Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

SCA Castle Tour Of The Elgin Area - Sept 2006

Bishops House - Elgin

Bishops House - Elgin


Location: ELGIN - OS Map 28 – 221 631

Moray: In Elgin, on minor roads north of A96, south of the River Lossie, just west of the cathedral at top North College Street, at edge of Cooper Park.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Bishops House - This house might well be termed the small brother of the mighty Spynie Castle, in that it was the residence of the Bishops of Moray when they must remain closer to their Cathedral. But it was no mere town lodging, having all the features of a fortalice. Indeed, most of it was built about 1406 at the time when Bishop Innes was superintending the rebuilding of the said Cathedral, burned by the Wolf of Badenoch, and so much aware of the advantages of a fortified house. The building has undergone many changes and vicissitudes. Originally it was a tall L-shaped house consisting of main block lying east and west, with stair-tower projecting to the north. Then, in the 16th century a northern wing was added, by Bishop Hepburn, to the stair-tower, and this, with the tall arched gateway piercing it, is the portion which survives, only the partial walling of the main block remaining, to the right. The masonry is good, the walls rising to three storeys, with the stairtower a storey higher and ending in a gabled watch chamber reached by a turret stair corbelled out in the re-entrant angle. The crowsteps of the gables are of the gablet type common in ecclesiastical buildings. The windows are small, and a very fine oriel, not now in situ, enhances the east front. There are a number of heraldic panels, some of notable quality, bearing the arms of Bishops Innes, Stewart and Hepburn, and of the Earl. of Mar, son of the said Wolf of Badenoch. Here the Earl of Bothwell, Queen Mary's husband, was largely educated by his uncle, Bishop Hepburn. The basement is vaulted. The main block contained the kitchen and two cellars. The wing is unusual in having, within the tall archway, a standing- place for horses, with storage cellar adjoining. The Hall, on the first floor, formerly had fresco paintings. At the Reformation the house and adjoining lands were granted to Alexander Seton who had already received the lands of Pluscarden Priory as a 'god-bairn gift' from Mary, Queen of Scots, at the age of six. By 1581 he was called Commendator of Pluscarden; in 1585 was an Extraordinary Lord of Session as Prior of Pluscarden, and three years later was Lord Ordinary with the title of Lord Urquhart. But this was only a beginning. In 1606 he was Chancellor of Scotland and created Earl of Dunfermline. He was a most notable man, not the least in that he managed, despite all his other activities, to be contemporaneously Lord Provost of both Edinburgh and Elgin. He was, of course, the builder of many great houses, including much of Fyvie Castle and Pinkie House. This house was entire until the end of the 18th century, when it was unroofed. In 1851 the Earl of Seafield started to pull it down, but fortunately was prevented by protests, and the portions now remaining saved. The building was gifted to Elgin, and later restored largely through the efforts of Lachlan Mackintosh, the Elgin antiquary.

Martin Coventry (1995): A residence of the Bishops of Moray, Bishop's House is an altered 15th century L plan building. In the 16th century a new wing was added to the stair-tower and this, with the tall arched gateway piercing it, is the part that survives. The walls rise to three storeys, while the stair tower rises a storey higher to be crowned by a gabled watch chamber. The windows are small except for a fine oriel. The basement is vaulted, and the main block contained a kitchen and two cellars. The wing within the tall archway has a standing-place for horses with an adjoining cellar. The hall, on the first floor formerly had fresco paintings. The house was built a few years after the town and cathedral had been torched by Alexandar Stewart, the Wolf of Badenoch. After the Reformation it passed to the Setons. The house was complete until the end of the 18th century, when it was unroofed. In 1851 the Grant Earl of Seafield started to demolish it, but was stopped by protests, and the building was gifted to Elgin and later restored.

Elgin Castle
Elgin Castle


Location: OS Map 28 – 212 628

Moray: In Elgin, just north of the A96, about 05 miles west of Elgin Cathedral, just south of River Lossie on Ladyhill.

