Glamis Avenue in Bell Block was named after a Scottish castle that provided the legendary setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Part of a 1975 subdivision in the area called Kingsdown, the avenue and other nearby streets were given the names of famous British fortresses to play on the association between castles and kings. The name Glamis (pronounced ‘Glarms’) is thought to come from the Scottish Gaelic word ‘glam’, meaning to devour.

Home to the Earls of Strathmore since 1372, Glamis Castle has long been connected with tales of secret passages, hidden prisoners, vampires and spectres. Visitors have often commented on the chilling atmosphere of the place, with Sir Walter Scott writing in the 1790s that as soon as he was alone in his room he began to feel “too far from the living and somewhat too near to the dead”.

The castle certainly has a dark history. Scottish king Malcolm II was murdered nearby and past Lords were said to have walled their enemies up inside to die of starvation. Other ghosts reputed to haunt the grounds include that of Lady Janet Douglas who was burnt at the stake for witchcraft in 1537.

But the castle has a gentler side as well. The Queen Mother, daughter of the fourteenth Earl of Strathmore, spent her childhood there and it was used as a convalescent hospital for soldiers during World War One.

Glamis Castle is also famed for its beautiful gardens. Perhaps this was why all new Kingsdown householders were given a free $100 voucher for shrubs and seedlings, redeemable at Duncan and Davies nursery. The developers were proud of their planting programme and its “pleasing effect”, highlighting in a 1976 newsletter the fact that over 80 trees had already been planted on berms out of more than 1000 planned for the area.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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