Bishops' palace opens after pounds 1m restoration

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A BISHOPS' PALACE in the north of Scotland has been conserved at a cost of pounds 1m and is now open to the public, writes Oliver Gillie.

The palace, at Spynie near Elgin, has been saved by insertion of concrete galleries which have been cleverly designed as viewing platforms.

Historic Scotland, the Government's heritage agency north of the border, acquired control of the palace in 1973 and has taken 21 years to clear it of damaging vegetation and consolidate the structure. A large buttress wall of matching stone has been made to support the main tower and a spiral staircase of concrete has been built within the tower.

The palace was the seat of the Bishops of Moray from 1207 until 1689 when episcopal government was abolished in Scotland and the building was annexed by the Crown.

Mary Queen of Scots stayed in the palace in 1562 as guest of Patrick Hepburn, the last Catholic Bishop of Moray. Hepburn built wide-mouthed gun loops in the tower to defend it against Protestant forces.

Today the palace is a splendid ruin. Its tower is one of the largest in Scotland.

The sea loch and port which once adjoined it and were an important source of revenue for the bishops are now silted up and grown over with trees.

(Photographs omitted)

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