Queensland couple Neil McLean and Gai Reid journeyed to Europe to enjoy some authentic travel, ‘living like locals’. The result? They spent 300 days pet- and house-sitting their way across four countries, spending less than it would cost them to live at home. Plus they started a new business, Village to Villa! Here’s the next chapter in the fabulous account of their escapades…
[To read episode20, click here]
One of the best of our 300 consecutive days in Europe was our time at Glamis Castle in Scotland. As we quickly found out, it is pronounced Glams and is claimed to be the most haunted castle in the country. It is certainly one of the most beautiful, set on 14,000 acres (5,666 hectares), including an amazing arboretum and Italian garden.
We spied a couple of red squirrels fossicking in the roadside forest as we made our way into the castle grounds, setting the tone for what was to be a wonderful day. Despite intermittent rain (hey, we are in Scotland) the castle is almost overwhelming as it comes into view. This imposing figure has a warmth and attraction that is difficult to put into words.
Various stages of the building, its owners and occupants go back almost a thousand years. We will save you the history lesson, however, it was for years the home of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (popularly known as the Queen Mother) and her husband King George VI. Their daughter Princess Margaret was born there and our current Queen, Elizabeth II spent some of her younger years enjoying castle life.
Soaring turrets and multi towers evoke images of a damsel in distress calling out from one of the high towers.
We were kindly met by the manager of the complex who assigned a special tour guide to escort us personally away from the public. There are dozens of legends and stories connected to Glamis Castle including that of a child born who was deformed and locked away in a secret room to save ‘embarrassment’ to the family. He was dubbed the ‘Monster of Glamis’ and the suite of rooms were bricked up after he died.
There is an old story that guests staying at Glamis hung towels from the window of every room in an effort to discover the bricked-up suite that was occupied by the ‘monster’.When viewed from the outside, there were several rooms that appeared towel-less. Not very PC, but hey, it’s a legend.
This legend may have been driven by the true story of the Ogilvie family. The Ogilvie family hid at Glamis Castle when they were trying to escape from their enemies, the Lindsays. However, they were found, and put into a small room in the walls, which are 16-foot thick. The door was bricked up and the family were left to die of starvation. What a horror!
There is also the Grey Lady. Thought to be Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis, the ghost is said to appear regularly in the family chapel and sits in a specific chair at the back of the room, where it is said no one else is allowed to sit. Taking a chance, I sat in the chair and invited her to appear. It must have been out of hours for appearances that day!
As we made our way around the extensive castle, there is a room at the bottom of the huge building near the solid front door. It is this room that is said to be the inspiration for the character of Macbeth from William Shakespeare’s play of the same name.
In the more modern era, there is a suite of rooms set aside for the Queen Mother and her husband King George IV. Both have separate bedrooms that are filled with original furniture and even a bassinet where baby Elizabeth was nursed as an infant.
If we thought the castle was spectacular, the grounds were just as impressive. Near the castle is a magnificent arboretum. It contains different types of trees from all over the world.
There is a graveyard within the amazing stand of trees that is dedicated to family animals. It was quite touching to witness the esteem in which they held their family pets.
The spectacular Italian Garden to the east of the castle was opened around 1910. A sweeping pathway leads from the arboretum through wrought iron gates to this most delightful area. The gardens were designed to reflect the style of the day. They are coiffed and manicured with everything in alignment like a finely managed hairdo!
Spending a day at Glamis Castle also revealed the eye-watering cost of maintaining such a huge property. Consequently, the grounds and facilities are available for hire for weddings and other occasions. Also, there are regular music festivals and other large outdoor gatherings at a special area set aside for such events.
If you are into castles and want to see more of them, this area of Scotland is teeming with them.
For Gai and I, spending a day at Glamis Castle and getting the ‘inside’ tour was well worth the effort!