Martin Coventry (1995): Very little survives of a 12th century royal castle, built on Ladyhill. King Duncan is said to have died here in the 11th century from wounds inflicted by Macbeth at a battle near Spynie. Edward I of England stayed here for four days in 1296, during the Wars of Independence, and again in 1303, but it was recaptured by the Scots in May 1308 and never rebuilt. There are excellent views from the top. The chapel of the castle was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, hence Ladyhill.

Coxton Tower

Coxton Tower


Location: OS Map 28 – 262 607

Moray: About 3 miles east and south of Elgin, just south of the B9103 about 0.5 miles south of junction with the A96, at Coxton tower.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Coxton Tower - Standing out as something of a landmark, on rising ground three miles east of Elgin, Coxton is a small but especially interesting fortaIice, no longer inhabited but fortunately still in a fair state of preservation. Giving an appearance of greater antiquity than the accepted dating, it is a building of the first half of the 17th century, built with a notably keen eye to security, perhaps an apt enough commentary on the times.

The tower is square on plan, and the walls, up to five feet in thickness, rise four storeys to the eaves, all ceilings being vaulted, and the vaults set at right angles, one above another a most unusual provision. The roof itself is of stone slabs, carried steeply on a pointed vault, so that the house is to all intents fireproof. Even the ashlar angle-turrets which grace the north west and south east corners are stone roofed. There is an open bartizan corbelled out at the south west angle, the north eastern angle being left plain. The walls are roughcast, the gables crowstepped, the windows small, and there are numerous shot holes. Iron yetts or grilles cover certain of the windows. Although there is now a doorway into the basement vault, this will be a modern access. The original entrance is at first floor level in the south front, formerly reached by a removable timber stair although now there is a stone forestair. Above is a heraldic panel bearing the arms of Innes, the initials R.I. and A.I. and the date 1644. This gives access to the Hall and to the stairway which ris es in the north east angle. A narrow straight stair led down to the basement cellar. Formerly the tower has had a courtyard to south and east. Altogether, Coxton is exceptionally interesting, and of course very well known. Presumably there was an older building on the site, for in 1635 Innes of Leuchars and other members of the clan were ordered by the Privy Council to restore the property of 'umquhal Mr John Innes of Coxtoun' to his executors, also the 'charter-kists of Coxtoun and Balvenie as well as pay 1,000 merks for the wrong and insolence committed in the taking of the place of Coxtoun'. Innes of Leuchars was brother to Alexander, the new laird of Coxton. There seems to have been other trouble in the family, for there was another brother, James, who against the advice of his father 'undeutifully coupled himselff in marriage with Mariory Innes, dochter to Alex. Innes of Cotts', an act which so offended his 'g uidsir and faither that they mutually bound themselves to seclud the said James during all the dayes of the said Mariory's lyftyme and the airs quhatsumever gotten, or to be gotten betwix them for ever fra all benefit of inheritance. . . be richt, tailzie, successors or ony other provision quhatsumever'. Not evidently a marriage of convenience. Later, at the end of the century, Coxton was sold to the acquisitive William Duff of Dipple, father of the first Duff Earl of Fife.

Martin Coventry (1995): Coxton Tower is a tower house, square in plan, of four storeys. It is roofed with stone slabs, and has corbiestepped gables, the pitch of the roof being steep. The bartizans are stone roofed, and there is a corbelledout open parapet at one comer. The thick walls are pierced by small windows, some still with iron yetts, and many shot-holes. The tower is dated 1644, although it appears to be considerably older, and it is marked on Blaeu's Atlas Novus map of Moray, which was compiled around 1590. All the floors are vaulted, including the top storey to carry the heavy stone roof, making the tower effectively fire-proof. Although there is now an entrance to the basement, this was probably inserted later: the original entrance was at firstfloor level, and is now reached by an external stone stair of about 1846. This leads to the hall, and to the stair in one comer. The tower had a courtyard. It was a property of the Inneses of Invermarkie until sold to the Duff Earl of Fife, who built a new house nearby. The tower is roofed, and in excellent condition.

Mains of Mulben

Mains of Mulben


Location: OS Map 28 – 353 512

Moray: About 5 miles west of Keith, on minor roads north of A95 at junction with B9013 or north of the B9013, just north of Burn of Mulben, at Mains of Mulben.

