Glamis Castle Nature Trail

Strathmore Estates Ltd, Estates Office, Glamis, Angus, DD8 IRQ

Off A928 4 miles south of Kirriemuir close to junction with A94 at village of Glamis Map reference: N0387

1-mile trail viewing superb mature trees and parkland wildlife in grounds of historic castle—good access for disabled visitors

Illustrated trail guide; car park; tours of castle

Probably the most famous village in Angus is Glamis, dominated by an imposing castle, the home of the Earls of Strathmore and King-horne. It is believed that a fortification of some kind has stood on this site since time immemorial, at least since 1034 when Malcolm II died here. Today’s structure is 14th century, with late 17th century additions and embellishments to resemble a French chateau.

The building stone used was locally-quarried pink sandstone. Only Duncan’s Hall, said to be the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, and the fifteen-foot-thick walls of the square tower are original.

From the windows of the upper floor and the battlements is a beautiful view of the fertile Vale of Strathmore and elaborate gardens

conspiring to murder James V. The castle was forfeited to the crown, which is why the Royal coat of arms surmounts the entrance door be-side those of the Lyon’s.

Inside, fine panelled walls are graced by tapestries, antique furniture and paintings and collections of china and armour. In the grounds is something very new-the castle’s first nature trail.

In common with other landowners, Strath-more Estate fells trees once they have reached the right specifications for sale. Gone is the demand for the giant, straight trunks of the Douglas fir to make masts for sailing ships. Modern plantations are of quick-growing con-ifers for paper and larch for fencing panels. Along this half-mile trail, at least, the glorious, if uneconomic, specimen trees remain to delight the walker.

Following well-defined paths, it is impossible not to recognise the massive dark bulk of Douglas firs, some of them over a hundred years old. The ground underfoot is littered by their long, bracted cones. Although the larch also has cones, it is one of the few deciduous conifers. For although its tiny needles break fresh green each spring, they turn yellow and fall to the ground in late autumn. Most woodlands of any great age contain a yew tree or two. The hard, yet malleable wood has always been prized, especially for making long bows and furniture. Here at Glamis there are both male trees, covered in cream pollen cones during the winter, and female trees, identifiable in autumn by their succulent-looking red berries. Picking them is a temptation to be avoided, for all the tree is poisonous.

There are broadleaves too, such as the vibrant beech which turns into many shades of gold in October, or its elegant cousin, the copper beech, resplendent in a cloak of burnished bronze. Makes a better specimen oak than for the leaves have short stalks, yet the acorns stick out on long twigs. Like the sycamore, oaks spread their seedlings wide, and the forest floor erupts with tiny bonsai-like trees each summer.

Fighting for space and daylight are ground cover plants such as rhododendrons, which break into a mass of scented colour each June. Along the trail are banks of dog’s mercury and forget-me-not and another plant not so easily recognised. Tuberous comfrey, with its bristly-veined leaves and drooping clusters of pale flowers, is seldom found outside Angus, although here it is a common woodland dweller.

Only the fortunate few spot the ruddy-red coat of a roe deer as it skips through the forest. Far more common, although not to those south of the border, is the glimpse of a red squirrel as it jumps between the trees like a trapeze artist. Parts of Scotland are still without the larger, more aggressive grey squirrel which was introduced from North America at the expense of our native variety and our woodlands.

Even without seeing the source, the noises of the wood can be recognised. The gentle coo-ing of the woodpigeon is rudely interrupted by the staccato drilling of a greater-spotted woodpecker, or the mocking laugh of another member of the family, the green woodpecker. A rustle in the undergrowth or a narrow track among the grass is a give-away that a rabbit’s burrow is near. With the large families that Glamis’ woods support and an energetic mole population, walking amongst the woodlands off the beaten track without due care could result in a sprained ankle.

The trail skirts Glamis burn, which is stocked with brown and rainbow trout and inhabited by pairs of mallards, coots and water-hens. Occasionally a long-legged heron will visit the burn to fish, and there is always a chance of seeing the brilliant electric-blue flash of a darting kingfisher.

The region around Glamis, north of Dundee is a rich, fertile belt of land where miles are sown to arable crops and cereals. It is famous for seed potatoes and the soft fruits which ripen in a trough of sheltered countryside are sent to the restaurants of Edinburgh and further south.

One side of the Glamis estate is bordered by the Water of Dean, a tributary of the Isla which links this river with Glamis. The rewards of fishing it are similar to those of nearby Kerbet Water, trout and grayling.

In the village of Glamis, a low-slung terrace of 17th-century stone cottages have been converted into a museum of local domestic and agricultural life up to the 19th century. Near Kirkwynd Cottages in the manse garden is the Malcolm Stone, said to be the gravestone of King Malcolm II. Experts set the date much earlier, at around 9th-10th century.

One of Scotland’s best-loved story-tellers, author of J M Barrie was born in a small house at Kerriemuir. Today Number 9, Brechin Road is a museum full of his personal mementoes and early jottings.

Like Glamis Castle, Forfar, the county town of Angus, has a violent history. The town hall has preserved the Forfar bridle, an iron collar with a prong which was used to silence witches during torture and persecution. The shores of the Forfar Loch were the battlefields of Picts and Scots for the last time before the kingdoms were at last united.

Less bloodthirsty, the son of the king who died at the site of Glamis Castle, Malcolm II, obviously had a penchant for fish, for a track known as King’s Codger’s Road once ran from Forfar east to the sea at Usan. By foot or pony, this ensured the king of a ready supply of fresh fish. His castle (and his kitchens) were destroyed by Robert the Bruce, who in turn buried his son at Restenneth Priory. Today