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Castles

Elgin Cathedral – Reflecting its Past Glory

The two imposing towers that flank the magnificent entrance and processional doorway to the main chapel are still intact. The striking structure greets you from a distance as you approach Elgin Cathedral. One cannot believe that the exquisite Elgin Cathedral, ornately decorated with great skill, was in use for just three centuries. The glorious ruins, among the most spectacular in Scotland, rest beside the River Lossie on the edge of Elgin town, just a few miles inland from the Moray coast in northeast Scotland. Sometimes referred to as 'The Lantern of the North' they are a highlight of the Grampian region.

Elgin Cathedral was established in 1224 as a chapter house, but was rebuilt and enlarged to its full size by the end of that century. It was burnt down in 1390 by the ‘Wolf of Badenoch’ and was reconstructed throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. The original chapter house, a fairly unique eight-sided structure still stands. It is one of the two octagonal chapter houses in Scotland and boasts of large traceried windows and magnificent vaulted ceiling that springs from a central clustered column.

The external wall of the south transept of the first church is the most complete structure that stands today. Its slender pointed windows, a curious oval window above a gabled doorway, and a higher level of round-headed windows are still visible. At the east end of the church are the most splendid remains of Elgin Cathedral with decorative molding and filigree on the windows, blind arcading, and a virtually complete clerestory. Unusual buttress towers with embellished pinnacles flank the east gable with its large rose window set above two levels of lancets.

There are some richly decorated tombs and carved effigies in the vaulted choir chapels. There is also a Pict stone with several symbols inside the walls of the cathedral. The stone was probably carved in the 9th century. The ruins of Elgin Cathedral are now in the charge of Historic Scotland. Visitors can wander around the structures and only imagine what it was like during its peak, considering how imposing it is even today.