Martin Coventry (1995): Mains of Mulben incorporates a 16th century tower house in what is now a T-plan house, and mostly dates from the late 17th century, It was built by the Grants. John Grant of Mulben fought against the Gordons at the Battle of Glenlivet in 1594. The property later passed to the Macphersons. The house is still occupied, and used as a farm.

Balvenie Castle

Balvenie Castle


Location: OS Map 28 – 326 409

Moray: About 0.5 miles north of Dufftown, on minor road south of the B975 just east of junction with the A941, west of River Fiddich, at Balvenie.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Balvenie - This fine castle, now happily cared for by the Ministry of Works after long being in a state of great neglect, is of especial interest in that it demonstrates the development of castle-building over a long period, in a clear and recognisable way. Dating from the 13th, 15th and late 16th centuries, it stands in a strong position above the River Fiddich half a mile north of Duff town, readily seen from the main road.

From outside the courtyard, the impression is of great age and size, in that the lofty curtain walls of the original strength, 25 and more feet in height and 7 feet thick, are still approximately entire, enclosing a large quadrangle about 160 by 130 feet. But within the enclosure it is the 16th century L shaped building which is best preserved and dominates the scene.

This forms the south eastern corner of the whole. The first, or 15th century, additions and alterations are mainly internal and are scarcely to be discerned. There has been much leanto building of various dates within the courtyard, most of which has now disappeared.

The entrance front is to the south, and the contrast between the 13th and 16th century work is very marked; the former of massive well coursed rubble, but notably plain; the latter decorated with stringcourses and panels, and pierced by many very large splayed gunloops. A feature of this work is the great projecting circular tower, at the south-east angle which protects the south and east curtains. It has a tall, slender stair turret corbelled out in its western re-entrant. The arched entrance is in the 16th century work and admits to a vaulted pend. It is still provided with its very unusual double winged iron yett, one side of which is obviously of later and poorer workmanship than the other. Stone porters' benches flank the transe, and a narrow guardroom opens on the left. Above the gateway are the Royal Arms of Scotland, and those of Stewart of Atholl, with the proudly practical motto, FYRTH FORTVIN AND FIL THI FATRIS - or, Forth Fortune, and File thy Fetters.

Of the main structure, the early work to the left contains a vaulted cellar and bakery on the ground floor, and a Great Hall with high pointed vault above. There has been another main storey higher, and a garret, but these are now roofless. The masonry of this part has suffered much at the hands of despoilers.

The 16th century portion is much better preserved, its L planned, four storey bulk being enhanced by two attractive stair towers, in addition to the aforementioned great external angle tower. The larger of these inward facing towers, containing the main stair, is corbelled out to the square at top to form the usual 16th century watch chamber. How the smaller tower was finished is not now evident. Both towers have stringcourses, are pierced by narrow slit windows, and have doors opening on to the courtyard, with empty panel spaces above. The east wing of the L seems to have been lower than the rest, and is now fragmentary.

Internally this portion of the castle has contained three barrel vaulted chambers, without fireplaces strangely, for they appear to be living rooms, with another in the foot of the south east tower. On the first floor is a fine apartment, really another Hall, which projects over the entrance pend. It has a withdrawing room to the east and this has access to a private room in the wing. There was ample bedroom accommodation higher. The great old kitchen was in one of the lean to buildings to the west. There is a circular well in the centre of the courtyard.

Balvenie anciently belonged to the great family of De Moravia. The Douglases, in their spectacular rise to power, gained it. They fell, under James the Second, but the castle was granted to John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Atholl, whose wife was the widow of the Earl of Douglas. The Stewarts retained it until the early 17th century, so the 16th century work is of their building. In 1614 it was sold by Sir James Stewart, Lord Ochiltree, to Robert Innes, 5th of Innermarkie, who was created a baronet in 1631. He and his son, staunch royalists, suffered much in the Civil War, and in 1687 Balvenie had to be sold, to Duff of Braco, ancestor of the up-and-coming Duff Earls of Fife. Despite its strength and eminence, I have not heard of Balvenie having to withstand any major assaults.

