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The Out About Scotland complete guide to Spynie Palace
Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 7 out of 10
About Spynie Palace
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 who have maintained and repaired the entire 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 a good hours-worth of exploring.
Although the cathedral, a short distance away in Elgin, is renowned for its architecture 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 while mums and dads chill out on the benches in the picnic area and look across at the fields and woodland surrounding the site.
Things to do at Spynie Palace
St. David’s Tower is the biggest part 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 have done a good job of installing information panels throughout the tower so you can learn about each section of the palace, 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 the breathtaking views across the Moray countryside that can be found at the top.
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, and returning back to the courtyard will let you 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 good 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.
What I liked about this attraction
- It’s close to Elgin so you can also visit the cathedral in the same day
- Spynie Palace has lots of areas to explore
- The picnic area is a great place to take a packed lunch
My top tips
- Get a Historic Environment Scotland membership and save big on historic attractions like this one
- 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 my Complete Guide to Elgin Cathedral
Photos and video
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Address and directions map
Prices and opening times
Special offer! Click this affiliate link to purchase a Historic Environment Scotland Explorer Pass from Viator. Your 5-day or 14-day pass allows free entry to more than 77 castles, cathedrals, distilleries and more throughout Scotland. With passes starting at just £35 (as of 2019) it’s an absolute bargain!
- Historic Environment Scotland Members: Free
- Adult £6.00
- Child aged 5-15 £3.60
- Child under 5: Free
- Concession: £4.80
- 1 Apr to 30 Sept: Daily, 9.30am to 5.30pm. Last entry 5pm
- 1 Oct to 31 Mar: Closed
- Telephone: 01343 546 358
- email: NA
- Website: Spynie Palace
Getting there: Car park on-site
Getting around: Easy-access paths, Pushchair access
On-site conveniences: Picnic area, Snacks, Toilets