Last week, we explored the interior of Glamis Castle for the first in our two-part series. We now head outside to discover the grounds and gardens- and there is much to cover. Therefore, slip on some comfortable shoes and join me for a wee walkabout.
Our journey starts with the impressive road leading up to Glamis Castle. However, this isn’t just any old driveway- it is a mile long avenue lined with great oaks that were planted in the 17th century. I was certainly taken with the grandeur of it as we entered the grounds and eagerly anticipated that first proper glimpse of the Castle.
As you navigate around the grounds (and Castle) there are a few logistic to cover to help you plan your visit. First, we commend Glamis Castle for the fabulous job they’ve done setting up a system that works to address the COVID-19 situation. To limit capacity inside Glamis Castle, they are requiring visitors to pre-book their tickets. You can choose from the ‘Castle, Ground, & Gardens’ or ‘Grounds and Gardens’ tickets.
Once you enter the Castle courtyard, be sure to use the hand sanitiser conveniently placed at the entrance. This area- located directly behind the Castle- is where you will find the Pavilion Shop and the Hub. The shop has setup a one-way system, screens at the pay kiosks, and a cashless system. There is a fantastic assortment of gift ideas at the shop; we settled on the Glamis Castle guidebook and another book- Women of Glamis.
As of the writing of this article, the Glamis Castle Kitchen restaurant is closed due to COVID-19. However, don’t worry, as there are excellent takeaway options at the Hub. They serve coffee, baked goods, ice cream (including non-dairy options), and a variety of meal selections. There are also plenty of picnic tables set up where you can relax after exploring the Castle, tuck into your tasty treats, and enjoy the picturesque atmosphere. This is what we did, and we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch. I had the duck and pheasant burger with black pudding and it was superb. To be honest, I was bit worried it was going to be too gamey, but it wasn’t, and I highly recommend it! Now that we’ve recharged with a delicious lunch, let’s head out to explore more of the grounds and gardens.
Castle Forecourt and Grounds
As I mentioned in Part I of our Glamis Castle series, the Castle began as an L-shaped tower house. However, it was remodeled in the 17th century and much of what we see from the exterior was done during that period. As we walk around and make our way to the forecourt, it isn’t hard to appreciate the various angles of Glamis Castle.
I could admire the exterior of Glamis Castle all day, but we should start making our way to our first garden stop which is filled with some fun surprises. The gravel path crunches underfoot, and I give a polite nod as we pass by a few ‘keepers' of the grounds.
The great oaks that line the avenue aren’t the only spectacular trees to inhabit the grounds at Glamis Castle. The groundskeeping team (past and present) has done a wonderful job at caring for the grounds and planting some spectacular trees over the years. Looking at the old, gnarled trees instills a real sense of history and is strangely calming and grounding. I suppose that is the wonderful effect nature and its beauty has over us, and I know I will never tire of it.
We are almost to our first garden but let’s first stop and pay our respects to the canine family members of Glamis who have passed. As a family who has had dogs pass on over the rainbow, we understand the importance of remembering our beloved canine family members. After a moment of silence and remembrance, let’s continue along the wooded path to see what lies ahead.
The Italian Garden
The approach to the Italian Garden is rather unassuming. However, once you walk through the wee gate, it quickly becomes apparent that this garden is anything but.
According to Glamis Castle, the Italian Garden was ‘laid out by Countess Cecilia [the mother to HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother], c. 1910 to designs by Arthur Castings. Yew hedges line the perimeter of this exquisite garden with features you would expect to see (e.g. a lovely fountain). However, there are two delightful surprises I want to examine a bit closer.
On each side of the Italian Garden are two tree-lined, covered walkways. I personally have never seen anything like them, and they immediately caught my eye. Walking underneath them is quite a charming experience and they were a fun surprise as we explored the garden.
Not too far outside of the Italian Garden, there is a lovely memorial to HRH Princess Margaret. Princess Margaret was born at Glamis Castle in 1930 and died in 2002.
Continuing along on our journey of the Castle grounds, we make a quick stop at a lovely little orchard just off the walking path.
In addition to the lovely views of Glamis Castle, there is another delightful surprise in the pastures next to the orchard- Highland cows! Unfortunately, we didn’t bring our camera with the zoom lens, but I promise that those seemingly small looking animals in the distance (pictured below) are actually large ‘hairy coos’.
We are now getting ready to enter one of my favourite places at Glamis Castle- the Pinetum.
The Pinetum & Macbeth Sculpture Trail
The Pinetum at Glamis Castle is a real-life enchanted forest. By far, it is in my top three of favourite woodlands in all of Scotland. It is a wonderfully inspiring place, and I can imagine myself sitting on the soft grass that blankets the forest floor and writing here every day. I know the pictures can’t truly capture it, but hopefully they will at least give you a spark of the magic that lives there.
When I first entered the Pinetum, my breath caught, and I was immediately transported to another place and time. It was as though I was no longer in Scotland and had somehow entered a forest in North America. However, while there is a magical air about this forest, there is a rather more sedate explanation for this. According to Glamis Castle, around 1870, the 13th Earl planted a variety of exotic trees- many of which are conifers native to North America. All of this came about thanks to Scottish botanist and famous plant hunter, David Douglas. Douglas famously went on three plant hunting expeditions to North America, and brought back the Grand Fir, Douglas Fir, and Sitka Spruce- all of which can be found in the Pinetum at Glamis Castle.
Starting in the 1990s, the 18th Earl began to restore and replant the Pinetum. Furthermore, ‘the Estate now has a policy of replanting with trees grown from wild collected seed or from seed collected from its own trees’. I am certainly grateful for David Douglas and the Earls that this Pinetum exists, that it is still cared for, and is open to the public.
There is an additional element that adds to the haunting aura that floats about in this forest. We must walk quietly as we head further into the woods because there are some scary characters lurking about including witches, a king, and a murderer. Well, I should clarify that they are wooden sculptures and they represent famous characters and scenes from Shakespeare’s iconic play, Macbeth.
In the famous play, Macbeth is the Thane of Glamis. However, in real life, the historical King Macbeth had no connections to Glamis Castle. Nevertheless, it is still fascinating to walk along and explore the Macbeth sculptures spread throughout the forest at Glamis Castle. Here are more photos of these amazing works of art that you can scroll through:
I would love to stay in the Pinetum more, but we must forge on to our final destination. Along the way we cross a lovely bridge- The Earl Michael Bridge- which was opened by HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 1996.
The Walled Garden
We now enter the final stop on our grounds and gardens tour at Glamis Castle- the Walled Garden.
According to Glamis Castle, the garden was only recently brought back to life by the 18th Earl and Countess when they initiated redevelopments in the last decade. It now features a spectacular fountain, beautiful plants and flowers, and a garden with a variety of vegetables.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring the grounds and gardens at Glamis Castle. They are a wonderful way to get some fresh air and exercise while you take in the beautiful and diverse environments. We are pleased to point out that dogs on lead are welcome on the grounds and in the gardens at Glamis Castle. To make it further family-friendly, there is also a large outdoor play area for children.
If you come to Scotland, we highly recommend that you take the time to visit Glamis Castle and thoroughly explore all it has to offer. Hopefully, our two-part series has helped you to be inspired to set out on your own ‘explore and discover’ mission of the Castle as there is so much more to see and do in person. Be sure to visit the Glamis Castle website for the most up-to-date information and to help plan your visit.
Until next time- Explore & Discover!