Martin Coventry (1995): In a pleasant location, Balvenie Castle consists of a large ruinous courtyard castle, with a 13th century curtain wall and surrounding ditch, a 16th century L plan tower house at one corner, and other 15th century ruined ranges within the courtyard. The walls are pierced by gunloops. The entrance, still with the original yett, is flanked by a projecting round tower. The early work contains a massive vaulted cellar and bakery on the ground floor, and a great hall with a pointed vault above. The upper floors are ruined. The 16th century L plan tower rises to four storeys. It has two stair towers, the larger of which is crowned by a corbelled out watch chamber. The windows are small. There are three barrel vaulted cellars, and another in the adjoining tower, which is a fine chamber on the first floor over the entrance pend. The Comyns built the first castle, but it was destroyed or reduced by the forces of Robert the Bruce in 1308 after having been visited by Edward I in 1304. Balvenie passed to the Douglases, who rebuilt the castle. It was granted to John Stewart, Earl of Atholl, by James II following the fall of the Black Douglases in 1455. Mary, Queen of Scots, probably visited in 1562. In 1614 Balvenie was sold to Robert Innes of Innermarkie. The castle was used by the Marquis of Montrose during his campaign against the Covenanters in 1644. It was nearby that a Covenanter force, led by Alexander Leslie, defeated a Royalist army in 1649, taking 900 prisoners. The Innes family suffered much by supporting the Royalist side in the Civil War, and had to sell the property to the Duffs of Braco in 1687. Balvenie was garrisoned by Jacobites in 1689, but in 1715 was held against them by the Duffs. It was not occupied after William Duff committed suicide here in 1718. It was unroofed by 1724, although a Hanoverian force, under the Duke of Cumberland, held it in 1746. The ruins were put into the care of the State in 1929.

Easter Elchies

Easter Elchies


Location: OS Map 28 – 279 444

Moray: About 0.5 miles north of Charlestown of Aberlour, on minor roads south of the B9102, just north of the River Spey, at Easter Elchies.

Martin Coventry (1995): Easter Elchies is a small 17th century L plan tower house which has been much altered and added to, and was partly rebuilt in 1857. The stair wing, in the centre of the main block, is crowned by a watch chamber. The gables are corbiestepped and the pitch of the roof is steep. The original entrance was in the re -entrant angle but the present entrance is now in the stair wing. Easter Elchies was a Grant property, one of the family, Patrick Grant being a well known judge. During recent restoration, many of the Victorian extensions were removed. The house is now used as offices for the Macallan Distillery.

Rothes Castle

Rothes Castle


Location: OS Map 28 – 277 490

Rothes - Moray: About 3.5 miles north of Charlestown of Aberlour, on minor road just west of the A941 to the south of Rothes, west of the River Spey, just south of The Linn.

Martin Coventry (1995):

Little remains of a 13th century keep and courtyard, except some of the curtain wall and other masonry. Edward I visited here in July 1296. In the 12th century the lands were held by the Pollocks, but passed by marriage to the Watsons, then to the Leslies, who in 1457 were made Earls of Rothes. The castle was torched by the Innes family, may have been damaged by Montrose, and largely demolished around 1660 to prevent it being used by thieves, who were harrying the area. The Leslies had moved to a house in Fife, but were created Dukes of Rothes in 1680. The property was sold to Grant of Elchies in 1700, then in 1708 to the Ogilvie Earl of Findlater, then back to the Grants Earls of Seafield.

