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Main Details

Primary ReferenceNJ26NW0001
NRHE Card No.NJ26NW1
NRHE Numlink 16459
HES SM No. 6643
Site Form Standing Structure
Site Condition Incomplete
Details Bishop's palace, now visible only as cropmarks on aerial photographs. Kinneddar was one of the seats of the pre-13th century seats of the Bishops of Moray. Bishop Richard (1187-1203) is known to have resided at Kinneddar, and in AD 1280, Bishop Archibald extended or rebuilt this stronghold or castle. The Bishop's Palace appears to have remained in use until the later 14th century, but it was ruinous by the 17th century although foundations remained visible in the 18th century. A detailed 19th century account of the site suggests that the castle was almost certainly unique in a Scottish context, a concentric castle, hexagonal in shape. The New Statistical Account (1840-65) describes a formidable medieval castle, with a central tower and two hexagonal surrounding walls, each with a ditch in front and backed by earthen ramparts of possibly earlier date. To the east of the great tower were vaulted storehouses. Levelling of the walls and ramparts, and infilling of ditches revealed a cist cemetery, with ashes, broken urns and human bones and cists both of dressed stone and what was described as 'rude' construction. At NJ 2243 6969 is a small stone structure filled with loose stones which may be remains of hollow tower, later converted to a dovecot. No other remains can be seen on the ground to correspond with the cropmark on air photographs. In 1936 boys from Gordonstoun School led by a master excavated the foundations of Kinneddar Castle. They followed the description given in NSA and found the foundation stones of the great tower, the walls and the small outer towers as described. In 1989 a resistivity survey immediately north of the cemetery at Kinneddar located the site of the Bishop's palace. High resistance linear features indicate walls oriented seem to correspond with the sides of a hexagon, the linear low resistance features corresponding with ditches. An area of high resistance in the centre of a site should almost certainly be associated with the 'great tower'. Field evaluation in Cemetery Field carried out by CFA in September 1995 encompassed the eastern edge of the site, see also NJ26NW0069. Evaluation located the most visible aerial photo feature, the hexagonal ditch and supported the documentary evidence that this structure is the remains of Kinneddar Castle (the Bishop's Palace). In April 2002 an archaeological evaluation was carried out by Headland Archaeology in advance of a proposed pipeline. The evaluation area lay to the east of the site of the Bishop's Palace. The excavation consisted of 13 trenches and revealed a number of archaeological features including a large pit, ditches and possible postholes. Medieval pottery consisted of gritty red wares, some of which were green glazed. The evidence for Medieval activity was restricted to the southwest of the excavation site and indicates that the features relate to the Bishop's Palace (Coleman 2002). Full excavation subsequently carried out in May recorded archaeological features all along the pipeline wayleave with a particular concentration at the southwest end. These included two possible prehistoric pit alignments, but the majority of features were medieval including traces of agriculture, enclosure and drainage. A large ditch may have been the boundary of the cathedral site or possibly an outer defence work for the castle. Finds from the excavations included circa 140 sherds of medieval redware, a hone stone and two pieces of worked stone. No traces of building foundations were uncovered. Geophysical survey was carried out by University of Aberdeen in November 2015.
Last Update02/09/2022
Updated Byjnicholson
Date of Compilation23/04/2010

Google Map for NJ26NW0001

National Grid Reference: NJ 2238 6967

Event Details

Event DateEvent TypeOASIS ID
1989 Geophysical Survey
2002 Excavation
1995 Evaluation
2002 Excavation
2015 Geophysical Survey

Excavations and Surveys

Date MDate YTypeDurationDirector / OrganisationAuspicesFundExtent
 1995  EU CFA   
 2002  HEADLAND   

Artefact and Ecofact

Date MDate YArtefact TypeFinderRecovery MethodConditionStorage LocationAccess No.
01934 MEDIEVAL POTTERY Excavation Personal Possession  
01734 URN SHERDS Stray Find Lost  


Ecofact Notes

Monument Types

Monument Type 1Monument Type 2Monument Type 3OrderProbability