Abandoned: The Largest Medieval palace in Scotland

 
 
 
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Spynia palace stands as one of the oldest castles known to history. Built circa 1150 from nothing but wood, it stood still against all of the threats that were imposed upon it.

It was not until 1984 when the first excavations were made.

The old southwestern tower. Photo Credit
The old southwestern tower. Photo Credit

It was recently discovered that the original structure was surrounded by a ring work of a rectangular shape, and a ditch similar to those the 14th century castles had, known as a “curtain wall”.

Every castle needs a main gate, and Spynie Palace’s door lay to the south. Once inside, the gate led through a square full of buildings, and into the central courtyard.

The first castle was a wooden structure built in the late 12th century. Photo Credit
The first castle was a wooden structure built in the late 12th century. Photo Credit

It was in the 13th century that this castle was transformed into a stone fortress built with sandstone. The first building erected was the chapel, which had some of the first colored windows, three pointed-arched windows.

And as every castle needs residents, the first people to step inside Spynie Palace were the Bishops of Moray.

It was the fortified seat of the Bishops of Moray for about 500 years. Photo Credit
It was the fortified seat of the Bishops of Moray for about 500 years. Photo Credit

A century later this little church was transformed into a cathedral, a place where the bishop’s throne was located.

Back in the days, the Spynie Palace stood on the edge of a sea-loch, perfect for little fishing boats and large merchant ships, and outside of its gate and into the shadows of its magnificence was a thriving settlement.

Interior of David's Tower showing put-log holes for floors and plastered walls. Photo Credit
Interior of David’s Tower showing put-log holes for floors and plastered walls. Photo Credit

But as everyone knows, time is the ultimate soul merchant.  Today there is no sign of the loch and a large part of it is used for farming.

 

David's Tower. Photo Credit
David’s Tower. Photo Credit

There will be no castle if there are no royal visitors, and this palace was visited by some of history’s most famous Kings and Queens such as: David II, Robert II, James I, James II, James IV, James VI and Mary, Queen of Scots.

On her way from the Huntly expedition Mary and her forces took refuge inside the walls of Spynie Palace from 17th to the 19th September of 1562. James VI was inside the walls of this castle in 1589.

Bishops David Stewart's and Patrick Hepburn's armorial shields below. Photo Credit
Bishops David Stewart’s and Patrick Hepburn’s armorial shields below. Photo Credit

The story would not be complete without mention of the siege of the palace by General Munro in 1640.

He compelled Bishop Guthrie to surrender and so imprisoned him.

Today, visitors climb David’s Tower, where bishops once entertained kings and queens.Photo Credit
Today, visitors climb David’s Tower, where bishops once entertained kings and queens. Photo Credit

The last person that stood inside of the palace gates was Bishop Colin Falconer, who died in 1686.

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From that point forward, the palace was left as a gift for time, which has both destroyed it and preserved it to this day.