Innes House

Innes House


Location: OS Map 28 – 278 649

Nigel Tranter (1962): At first glance, Innes House may seem as though it has strayed into this collection by mistake, so much more modern and palatial a mansion does it appear, and no fortified house. Yet to exclude it would be more of a mistake, for it quite definitely belongs to the period, the tradition, and the class of building here described. Much in advance of its time, and superficially ornate as it is, it nevertheless is basically similar to its contemporaries, being a 17th century house in the old L plan, tall, with steep roofs and dormer windows, a square stair tower rising in the reentrant angle higher than the rest, to end in a flat platform roof which itself is reached by the usual turret stair and caphouse. The walls are harled and adorned with stringcourses, and all the windows are enhanced with semi-circular or triangular pediments. This description could fit scores, almost hundreds, of other laird's houses of the period; it is only in the details and embellishments that Innes becomes unusual. Although not perhaps to be discerned at first sight, it has a great deal in common especially with Leslie Castle, in Aberdeenshire, which was built almost twenty years later although Innes of course has no angle turrets. Internally the arrangements are more or less normal for the 17th century; hall and withdrawing room on the first floor, private stair down to the laird's wine-cellar in the basement, and ample sleeping accommodation higher. Needless to say, a high standard of workmanship prevails. Innes is particularly interesting, not only on account of its advanced architecture but because of the fact that the history of its construction has been preserved.

The Laird of Innes kept the details of his correspondence and expenditure with the famous William Aitoun, 'Maister Maissoun at Heriott his work, for drawing the form of the House on paper, £26.13s.4d.' (Scots Money, equal to £2, 4s, 6d.). There is of course great similarity in style at Innes to the well-known George Heriot's School at Edinburgh, the Renaissance pediments to the windows and other ornament being almost identical.

There have been some alterations and additions in later years, but not such as to materially change the aspect. Volumes could be written about Innes and the exciting family whose seat this was, centre of a network of Innes properties and branches in the North-East. The line derived from one Berowald, probably a Fleming, to whom Malcolm the Fourth in 1160 granted the barony of Innes, being all the land, along the sea-coast between Lossie and Spey. Sir James, the 12th chief, entertained James the Third at Innes; William, the 15th, was a great Reformer; his son Alexander, 16th, was beheaded by the Regent Morton; the 17th chief resigned the chiefship to a kinsman, Alexander Innes of Crombie which led to much trouble and a disastrous feud. This 18th laird was murdered by Innes of Innermarkie in 1580, in particularly barbarous circumstances. The 19th laird was put to the horn in 1624. Sir Robert, the 20th, was a prominent Covenanter, and created a baronet in 1625. It was him who presumably built the present Innes House, which was erected between 1640 and 1653 for he welcomed King Charles the Second on his return to Scotland, at Garmouth, in 1650' His descendant the 6th baronet and 25th chief, succeeded to the Dukedom of Roxburghe in 1805. He had sold Innes in 1767 to James Duff, 2nd Earl of Fife.

Martin Coventry (1995): Innes House - Moray: About 4 miles east and north of Elgin, on minor roads north of the A96 or east of the B9013, 1.5 miles north of Urquhart, at Innes House. Innes House consists of an altered but fine 17th century L plan tower house. A square stair-tower, in the re -entrant angle, rises a storey higher than the main block and is crowned by a flat-roofed caphouse. The walls are harled, and the pitch of the roof is steep. The basement was vaulted, and the wine-cellar had a small stair up to the hall above. The hall was on the first floor, and private chambers occupied the floors above. There have been many alterations and additions. The house was built by the Innes family and designed by William Aytoun, master mason. James III visited here. Alexander, the 16th Lord Innes, was beheaded by the Regent Morton, while the 17th Lord resigned the property in favour of Alexander Innes of Crombie, which led to a feud. The 18th Lord was murdered by Innes of Innermarkie in 1580, and the 19th outlawed in 1624. The 20th Lord was a prominent Covenanter, and it was he who built the present house between 1640 and 1653. Innes was sold to James Duff, 2nd Earl of Fife, in 1767, and later passed to the Tennant family.

Spynie Palace

Spynie Palace


Location: OS Map 28 – 231 658

Moray: About 2.5 miles north of Elgin, on minor roads east of the A941, west of Spynie Loch, south of the Terchick Burn (Spynie Canal), at Spynie.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Spynie - Undoubtedly this is one of the finest 15th century castles in the land, and while this is perhaps no testimonial to the piety of the great churchmen of the Middle Ages, it certainly is to their wealth, building ability and taste. For Spynie was the palace of the Bishops of Moray, and vividly it emphasises their power and state. The ruinous but still magnificent remains stand on rising ground at the south end of Spynie Loch, two miles north of the bishops' great Cathedral of Elgin.

