All set for new season at Glamis Castle

20150305- Glamis Castle. 'Tommy Baxter, Lynne Balneaves and Jamie McCarthy pictured in the drawing room. ''Andy Thompson Photography / ATIMAGES''No use without payment
20150305- Glamis Castle. 'Tommy Baxter, Lynne Balneaves and Jamie McCarthy pictured in the drawing room. ''Andy Thompson Photography / ATIMAGES''No use without payment

An exciting new chapter in the long history of Glamis Castle is being written with a new team in place to lead the major tourist attraction through the new season.

Local man Tommy Baxter has returned to his roots to take up the role of general manager, and since his appointment he has instigated a number of changes and secured major attractions for Glamis.

They include the return of the Glamis Prom featuring Elaine Paige and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on Saturday, July 18.

A native of Forfar, Tommy fell in love with the historic home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne during a guided tour with his mother when he was only nine years old.

His fascination and affinity for the ancestral seat, its history and its magical setting were rekindled when he became assistant to the then castle administrator, Col. David Lloyd Jones, when he was 20.

After an absence of almost 30 years he is delighted to be given the opportunity to make his mark on what he calls affectionately ‘the grand old lady of Angus.’

After 20 years working in the theatre in London and seven years in the restaurant business in Dinnet in Royal Deeside, Tommy has drawn on his experiences to make his stamp on Glamis.

He is assisted in his role by Lynne Balneaves, who worked with Lord and Lady Strathmore in David Irons and Sons in Forfar, and with Doreen Stout handling weddings, corporate events and trade shows, new head gardener Jamie McCarthy and with the guidance of Lord and Lady Strathmore, things are looking up.

Tommy is building on the foundations laid by Col. David Lloyd Jones and the approach he took to his role, acknowledging the castle’s incredible history, its contents and its role as a family home.

He said: “We have to be very respectful of this old lady who stands proud in the middle of the Strathmore valley.

“I am very aware of what everyone expects when they visit here. Everything must be pristine.

“Glamis is a magical place and I feel the Rev. John Stirton summed Glamis up perfectly when he wrote: “So long as poetry, romance and religion, have a place in Scottish life and character, the castle of dim memories, of secrets and haunting shadows, crowned with the beauty and dignity of years, will win men’s hearts by a mysterious fascination, and stir them to their very depths.”

This passionate observation will be more than evident over the coming months, with more intimate and specialised castle tours to complement the normal guided tours, some of which will be led by guides in historical costumes.

There will be a new exhibition based around the ‘Year of Food and Drink’ featuring recipe books from the 1680s, and there is a new location for the toy soldier exhibition.

The castle will re-open to the public on Friday, April 3 with an Easter weekend for all the family.

This will feature the Great Glamis Easter Egg Hunt where children will be asked to help the Good Lady Elizabeth Lyon, assisted by Willie McGhilliecurdy, hunt the eggs which have been hidden by the Grey Lady of Glamis.

A cast of actors will give four performances a day of a light-hearted re-enactment of the history of Glamis in the coach house, similar to the popular ‘Horrible Histories’ stories, on April 3, 4, 5 and 6, and on April 7 the new Food and Drink exhibition will open.

There is a full programme of entertainment for the summer months including the Strathmore Highland Games and the 41st Scottish Transport Extravaganza, as well as visits by various touring companies.

As reported last week, the walled garden is undergoing the second phase of its restoration and in this endeavour Lord Strathmore and head gardener Jamie McCarthy have been incredibly hands on.

With the expertise of Lord Strathmore’s father-in-law, the walled garden is becoming a must-see at the castle.

But the biggest coup for the year is the re-introduction of the Glamis Prom.

Tommy continued: “It is iconic. We spoke to PDF Productions who put on the ‘Party at the Palace’ at Linlithgow and they are organising it.

“I suggested they contact ‘E.P.’ about appearing at the Prom as I worked with her in London - and she agreed.

“She starred as Norma Desmond in ‘Sunset Boulevard’ in the theatre I managed; of all the Norma Desmonds, she is my favourite.

“We are working to make Glamis a place that people visit, but then come back again.

“From April 3 there will be free entry to the shop, restaurant and children’s play area with charges for the gardens and castle tours only.”