Scotland. So many castles. If you can't visit them all, how do you choose which ones to visit?
If Glamis Castle makes it to your list I can tell you that there's something really special about travelling down the long driveway. The castle gradually comes into view. It looks more and more magnificent the closer you get. It has one of the most beautiful castle shapes I've seen. A clock tower in the middle from where the rest of the building radiates outwards with towers and turrets.
How to get there
Glamis Castle is 12 miles from Dundee. If you are cycling to the castle I recommend travelling from Arbroath where the roads are not as busy with traffic. My cycling route to Glamis Castle has all the details.
The driveway to the castle is almost one mile long. Cycling down this is the best way to appreciate the unfolding view of the castle. It's just the right speed to get the full affect of the big reveal. I think doing it in a motor vehicle wouldn't be quite as impressive because you would get there too quickly.
The guided tour lets you see 10 of the 125 rooms in Glamis Castle. I think a 10 room house sounds extravagant, but 125 rooms is on a whole other level. I can't even begin to imagine what it feels like to live somewhere with that many rooms.
The Billiards Room is one of my favourites at Glamis. It's got a fine collection of books, the oldest one dates from 1510. The billiards table has a label that says 'The perfect cushions. Hurston & Co. Ltd. Leicester Square.' The burn marks on the table were caused by soldiers putting out cigarettes when the castle was used as a war hospital in the Great War.
Jesus wearing a hat
Did you know that there are only 6 paintings in the world that depict Christ wearing a hat? And that one of those paintings is in the chapel of Glamis Castle?
It's the little details like this painting that I enjoyed the most about the guided tour. Here's another one- there's a travelling chest in Glamis that's made of shark skin. The idea was that if the chest fell off a boat and into the water the shark skin made it waterproof and protected the contents.
A pet bear called Fred
There's a lot of taxidermy in the castle. The most intriguing is a bear who was a family pet called Fred. My guide told me that Fred used to be taken walks on a leash and on one occasion he came off the leash and had an unfortunate encounter with a Highland Cow. The cow was protective of its calf and killed Fred.
Glamis was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. She was the daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore- the castle is the ancestral seat of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne. There are Royal Apartments where there is a phone with a direct dial to Buckingham Palace.
You usually find a tea room in historic properties, but Glamis has something that is a bit more special. It's called the Castle Kitchen and is located inside the huge Victorian kitchens, so there are plenty of original features. The menu features fruit and vegetables from the Castle's walled garden and you can even have afternoon tea with a glass of presecco. On my visit I had the pea soup and it was thick, tasty and comforting.
It's the outdoor space that's often my favourite thing when visiting a Scottish castle. In my opinion the gardens at Cawdor Castle are hard to beat, but Glamis has the gorgeous Italian Garden. It's got an interesting layout of hedges and trees, including the most amazing tree canopy I have ever seen. It's like a train station canopy, but made of trees.
I was delighted by this structure and it was my favourite part of the gardens. It must have involved people with great talent, skill and a love for gardening. When I walked under it I looked up to marvel at the network of interwoven branches. In wet weather, I imagine, this is a good place to keep dry.
Highland cattle and more
If you love Scotland's iconic Highland coo then Glamis is a great place to see them.
There's also pleasant walks by the Dean Water, including a chance to cross the beautiful Earl Michael Bridge.
There's a pet cemetery that has headstones for the family pets, including a dog called Fizz Wizzie and a guinea pig called Happy. The Great Sundial of 1671 was used to set the castle's clocks. It's 7 metres high.
Outside the castle grounds you will find this lovely village with attractive cottages and stone buildings. It was built, mainly, to rehouse estate workers when the castle was being redeveloped under the 9th Earl of Starthmore.
Glamis Castle is in Angus, not far from Dundee and you can get there by following my cycling route.
Start at Arbroath station
Glamis Castle is only 12 miles from Dundee, however, there are a lot of busy roads in and around Dundee. That's why I recommend taking your bike on the train to Arbroath. Although this means a longer, 20 mile cycle, you will be on quieter roads. I experienced long stretches with no motor vehicles on the road.
A train to Arbroath takes around:
You should leave the station via Keptie Street. This is where you will find the Keptie Bakery. They are know for their award winning pies and scones.
Take the B9127
Once you have left Arbroath it's pretty standard Scottish B-road scenery. It's farming country. It's pleasant, but nothing to get too excited about.
The one thing that stood out was the interesting place names- Hayhillock, Kirkbuddo, Whigstreet. The highest hill in the area is called Carrot Hill.
Milton Haugh Farm Shop
After 6.5 miles you come to a farm shop, located inside a converted barn. It's worth stopping here to pick up some fresh, Angus, produce. I bought some delicious raspberries that oozed with sweet, luscious juiciness.
There's also a cafe serving good coffee, home baking, soups, baked potatoes and other meals. It's got roof beams, a wagon wheel chandelier and a mural with a farming scene of tractor in the fields and a happy family.
Inverarity Parish Church
Surounded by farmlands is this small white church of a type you can see in many parts of Scotland. It's about 7 miles from Milton Haugh Farm Shop. The church is Georgian architecture and was built in 1754. A simple design, but I love churches like this.
Inverarity has a couple of unusual features. The bell is from Holland, cast around 1614. There's a stained glass window that has three geese.
There are some interesting headstones at Inverarity. Look out for the elaborately carved stone that was purchased by a watchmaker in Forfar for his sister.
The final 6.7 miles of the route were the best part. This is where Angus really starts to show off. There are tree-lined sections of road that are so pretty you'll want them to last forever. It's the countryside roads that are in your cycling dreams. It's like a scene from a painting because it is so perfect.
Then the Cairngorms mountain range comes into view. This happens all of a sudden, in dramatic fashion. After miles of farming land the mountains appear on the horizon. It feels like the whole ride has been building up to this finale.
There is a bit of a climb to get to this point, but it is followed by a fast descent that will have you crying out for joy, or at least grinning all the way. As you race to the bottom your eyes are drawn to the mountain panorama.
Visiting Glamis Castle
Find out what there is to see and do in my blog about Glamis Castle