Ancient Monuments

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Spynie Palace

A Scheduled Monument in Fochabers Lhanbryde, Moray

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Latitude: 57.6761 / 57°40'33"N

Longitude: -3.2922 / 3°17'31"W

OS Eastings: 323029

OS Northings: 865867

OS Grid: NJ230658

Mapcode National: GBR L87F.NLS

Mapcode Global: WH6J7.DBJ9

Entry Name: Spynie Palace

Scheduled Date: 30 April 1920

Last Amended: 9 October 1995

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM90282

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: palace

Location: Spynie

County: Moray

Electoral Ward: Fochabers Lhanbryde

Traditional County: Morayshire


The monument consists of the remains of the palace of the bishops of Moray at Spynie. The bishopric was established c.1107, but little is known of its history until a century later, when the church of the Holy Trinity at Spynie was chosen as the cathedral. In 1224, the bishop's cathedra was transferred to Elgin, but Spynie continued to be the principal residence of the bishops until 1686, just before the final abolition of episcopacy in the Church of Scotland.

The earliest surviving parts of the palace date to the 14th century, and include a first-floor chapel and entrance gateway on the S and what may have been a hall range with tall traceried windows on the W. These would have enclosed two sides of a roughly rectangular area, protected apparently by a rounded tower on the SW and defined on the N and E by the natural fall of the land down to the edge of Spynie Loch.

In the 15th century, a large rectangular tower replaced the earlier corner-tower. This was begun by Bishop David Stewart (1461-77), and completed by his successor William Tulloch (1477-82). It is one of the largest tower-houses in Scotland, and contained a first-floor hall below three floors of chambers and an additional attic storey. Other smaller chambers and latrine closets were built into the thickness of the E wall.

To the N of the tower, the earlier hall range was demolished and replaced by a service range. Around 1500, a great hall was built on the N side of the site, with bakehouse and kitchens to the W of it. At about the same time, the old S entry was replaced by a new gate on the E, and rectangular towers were added to the NW and SE corners. During the time of Bishop Patrick Hepburn (1539-73) these and the principal tower were provided with wide-mouthed openings for cannon.

In the middle ages, the palace would have been associated with the buildings of the toun of Spynie, which was made a free burgh of barony by James II in 1451. Most of the buildings probably lay S of the palace, but their remains have now been largely destroyed by ploughing; but remains of other structures, shell middens and a well survive along the foot of the sand cliff to the W of the palace.

The area to be scheduled includes the remains of the palace, the well, and the middens and structures to the west, and represents an area extending some 425m E-W by 175m N-S, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance because, along with St Andrew's Castle, Fife, it represents one of the largest and best preserved medieval bishop's palaces surviving in Scotland. Its importance is enhanced by the surviving unexplored below-ground archaeology of the palace area itself, and of the zone extending W from it.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NJ 26 NW 10.


Lewis, J. (1986) Excavations Reports in Discovery and Excavation in Scotland.

MacGibbon, D. and Ross, T. (1887-92) The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, 5 vols. Edinburgh, I, 439-445.

Pringle, D. Spynie Palace (Historic Scotland: forthcoming).

Shaw, L. (1882) The History of the Province of Moray[1775], new edition by J. F. S. Gordon, 3 vols., Glasgow.

Simpson, D. W. (1927) The Palace of the Bishops of Moray at Spynie (Elgin).
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Spynie Palace
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Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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