Spynie Palace

Spynie Palace

Spynie Palace Details

  • Access: Historic Scotland
  • Condition: ruin
  • First build century: 13th
  • Closest To: Elgin, Lossiemouth
  • Grid Ref: NJ230658
  • Last use century: 18th

Spynie Palace is a large courtyard castle of several periods, dominated by the largest tower-house in Scotland, the 15th century Davie’s Tower. Built on the site of and incorporating parts of an earlier castle dating from the 13th century, the castle developed into an impressive dwelling used by the Bishops of Moray through to the Reformation.

The castle is on a ridge of land overlooking Spynie Loch, now largely drained farmland, but at the time of building a saltwater loch enabling the castle was able to be supplied by sea. The ridge was also for a short period of time the site of the cathedral church of the Bishop of Moray, which was relocated to Elgin. An early courtyard castle with at least one round tower was built along the perimeter.

The early castle was probably destroyed by Bishop David Murray, a strong supporter of Robert the Bruce, during the Wars of Independence, but it was rebuilt soon afterwards. The rebuild must have been in some strength since Spynie was not targeted by the Wolf of Badenoch during his well-known feud with the Bishop of Moray.

The castle was developed by successive Bishops until it took the form of a quadrangle, with square towers at three of the corners, and Bishop David Stewarts Tower at the fourth, built in response to threats from the Earl of Huntly, whom he had excommunicated due to non-payment of debts. A largely decorative gatehouse to the east replaced an earlier simple gatehouse, and ranges of buildings extended along all four sides of the courtyard. Extensive gardens and orchards surrounded it to the south.

After the Reformation, the lands of Spynie were erected into a Barony, with the Palace as its seat, although it took some hard bargaining to force the Earl of Huntly to hand it over to the new Lord Spynie. By 1690, the castle had fallen into disrepair, and when it was annexed to the Crown again in that year was uninhabitable due to the removal of all the wood and iron. By 1775 even the great Tower was in ruins. Spynie Palace is managed by Historic Scotland and is open to the public during the tourist season.

Official Historic Scotland page

HES Canmore database entry