Gayle heads to Glamis Castle for a spot of apple pressing – and to find out more about the attraction’s exciting autumn offerings.
A sunlit corner of Glamis Castle’s stunning walled garden is where the magic happens.
Having worked up a sweat while pressing apples, I’m ready to taste some of the juice that’s trickled into a bowl below.
It’s slightly tart, fantastically fresh, and absolutely delicious.
I’ve joined head gardener Des Cotton for a preview of one of the apple pressing workshops taking place on Sunday (October 10) and on October 12 and 14 as part of the castle’s series of exciting autumn events.
Workshops include a tour of the grounds, a specialist talk about the huge variety of heritage apples growing in the walled garden and the icing on the cake – the chance to press fruit and drink the results!
More than 30 varieties of apple grow here at Glamis and they’re all Scottish.
One of Des’s favourites is the Bloody Ploughman, a chunky red eating apple with origins in the Carse of Gowrie.
It reputedly takes its name after a ploughman caught stealing apples from the Megginch Estate near Errol who was shot (hence the blood) by the gamekeeper.
The ploughman’s wife threw them onto a rubbish heap, and a seedling which sprouted was rescued and given the rather grisly name.
“There are lots of great stories about place names or the shapes of apples,” says Des.
“There are Catshead apples, for example, known for their resemblance to a cat’s head, and the relatively rare Yorkshire apple, Dog’s Snout. You guessed it – they’re supposed to resemble dogs’ snouts!”
Other varieties at Glamis include the James Grieve, Tower of Glamis, Lass O’ Gowrie, Stobo Castle, Scots Dumpling and White Melrose.
“Most are grown in the walled garden using the ‘espalier’ method which is a decorative and functional way to grow apples,” explains Des.
“Basically, a central stem is trained upwards with horizontally-trained branches fixed on wires along the wall.”
Des waxes lyrical about the history of apples in Scotland which goes right back to around 4,500 years ago when the Romans brought them here.
“The crab apple is about as close we can get to the ‘original’ apples and many varieties have been grown from them and developed,” he says, pointing to a tree bursting with these ornamental beauties.
Des also talks about grafting, the process by which you take a cutting from an apple variety you like and graft it on to certain “root stocks” to produce a variety which boasts “vigour”, resilience and tastes nice.
But don’t worry – he promises not to get too technical. “The workshops are aimed at novices!” he laughs, seeing the blank look on my face.
The proof is in the pudding – or juice!
After all our apple chat, I’m keen to taste some, and Des is happy to oblige, cutting me a generous slice of James Grieve and White Melrose. Yum! Then it’s time to get pressing, aka, roll up my sleeves for a serious workout!
Luckily for me, Des has done a Blue Peter and has a bucket of “here’s some I prepared earlier” apples ready for action.
He’s chopped these up into small pieces, removing and discarding rotten and bruised bits as he goes.
Once I’ve poured the apples into the wooden press, Des plonks blocks a over the top, places a steel rod into a ratchet and gives me the nod.
It’s all about the cranking. I crank the ratchet handle round in circles and the deeper it goes, the tougher it gets.
Initially it seems not much is happening but soon enough, droplets start to form and before I know it, I’ve filled a jug full of juice.
The taste is absolutely sensational! Fresh, crisp, a wee bit tart – everything you’d want in an apple juice.
The walled garden not only boasts apples but exotic fruit galore inside its glass houses. Grapes, kiwi fruit, apricots, nectarines and peaches grow here in abundance.
While some goes to the castle’s restaurant, baskets of Queen Mother Grapes are gifted to the Queen when she’s at Balmoral.
Loads of exciting events
Apple pressing is not the only thing going on at Glamis Castle this autumn.
Pumpkin carving workshops take place on October 11 and 13 and from October 29 to November 7, the castle hosts its new fairytale-themed light show, Trail of Tales.
Visitors will discover an array of magical light installations including a troll bridge, a Peter Pan-themed performance and illuminated greenhouses inspired by Jack and the Beanstalk.
In Des’s words, there’ll be: “Lights, music, shadows, smoke and magic!”.
Local actors will feature on the trail recreating famous scenes from fairytales and refreshments will be available.
Helen Buchanan, general manager at Glamis Castle, is excited to offer families a variety of outdoor experiences over the colder months.
“Our apple pressing and pumpkin workshops are sure to be popular and tickets for Trail of Tales are selling fast,” she says. “Our gardens are remarkable in daylight, so an evening light show combined with whimsical storytelling is set to be a truly magical and atmospheric experience for all ages.”
- Apple Pressing Workshops, which include a goody bag, take place on October 10, 12 and 14 at 11am and 2pm.
- Pumpkin Carving Classes take place on October 10 and 13 at 10am and 3pm.
- A Trail of Tales runs from October 29 to November 7 from 4pm to 8.15pm.
- Tickets for all events must be booked in advance at glamis-castle.co.uk/events/