl Beardie was guesting at the castle. After a heavy drinking session with the Earl of Glamis, he was returning to his room in a drunken rage shouting for a partner to play him at cards. Nobody wanted to play on the Sabbath, and finally he raged that he would play with the Devil himself. Inevitably there was a knock at the door, and a tall man in dark clothes came into the castle and asked if Earl Beardie still required a partner. The Earl agreed, and they went away to a room in the castle, slammed the door shut, and started to play cards.
The castle was rocked with the swearing and shouting from the room, and one of the servants, giving in to curiosity peeped through the keyhole. A bright beam of light blasted (in some versions) through, and blinded the servant in one eye. The Earl burst from the room and rounded on the servant for spying on him. When he returned to the room the stranger, who was the Devil, had disappeared along with the Earls Soul, lost in the card game. The Earl is said to play cards with the stranger in a walled up room, another slant on the secret room legend.
The castle can be reached from the A928.