I was so excited to visit Lindisfarne Castle and the…
Three beautiful (haunted) Scottish castles
The first things come to people’s minds about Scotland are probably “Nessie”, whisky, kilts and castles, which of course have their own ghosts. I did a little investigation and found that there are approximately 1200 castles in Scotland, however, a few of them do not look like castles. Anyway, if you visit Scotland, visiting a castle is a must.
So did we and visited 3 castles on our Scotland trip which I am going to present in this post. I will try to be brief (it is difficult) and let the photos do the speaking.
As an introduction though, let me explain the styles of Scottish castles quickly. There are some which look more like a medieval fortress and then we have some which have Renaissance, or Gothic style. However, the most popular style is the Scots Baronial, merging the styles of a medieval fortress with the French Renaissance chateaux style. The result is a Disney like castle, which can be understood better if we remind ourselves that this was the period of the Romanticism, when people turned away from the present and recalled the past and found comfort in that. The style became popular in the Victorian era from 1850 onwards. Characteristics are: pepper pot turrets, towers, crenelated battlements, porches, porticos, porte-cocheres.
Click on the photos below to see them in a slideshow.
The first castle on our trip was Glamis Castle, which I believe would take anybody’s breath away. The medieval building was extended and rebuilt in Renaissance and Gothic style. I loved this castle in spite of photographing not being allowed in the castle. There was a very interesting and well narrated 50 minutes tour. Let me share three things:
The castle belonged to the Bowes-Lyon family, the Earls of Strathmore for centuries. In 1900, the Queen Mother was born here and grew up in the castle. Queen Elizabeth II and her sister, Princess Margaret who by the way was born here, spent much of their childhood in the castle. You can see their little wooden chairs next to the huge fireplace where the family would sit in the evenings.
Glamis Castle is said to have 9 (!) ghosts having the title of the most haunted castle in Scotland. So there is a Grey Lady, who appears from time to time in the little chapel of the castle, therefore, locals who attend the mass today leave one chair for her. Who was the Grey Lady? Her name was Lady Janet of Douglas and her brother happened to be the step-father of King James V. The King hated his step-father and his family and when Lady Janet’s husband died and there was no one else left to protect the family, King James V allowed Lady Janet and her 16 year old son executed for witchcraft in Edinburgh. Then there is The Gambling Earl, the Earl of Crawford also known as Earl Bardie who had a passion for playing cards. One night when one of the servants reminded the Earl to stop as it was sabbath, the Earl said, he would not stop playing and would play until doomsday even with the Devil. Apparently, a stranger who was said to be the devil himself appeared at midnight and joined the Earl to play cards. Since people reported loud swearing and rattling of dice which annoyed the tenants of the castle so much that they bricked up the room. Then there is a black, African servant boy who was badly treated 200 years ago and who today is said to mischievously try to trip up passers by sitting on a stone seat next to the Queen’s bedroom. Others are a ghost of a woman with no tongue who is said to haunt the grounds, a Green Lady, the Hanged Butler, the ghost of King Malcolm II, Duncan and Macbeth and more importantly the Monster of Glamis. According to the legend, the family had a child who was severely deformed and locked up in a room in the tower. Others believe he died on the day he was born.
What I do like about the English (in this case let’s say British) is that they have a name for every colour or shade. You could read about the London Cabmen’s shelters on the blog’s Facebook page where I explained these shelters were painted Buckingham Paradise Green or in my post about the phone boxes you could find Battleship Grey and Brunswick Green, in another post a fabric and colour is called the Lavenham Blue. Well, the Strathmore family’s colour is called Strathmore Blue which was the Queen Mother’s favourite colour. Not to confuse it with the equally popular and similar shade of Duck Egg or Sea-spray Blue.
When we hear the name Balmoral, many of us associate it with Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth II driving her Land Rover on the estate or walking her corgies wearing a headscarf. The estate was acquired by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1848, 5 years after their first visit to Scotland when they fell in love with the Scottish countryside. They bulit a new building on the estate (the castle today) and the old building was later demolished. Prince Albert influenced the design which was Scots Baronial.
Unlike the Glamis Castle, Balmoral did not have a wow factor for me. The castle itself is beautiful, but quite small. I think, what frustrated me was the fact that only the ballroom was open for the public, which is understandable considering the Queen still uses the castle from August until autumn. Yet I believe, the tour of the grounds could have been constructed in a more interactive way rather than just having an audio-tour where you have to hold a phone like thing to your ear all time. This made taking photographs difficult carrying round this extra equipment. I have seen the English doing a great job in visualising or making an excellent creative and interactive exhibition and it would be great if Balmoral could come up with something similar. Anyway, the estate has everything that you would find on an estate: vegetable garden, conservatory, flower garden, garden cottage, deer larder, park, riverside, pet cemetery. Without a doubt my frustration was compensated by the quirky details of the castle.
Balmoral is said to have one ghost, the ghost of Queen Victoria’s servant and friend, John Brown. He is said to walk down the corridors always wearing his kilt. Queen Elizabeth II said, she saw the ghost of John Brown at Balmoral and could feel his presence.
The Dunrobin Castle is beautiful and could easily fit into a fairytale with its pepper pot turrets. When I first saw it it reminded me of the Disney Castle and I bet, you do the same. The castle has belonged to the Earls of Sutherland for centuries. The Castle was re-built in Scots Baronial style after 1850. With its 189 rooms, the Dunrobin castle is the biggest castle in Northern Scotland – how they did not get lost in it, I have no idea…. The view from the rooms overlooking the North Sea is fascinating both in sunshine and I guess in a storm as well. I have visited many English castles and stately homes and what I found interesting walking through the rooms at Dunrobin is that they did not seem to be overly wealthy. I am sure the Earls of Sutherland were very wealthy, yet somehow it appeared in a very different way than you would normally find in England.
Dunrobin Castle too has its own ghost. The Earl of Sutherland locked up a young woman of a rival clan in the upper floor and he wanted to marry her. The woman wanted to escape through the window by tying sheets together but unfortunately, she fell off and died. Her crying is said to be heard coming from the seamstress room.
Scotland has some amazing castles which during our visit we were very lucky to visit in fantastic weather. Matching the beautiful Castles with the most amazing scenery touring around Scotland has ensured that we shall return. If a countries beauty and assets inspires you, Scotland is a must.
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