The castle, which dates from various periods, has consisted of a great keep at the south-west corner of a large courtyard area, with square towers at each of the other corners, a handsome gatehouse in the east front, and subsidiary buildings, including a chapel, erected within the high enclosing walls. Usually in such cases the original building was the keep, and the rest developing therefrom. Not so at Spynie. The castle was here before the great keep; indeed the gatehouse predates much of the other work and bears the arms of Bishop Innes, consecrated in 1406. We know that the keep was built by Bishop David Stewart (1461-75) who, having excommunicated the Earl of Huntly and other Gordons, was threatened by the Earl that he would come and pull him out of his pigeonholes at Spynie; the prelate's answer was that he would build a house out of which Gordon and all his clan could not pull him, and this great tower was the result. Presumably the earlier work was less secure.

The keep, rising from a bold splayed plinth, is six storeys and 70 feet high to the parapet. The walls measure 62 by 44 feet and are over ten feet thick, save where they face into the courtyard. Unfortunately most of the parapet and above has gone, but there have been the usual open rounds at the angles, gables within the walk to north and south, and a caphouse above the stair-head in the northeast angle. There was a curious arrangement of entrances at basement level, by one door from within the courtyard and another without. The latter would seem to be a source of weakness, but it gave access only to a narrow private stair in the walling which led to the Hall on the first floor. Presumably it could be easily defended and provided a convenient private exit for the Bishop. The inner entrance led to the pit or prison, a large and most unpleasant circular vaulted chamber, some steps down, which shared the ground floor with the wine-cellar, and which boasted no window or other amenity save a narrow slantwise ventilation shaft. The wine cellar was reached by a private stair from the Hall above.

The principal entrance was elaborately secure, considering the postern door weakness. It was at first floor level on the east or courtyard side, and was reached by a timber drawbridge from the top of the enclosing curtain wall an unusual precaution. To the north of it was the turnpike stair in the angle, and a guardroom in the thickness of the walling. The Hall itself was a fine apartment, 42 by 22 feet, with great fireplace and large windows with stone seats. An interesting feature was the series of five vaulted mural chambers, one above another, in the thickness of the west wall, each 6 feet 6 inches wide, and so just large enough for sleeping accommodation.

The individual corbels for the parapet are large, of three members. On the south front are three panels for coats-of-arms. The top one, to contain the royal arms, is empty but the other two display the arms of Bishop David Stewart, the builder, and of the notorious Patrick Hepburn, the last pre-Reformation bishop, whose picturesque sins are wellknown, and who was so hard to dislodge from his fortress. A further feature are the great ports for guns, which are almost too large to be described as gunloops.

Of the remainder of the castle less survives. The south east tower appears to date from the same period as the keep, and though similar in style is less massive and a storey lower. Only one wall remains complete. Of the other two towers even less survives; presumably they were of earlier and less strong construction. The gatehouse in the east front, however, is fairly entire, and almost unique in Scotland in the fine quality of its design and workmanship. It was defended by a portcullis, and a small stair led up to the battlements above. In the curtain walling of the south front remain the arched windows of the chapel. A spacious tenniscourt lay parallel to this. After the Reformation James the Sixth gave the lands to Alexander Lindsay, a son of the Earl of Crawford, in exchange for 10,000 gold crowns. He was created Lord Spynie, but James later prevailed on him to resign the property again so that it could be used by the Protestant bishops. During the subsequent religious troubles Spynie was frequently the scene of conflict, and General Munro besieged it and compelled Bishop Guthrie to surrender in 1640. The castle was held by Innes of Innes and Grant of Ballindalloch in the Covenanting interest. After the Restoration it again became the episcopal seat, the last resident bishop being Colin Falconer, who died there in 1686.

