Spynie Palace, near Elgin in the Moray region of Scotland, was home to the bishops of Moray for over 500 years. Historic Environment Scotland is in charge of managing the palace, which is accessible to the general public for self-guided tours.
Discover Spynie Palace with this guide which includes an overview, visiting advice, and good-to-know tourist information.
|Opening Hours:||1 May to 30 Sept:|
Sun & Mon, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm (last entry 5 pm)
|Admission Price:||Adult (16-64yrs) £7.00|
Concession (65yrs+ and unemployed) £5.50
Child (5-15yrs) £4.00
Family (1 adult, 2 children) £14.00
Family (2 adults, 2 children) £20.00
Family (2 adults, 3 children) £24.00
|Parking:||Free on-site car park|
|Contact:||01343 546 358|
|Facilities:||Toilets, disabled access, gift shop, picnic area, water refill|
Spynie Palace is located in the heart of the lovely Moray countryside, where the imposing walls of this immense building served as the fortified home to the bishops of Moray for over 500 years.
Today the majority of the structure is in ruins, but thankfully it’s in the care of Historic Environment Scotland which has renovated the site for future generations to enjoy.
While it’s not exactly a palace – don’t go thinking you’re going to see anything similar to Edinburgh’s Holyrood Palace (which you can read about in my Complete Guide to Holyrood Palace) – it’s still an impressive building that will give you an hour or two of exploring.
Although the cathedral a short distance away in Elgin is renowned for its intricate stonework, the old bishop’s home at Spynie Palace is equally well-known thanks to David’s Tower, the immense tower house which is the largest by volume to survive anywhere in Scotland.
This historic attraction has more to offer than you might think and it’s probably one of the most underrated attractions in the Elgin area.
Set in a gorgeous countryside setting it’s perfectly suited for sunny family afternoons out and there’s a fairly large expanse of grass where the kids can run about and explore the ruins.
Meanwhile, mums and dads chill out on the benches in the picnic area and look across the fields at the woodland surrounding the site.
1: Spynie Palace is located 2 miles north of Elgin so you can also visit Elgin Cathedral in the same day, or if you’d prefer a walk Lossiemouth East Beach is only 4 miles to the north.
2: The palace has lots of nooks and crannies for children to explore. The tower also has amazing views from the top.
3: The picnic area in the grounds is a lovely place to take a packed lunch. Well, at least in summer it is. If you’re visiting in winter and looking for food you’d be best off taking a trip to Elgin.
1: Get a Historic Environment Scotland membership and save money on historic attractions like this. Membership allows free entry to all HES sites.
2: Get a Synie Palace/Elgin Cathedral joint entrance ticket and explore both attractions at a discount. You can find out all about Elgin Cathedral with this article: Complete Guide to Elgin Cathedral.
3: If you’d like to visit another HES site you’ll find Dallas Dhu Distillery 16 miles west on the A96.
St. David’s Tower is the biggest section of the palace and it’s quite an experience to walk in and just look up at the walls towering above you.
Historic Environment Scotland has done a good job of installing information panels throughout the site so you can learn about each section of the palace as you make your way around, and there are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore too.
Once inside the tower you can explore the semi-hidden rooms that extend out from the floor level before heading up the winding spiral staircase to take in breathtaking views across the Moray countryside.
The views here are fantastic and they’re definitely worthy of a photo or two, although if you don’t like heights you might want to stop at the lower viewing platform which lets you appreciate the size of David’s Tower without having to climb to the top.
It’s difficult to comprehend how the tower would have looked in medieval times but the column of ascending windows at least gives you an idea of where the floors would have been originally installed.
Make no mistake, this would have been one of the most impressive buildings in Scotland back in its heyday.
Heading back outside you can venture down into the basement depths where you’ll find a series of storerooms, after which you can go back up to the main courtyard to appreciate the size of the grounds.
The site was so large that it even had its own bowling green at one time, as well as a tennis court. These are two very good reasons why the palace was also used as a guesthouse for royalty travelling through the region.
I really enjoyed my visit to Spynie Palace and I’d say there’s enough on offer to keep families entertained for a good couple of hours, and the facilities are pretty decent for such a remote attraction.
There are a couple of picnic benches to one side of the lawn area with toilets nearby and you’ll find a small shop inside the ticket office where the HES guide will be able to answer any questions you might have.
It was thanks to the guide that I found out that for a small additional cost you can extend your visit to include Elgin Cathedral as well, which is something I definitely recommend you do if you’ve got any interest in Scotland’s history.
