Enter the largest surviving medieval bishop’s house in Scotland – residence of the bishops of Moray for 500 years. Royalty travelling in the area sometimes used the palace as a guesthouse. Spynie Palace was for 500 years the seat of the bishops of Moray. During that time, the palace stood on the edge of Spynie Loch, a sea loch with safe anchorage for fishing boats and merchant vessels. A thriving settlement developed nearby.
Today, nothing remains of either sea loch or medieval settlement. But the impressive ruin of Spynie Palace is the largest surviving medieval bishop’s house in Scotland.
A long-lasting episcopal residence
The bishops of Moray may have established their residence at Spynie in the late 1100s. Around 1207, Bishop Brice chose the church of Spynie as his cathedral. His successor, Bishop Andrew, built a new cathedral in Elgin, but the bishops still lived at Spynie.
The oldest surviving buildings, dating from the 1300s, include a first-floor hall and perhaps a chapel, with an entrance gateway below. There was another hall range with tall windows against the west wall. A large, circular tower may have held the palace’s main accommodation (only its basement remains).
What to see and do
- Marvel at the mighty David’s Tower – the largest tower house by volume to survive in Scotland
- Spot the coats of arms of all three bishops who had a hand in building the tower house
- Look up at the corbels in the great hall – they hint at the grandeur of days gone by
- See the gun holes Bishop Hepburn had put in place just before the Protestant Reformation of 1560
- Enjoy the beauty of Spynie’s surroundings – complete with wildlife and birdsong
- Walk to the site of the old cathedral and see the burial place of James Ramsay MacDonald, Labour’s first Prime Minister
- Take our fun fact-finding quiz (also in Doric) while exploring the palace. Available on site
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