Visitor guide to the country capital of Scotland - Forfar and Glamis region of Angus. Includes all info on history, sights, tours and even accommodation.
Fourteen miles north of Dundee, just off the main A90, is Forfar, the county capital of Angus. Forfar was the ancient capital of the Picts and, though it wouldn't be picked as a top tourist destination today, it is only a few miles from the county's star attraction, Glamis Castle. The town is best known for its contribution to Scottish cuisine, the famous Forfar Bridie, a gigantic shortcrust pastie filled with mince and onions.
Phone code: +44 (0)1307
Local Sights & Activities for Forfar and GlamisSightseeing
The Meffan Gallery and Museum, at 20 West High Street, illustrates the colourful history of town and county, and includes Pictish remains and a grisly account of the witch-hunts of the 17th century. Mon-Sat 1000-1700. Tel. 464123. Free.
Two miles east of town, off the B9113, are the ruins of Restenneth Priory. The 12th-century Augustinian priory was chosen by King Robert the Bruce as the last resting place of his son, Prince John. Open at all times. Free.
About four miles southeast, on the road to Letham, is Dunnichen Hill, once known as Nechtansmere, scene of a Pictish victory in 685 AD over Ecgfrith, King of the Angles, thus assuring Scotland's independence. There used to be an open air festival started in 1985, but it seems to have petered out, sadly. (Old details of Dunnichen Gathering)
Five miles northeast of Forfar, along the B9134, is the tiny village of Aberlemno, home to some of the country's best Pictish stones. In the churchyard, just off the main road, is an eighth-century cross-slab with a Celtic cross, entwined beasts on one side and an elaborate depiction of the Battle of Nechtansmere on the other. (some details of the church and photographs of the cross) There are three other stones with Pictish and early-Christian symbols by the roadside. There are plans to move the stones to a protected site, so check with the TIC before visiting. Open access except Nov-Mar. Free.
Buses from Forfar to Brechin stop in Aberlemno.
Glamis Castle & Village
There are several places to stay in Forfar, but Kirriemuir is nicer and equally convenient for Glamis Castle. Five miles southwest of Forfar is the county's star attraction, Glamis Castle (pronounced Glamz), the fabulous family home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne. Glamis is every inch the archetypal Scottish castle, and one of the most famous. This was the setting for Shakespeare's Macbeth, but its royal connection doesn't end there. It was the childhood home of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and the birthplace of her daughter and the present queen's late sister Princess Margaret. The setting matches the impeccable pedigree. As you approach down the long, tree-lined drive, the castle suddenly appears in all its glory, the jumble of turrets, towers and conical roofs rising up against the backdrop of the Grampian Mountains like one of Walt Disney's fairy-tale fantasies. Most of the building you see dates from the 15th century, though the glamorous touches were added in the 17th century.
The five-storey, L-shaped castle grew from its humble beginnings as a mere hunting lodge, used by the Kings of Scotland in the 11th century. In 1372 King Robert II gave it to his son-in-law, Sir John Lyon, whose descendants, the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, have lived here ever since. The 14th Earl was the Queen Mother's father.
Highlights of the tour include the 17th-century drawing room, with its impressive plasterwork ceilings, and the ghostly crypt, haunted by Lord Glamis and Crawford who was entombed within its walls as punishment for playing a few hands of gin rummy with the Devil on the Sabbath. The 17th-century chapel, with its biblical frescoes, is also haunted, this time by the 'grey lady', the ghost of the sixth Lady Glamis, who was burnt as a witch by James V. Duncan's Hall is reputedly where King Duncan was murdered by Macbeth, though, like much else in the play, this is very doubtful. You can also see the Royal Apartments, including the Queen Mother's bedroom, and the extensive grounds are also well worth exploring. There's a restaurant on site.
Late Mar to end Oct daily 1030-1730 (Jul-Aug from 1000), last admission 1645. Guided tours last one hour and leave every 15 mins. Tel. 840393. Official website
Getting to Glamis Castle
There's a limited bus service from Dundee, Forfar and Kirriemuir. Contact Strathtay Buses which is now part of the Stagecoach group.
In the village of Glamis, just off the square, is the Angus Folk Museum. It's housed in a picturesque row of 18th-century cottages which are divided into domestic and agricultural sections. The changes in living and farming in Angus over the last 200 years are vividly illustrated with the help of a vast collection of local artefacts. Easter and 1 May-Sep daily 1100-1700; weekends only in Oct 1100-1700. Tel. 840233
Self Catering Cottages in Glamis Village
- GLAMIS - Angus Sleeps 2
The best place to eat is O'Hara's, 41-43 West High St, Tel. 464350. Bar-bistro offering great food with an inventive twist and real ales. Food served Mon-Sat lunch and evening. Also good is the Chapelbank House Hotel, at 69 East High St, Tel. 463151. They serve a good, cheap lunch daily except Mon, and moderately priced dinner daily except Sun and Mon. They also have boutique style spacious rooms as well. Wifi available and free parking.
Several bakeries in town sell forfar bridies (explanation of what it is), but the locals will tell you that the best place to sample this delight is McLaren's, next to the Queen's Hotel on West High St. (see their bridie website)
Travel Directions to Forfar and Glamis
Scottish Citylink buses run to and from Dundee every 2 hrs (25 mins) and Aberdeen (1 hr 20 mins), via Brechin (20 mins). Buses stop opposite the church in East High St. Strathtay Scottish, Tel. 01382-228054, runs buses every hr to Kirriemuir (25 mins) and to Brechin via Aberlemno. Forfar's Tourist Information Centre is at 45 East High St, Tel. 467876. Apr-Jun and Sep Mon-Sat 1000-1700; Jul-Aug Mon-Sat 0930-1730.