Even better, you’re only a 10-minute drive from Lossiemouth so if you don’t fancy heading into Elgin you can enjoy the gorgeous stretch of sand along the East Beach – which you can read about in my Complete Guide to Lossiemouth East Beach.
You’ll find inspiration for more places to visit in my Guide to the Best Attractions in the Scottish Highlands.
Discover more castles to visit in Scotland with: The Best Castles in Scotland – Ultimate Visitor Guide.
Things to do
Explore the Buildings: Dive into the history of Spynie Palace, the largest surviving medieval bishop’s house in Scotland. Marvel at David’s Tower, a grand six-story tower with panoramic rooftop views, and learn about the palace’s history, from its establishment in the 12th century to its abandonment in the 17th century.
Elgin Cathedral: Visit Spynie Palace’s sister site in Elgin. The cathedral ruins are fascinating to walk around and provide a deeper understanding of the bishops who lived in Spynie Palace. A joint ticket can be purchased that allows entry into both sites at a discounted price.
Wildlife Spotting: The palace grounds and nearby RSPB Loch Spynie are home to a variety of wildlife. Take your binoculars (link to binocular reviews) and enjoy birdwatching with the chance to spot ospreys, mute swans and a variety of ducks. You might also see red squirrels in the woodlands and frogs and toads hiding in the reedbeds.
Photography: The scenic beauty of Spynie Palace and its surroundings make it a paradise for photographers. Capture the stunning architecture of the palace and the picturesque views from the top of David’s Tower.
Picnicking: Pack a picnic and enjoy your lunch in the peaceful surroundings of Spynie Palace. The lawns are a good place to let the kids run around while you relax in the peace and quiet of the grounds.
Historical Origins: Spynie Palace, also known as Spynie Castle, dates back to the 12th century, making it one of Scotland’s oldest surviving medieval residences. It was the residence of the Bishops of Moray for over 500 years.
David’s Tower: The most striking feature of Spynie Palace is David’s Tower, named after Bishop David Stewart, who commissioned its construction in the 15th century. Standing at 22 meters high, it’s one of the largest and best-preserved tower houses in Scotland.
Strategic Location: The palace was strategically located near the shore of Spynie Loch, a large sea loch that provided easy access to the North Sea. Over time, the loch silted up, and the palace now stands approximately two miles from the sea.
Wildlife Haven: Today, the area around Spynie Palace is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The now freshwater Spynie Loch is home to the largest reed bed in North Scotland.
Royal Visit: King James IV of Scotland was a frequent visitor to Spynie Palace, having developed a close friendship with Bishop William Elphinstone.
Cathedral Connection: Spynie Palace is closely linked with Elgin Cathedral, known as the ‘Lantern of the North’. The bishops who resided at Spynie Palace were responsible for the cathedral, one of Scotland’s most important medieval buildings.
Things to do nearby
Lossiemouth East Beach. Lossiemouth IV30 8NQ. 10-minute drive.
An exceptionally long golden sand beach that faces the North Sea. Due to its windswept location it’s a popular place for water sports. It’s also a prime marine wildlife-spotting site thanks to the dolphins and seals that are frequently seen offshore.
Duffus Castle. Elgin IV30 5RH. 11-minute drive.
Medieval ruins situated on raised earthworks dating from the 12th century. The castle was inhabited for nearly 500 years before falling into ruin. It is now managed by Historic Environment Scotland.
Moray Motor Museum. Bridge St, Elgin IV30 4DE. 6-minute drive.
This museum is housed in a converted grain mill in the centre of Elgin. There is a large collection of vehicles inside including vintage cars, motorbikes and model cars.
Elgin Museum. 1 High St, Elgin IV30 1EQ. 8-minute drive.
Elgin Museum serves to educate and inform visitors about the history of Elgin as well as the surrounding area. On display are a variety of exhibits of natural history, geology and archaeology.
Elgin Cathedral. King St, Elgin IV30 1HU. 7-minute drive.
A 13th-century cathedral that is mostly in ruin apart from two towers that contain original stone carvings and artefacts from the cathedral’s history. An octagonal chapter house is also almost entirely intact.
Frequently asked questions
How do I get to Spynie Palace?
Address: Moray, IV30 5QG
Directions map: Google Maps
How much does it cost to visit Spynie Palace?
Visit the tickets page for the latest entry prices.
Who lived in Spynie Palace?
Spynie Palace was built as a fortified residence for the bishops of Moray. It was originally constructed in the late 1100s but the oldest surviving buildings date from the 1300s.
What visitor facilities are there at Spynie Palace?
Visit the facilities page for updated information on available facilities.