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Last updated on March 23rd, 2021
Spynie Palace, near Elgin in the Moray region of Scotland, was home to the bishops of Moray for over 500 years. The palace is managed by Historic Environment Scotland and is open to the public for self-guided tours.
Review of 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 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 while mums and dads chill out on the benches in the picnic area and look across the fields at the woodland surrounding the site.
Things to do at Spynie Palace
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 can discover more Scottish fortifications in my Guide to the Best Castles in Scotland. You’ll also find inspiration for places to visit in my Guide to the Best Attractions in the Scottish Highlands.
- Spynie Palace is close to Elgin so you can also visit Elgin Cathedral in the same day.
- The palace has lots of areas to explore which kids will love. The tower also has amazing views from the top.
- 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 into Elgin.
- Get a Historic Environment Scotland membership and save money 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.
- If you’d like to visit another HES site you’ll find Dallas Dhu Distillery 16 miles west on the A96.
Things to do near Spynie Palace
- 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.
- 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 is a popular place for water sports enthusiasts. It is also a prime marine wildlife-spotting site thanks to the dolphins and seals that are frequently seen offshore.
- 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.
Address and map
Tickets 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.
- 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
Photos and video
More places to visit in Grampian
- Braemar – Aberdeenshire: Complete Visitor GuideBraemar is a small village in Aberdeenshire that is located near the River Dee. The village is a popular tourist destination due to the number of outdoor activities on offer with hikers using the village as a base to explore Glen Tilt, Glen Dee, Glen Derry and Glen Feshie. The annual Highland Games Gathering is held in Braemar on the first Saturday in September and is traditionally attended by members of the British royal family.
- Dunnottar Castle – Aberdeenshire: Complete Visitor GuideDunnottar Castle is set on a dramatic clifftop overlooking the North Sea near the coastal town of Stonehaven. The 15th-century castle was the home of the Earls Marischal and it offers a fascinating glimpse into Scotland’s past.
- Cullen – Moray: Complete Visitor GuideWhile most visitors to Cullen will undoubtedly have an ‘ah, of course…!’ moment when they realise this pretty little village is actually the birthplace of Cullen Skink soup, they’ll likely have several more unexpected outbursts once they start roaming the gorgeous coastline that borders the village.
- Portsoy – Aberdeenshire: Complete Visitor GuidePortsoy is one of those hidden gems that you’ve probably never heard of, but if you get the chance to explore this quiet section of Aberdeenshire you really should take the time to check it out.
- Duff House – Aberdeenshire: Complete Visitor GuideThe historic coastal town of Banff in the north-east of Scotland is becoming increasingly popular with tourists who visit in their droves to explore the rugged coastline and secluded coves and beaches that this part of the country is famous for.