Martin Coventry (1995): One of the finest fortresses in Scotland, Spynie Palace consists of a massive 15th century keep at one corner of a large courtyard, enclosed by a wall, with square corner towers. In one wall is a gatehouse, and there were ranges of buildings, including a chapel, within the courtyard. The keep, David's Tower, rises six storeys to the parapet, and has very thick walls. The garret and upper works have gone although the corbels for the parapet survive. The walls are pierced by gunloops. There were two entrances at basement level, one from the courtyard into the basement, and one, a postern, from outside the walls, which opens onto a stair to the first floor. The courtyard entrance led to the vaulted basement, which contains a large round vaulted chamber, formerly the basement of an older tower. Also housed in the basement of David's Tower, and reached by a passageway, is a wine-cellar, which was only reached from above by a hatch from the hall. The main entrance, on the first floor, is approached by a stair up a mound. It leads, through a lobby, to a turnpike stair in one corner, and to a guardroom within the wall. The first floor hall is a fine chamber with a large moulded fireplace and windows with stone seats. Five vaulted chambers, one above another, are built into the thickness of one wall, although these have been rebuilt. The top floor was vaulted, but this has collapsed.

One corner tower of five storeys survives, as does a section of curtain wall and the gatehouse, but the rest of the courtyard is ruined. The elaborate gatehouse was defended by a portcullis. In 1200 Bishop Richard moved the cathedral of Moray to Spynie, where it stayed for 24 years. Later Bishops fortified a promontory in Spynie Loch, once a sea loch with its own port, and although the cathedral was moved back to Elgin, they kept their residence and stronghold here. Over the next two centuries they built the grandest surviving Bishop's Palace in Scotland. The palace was probably built by Bishop Innes, just after Elgin Cathedral had been torched by Alexander Stewart, the Wolf of Badenoch. Bishop David Stewart, who died in 1475, excommunicated the Gordon Earl of Huntly, and built the great keep, David's Tower, to defend himself against retribution by Huntly. James IV visited the palace in 1493 and 1505, as did Mary, Queen of Scots in 1562. James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, third husband of Mary, sheltered here after defeat at the Battle of Carberry Hill in 1567, but soon fled north to Orkney and the Continent. After the Reformation the lands were sold to the Lindsays, but the castle was subsequently used by Protestant Bishops. James VI stayed here in 1589. General Munro besieged the castle in 1640, and compelled Bishop Guthrie to surrender it, and the Bishop was imprisoned. The castle was held by Innes of Innes and Grant of Ballindalloch - who were Covenanters - against the Gordon Earl of Huntly, who besieged the palace unsuccessfully in 1645, while acting for the Marquis of Montrose. The last resident Bishop was Colin Falconer, who died here in 1686, and Bishop Hay, the last Bishop, was removed from office in 1688. The building then became ruinous, and was stripped. It passed into care of the State in 1973.

Duffus Castle

Duffus Castle


Location: OS Map 28 – 189 672

Moray: About 3 miles north-west of Elgin, on minor roads west of the B9012 or east of the B9135, 1.5 miles east of Duffus, south of Lossiemouth Airfield, at Old Duffus.

Martin Coventry (1995): One of the best examples of a 12th century motte and bailey castle in Scotland, Duffus Castle consists of an extensive outer bailey with a wet moat, a walled and ditched inner baile y, and a large motte. On the motte was built a square 14th century stone shell-keep of two storeys. There were ranges of buildings in the outer bailey. The motte was not strong enough to support the keep and part has collapsed down the slope. The castle was surrounded by the now drained Loch of Spynie. The original castle was built by Freskin, Lord of Strathbrock, a Fleming who also held property in West Lothian. David I stayed here while supervising the construction of nearby Kinloss Abbey. It was destroyed by the Scots in 1297, but rebuilt in stone by the Cheynes in the late 13th or early 14th century. It passed by marriage to the Sutherland Lord Duffus in 1350, the family held the property until 1843. The castle was sacked in 1452 by the Douglas Earl of Moray, and again in 1645 by the Royalists. John Graham of Claverhouse, 'Bonnie' Dundee' stayed here in 1689. The castle was abandoned for nearby Duffus House at the end of the 17th century.


Details here are extracted from –
Nigel Tranter – The Fortified House in Scotland – Volume 5 – North and West of Scotland
Martin Coventry – The Castles of Scotland (1995)

Added: 28 Sep 2006 Updated: 18 Apr 2022
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