Spooky Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle, found in the Angus area, is the historic seat of the Lyon family. The estate was presented to Sir John Lyon as a gift by Robert II in 1376. The Bowes-Lyon family, as they are now, still owns the castle and grounds as the Earls of Strathmore. The family has a large link to the current Royal family as it was the childhood home of the Queen Mother, youngest daughter of Claude Bowes-Lyon, the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, and his wife Cecilia, and it was the birthplace of Princess Margaret, the current Queen’s sister.

The original tower keep of the castle, which still remains at the centre of the building, was built in the 14th century. The additional wings, towers and turrets were added over the centuries to make the castle into the majestic building it is today, a place with more in common with a French Chateau than a medieval fortress.

It also has a rather sinister reputation as one of the most haunted places in Scotland, if not the British Isles, which is what we will be exploring in this weeks Friday Facts…


One of the most notorious characters in the castle’s history was Earl Beardie, the most famous tale of him involves cards, the Devil, and a soul damned to hell.

One Sunday, Earl Beardie was guesting at the castle. After a heavy drinking session with the Earl of Glamis, on his way back to his room the Earl was said to have been shouting and screaming for a partner to play him at cards and wager some coin. Being the Sabbath no one was willing to play with the Earl, let alone gamble. The Earl raged on, going so far as to say he would play the Devil himself. Inevitably there came a knock at the door, and stood in the entrance was a tall man, dressed head to toe in the finest black clothes. The man claimed to have heard the Earls shouts for a partner on his way passed the castle, and enquired as to whether he still required a partner. The drunken Earl was blind to the sinister nature of this stranger and agreed to a game. The two men retired to a room in the castle, slamming the door shut and locking the castle staff and anyone else out.

All was quiet for a spell, not a sound coming from the room, when out of nowhere the door swung open and out strode the Earl. Screaming and swearing the Earl made his way back to his room, complaining at his luck and the loss in the game. Of the dark man there was no sign, he had seemingly vanished from the castle.

What went on in the room nobody will ever know, but it is believed the dark man was the Devil himself and he offered Earl Beardie an interesting wager that he could not refuse. A bag of the finest rubies was offered up if the Earl should win, but if he should lose it was his eternal soul that must be given over.

The ghost of Earl Beardie is said to now haunt the castle and has been heard on numerous occasions, stamping has feet and swearing at “something” in the room in which he is said to have gambled at Glamis.

The ghost of a woman with no tongue is said to roam the castle grounds, gesturing wildly towards her mutilated face. Unfortunately there is no information that might lead to finding out who this woman was and what her story might be.

Foggy Glamis

Another famous story about the castle that has intrigued many is that of the monster of Glamis. Legend has it that in 1821 Thomas, a son and heir to the Bowes-Lyon family name and fortune, was born in Glamis. However he was so horribly deformed that the family announced that the baby had been lost. Still loving the child that had come to them but fearing what people may think of the ‘monster’, they hid him away from the world in a secret chamber somewhere within the castle.

It is claimed only a select few of the most trusted servants were made aware of this secret so the monster could be taken care of. The creature was said to be taken out late in the night to be given some form of exercise in the form of a walk along the battlements, earning a section the name ‘Mad Earls Walk’, and that he was fed through a grill in his door by these trusted servants.


The monster is believed to have lived much longer than any normal person, living on until the early 1920’s and meaning the family ‘secret’ had to be kept secret for several generations. The tale goes that the truth about the creature is revealed to the next heir of the Bowes-Lyon family when they come of age at 21. Observations of the 13th Earl of Strathmore are supposed to support this theory. He was said to be a kind, conscientious man of a generally sunny disposition, but this all changed with the passing of his brother. Without an heir he became the next in line and the secret would have been revealed to him. From then on he was noted to have become a very serious man, who always seemed to have a great sadness hanging over him. Although this could have been from the burden of the secret it is far more likely to have been due to the loss of his brother and the hardships of becoming the head of the family.

An alternative version of the legend is that to every generation of the family a vampire child is born and is walled up in that room.

There is an old story that guests staying at Glamis once hung towels from the windows of every room in a bid to find the bricked-up suite of the monster. When they looked at it from outside, several windows were apparently towel-less, leading people to believe there was more than one secret room within the castle.

The legend of the monster may have been inspired by the true story of the Ogilvies. Somewhere in the 16-foot-thick walls is the famous room of skulls, where the Ogilvie family, who sought protection from their enemies the Lindsays, were walled up to die of starvation.

Another legend has it that the late Sir David Bowes-Lyon, uncle of Queen Elizabeth II, took a late stroll on the lawn after dinner, and reportedly saw a girl gripping the bars of a castle window and staring distractedly into the night. He was about to speak to her when she abruptly disappeared, as if someone had torn her away from the window.

Lady Janet Douglas

The family chapel is said to be haunted by the Grey Lady, believed to have been Lady Janet Douglas, burned at the stake on charges of witchcraft and plotting to poison the King.

King James V had Janet accused of witchcraft against him, although it was clear that the accusations were false. She was imprisoned with her husband (who escaped but was later killed) in a dungeon of Edinburgh Castle. It was easy for James to imprison Janet, but actually convicting her was more 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. Janet was convicted and burned at the stake on 17 July 1537 on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, which her young son was forced to watch alongside a silent and morose crowd, very likely aware of the innocent women being burned before them.

Sightings have been made in recent times within the chapel and above the clock tower.


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6 thoughts on “Spooky Glamis Castle

  1. Mona Sarratt Knight

    I descend from Robert Lyon (b. about 1775-1780) and his wife whose name is said to be Lady Robin Bowes. It has long been a story in my family that “Lady Robin Bowes” left her wealthy family to marry Robert Lyon, and she was disowned by her family. As these stories go, there is no proof of this; however, in about 1980, a family descendant here in the U.S. wrote to me that Lady Robin Bowes Lyon had “escaped” Scotland with her young son Robert Lyon Jr. after the death of her husband, and fled to America (perhaps with other family members). It was said that she brought only one heirloom, a brooch that was handed down to the first daughter in each generation of the family. The brooch was apparently lost in the 1950s. I have searched for years for a Robin Bowes or Robin Lyon or Robin Bowes-Lyon, etc., to no avail — until I found this web site and saw the name Bowes-Lyon. I continue my search.

    • susan savard

      to Mona Sarratt Knight see Michael Hewlitts book A Most Remarkable Family. He researched the Bowes Lyon line for someone and has the line laid out to Queen Elizabeth. My Lyon family is from John Lyon’s brother Thomas Lyon Master of Glamis. John and Thomas were the grandchildren of John Lyon and Lady Jane Douglas.


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