Situated in the Garden of Moray, Elgin lies nine miles west of Fochabers and 38 miles from Inverness. A busy market town, Elgin owes much of its charm to its medieval street plan whose paths converge on the majestic ruins of Elgin Cathedral.
The story of Elgin is littered with tales of kings, bishops and royalty. Elgin is first recorded in 1040AD when King Duncan lost in battle to Macbeth just a mile northeast of the city at Pitgaveny. The remains of Duncan’s Castle are thought to be the remaining fragments on Lady Hill. Here you’ll also find a monument to the 5th Duke of Richmond which dates to 1839. From Lady Hill, Elgin’s medieval High Street runs to the focal point of Elgin, Elgin Cathedral.
Elgin Cathedral or the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was once one of the finest churches in Scotland comparable to the great cathedrals in Europe. Founded in 1223 by Andrew, Bishop of Moray, Elgin Cathedral bore the brunt of many an attack before its structure finally gave in to the elements. A fire in 1270 wrought the first damage. In 1390, Elgin Cathedral was again consumed by flames but this time it was torched by the Wolf of Badenoch in revenge for his excommunication. He repented and helped to restore Elgin Cathedral but at the turn of the 16th century, the great steeple fell. The Reformation wrecked further damage and by the mid 16th century, the great edifice served simply as a local quarry. Stripped for its lead, Elgin Cathedral was left to rot and it was only in the 19th century that Elgin Cathedral was saved through the work of a local man, John Shanks. A reformed layabout, Shank single-handedly cleared Elgin Cathedral of the mountains of refuse that had accumulated over the centuries. Next to Elgin Cathedral is Elgin Biblical Garden, a beautiful little garden of repose. Amongst the flowers, statues depict figures from the Bible and key biblical scenes.
One of the oldest buildings of note in Elgin is the Thunderton Hotel. Lying just off Elgin’s High Street, this grand medieval town house once served as the royal residence in Elgin. It was here that Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed on the way to Culloden in 1746. Back on the High Street note the arcaded merchants’ houses homes of wealthy landowners in the 17th century such as William Duff. Here you’ll also find Elgin Museum, an award-winning museum with displays ranging from natural history to archaeology, the history of Elgin and the Moray area.
By the mid-19th century, the railway came to Elgin and brought revenue with it in the form of trade through the harbour at Lossiemouth. A Muckle Cross at the east end of the square replaced the medieval cross in the Victorian age. Dr Gray’s Hospital was built on funds gifted by a former resident of Elgin who made his fortune with the East India Company. Just two years later, the Assembly Rooms on the corner of South Street and High Street were constructed. St Giles Church, built to a neoclassical design, was founded in 1828.
Visitors seaching for alternative attractions in Elgin can head to the Moray Motor Museum which boasts a collection of old motorcycles and cars including a Rolls Royce (1928). Walkers can take a circular walk from Elgin to Quarry Wood taking in the River Lossie and fine views over Elgin while golfers can play in the shadow of Elgin Cathedral on Elgin’s 18 hole golf course. For whisky lovers a dram is waiting to be sampled at Glen Moray Distillery.
Curious Fact or Total Fiction?
The Elgin Marbles were removed by the 7th Earl of Elgin from the Parthenon in Greece and brought to England amidst much criticism from contemporaries such as Lord Byron. The debate over this piece of heritage continues but they are currently still under the care of the British Museum in London.