Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.

Pluscarden Abbey and Monastic Buildings, excluding Scheduled Monument No 2144 'Pluscarden Priory, precinct walls', ElginLB8441

Status: Designated


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Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NJ 14206 57614
314206, 857614


Founded 1230. Abbey Church originally planned as cruciform church but it is unlikely that the nave ever existed above the surviving footings. Serious fire circa 1390 and subsequent rebuilding in 15th century. Built in squared rubble and ashlar.

NORTH TRANSEPT: most visible survival of 13th century work; lancet windows with large rose window in each gable, clerestory passage in north wall thickness. Glass by Sadie McLellan (Glasgow). 2 chapels originally opened from north wall, arches now filled and chapels with 13th century detail and stone vaulted roof now form transepts to the chancel.

CROSSING: remains of massive shafted columns now mainly encased in later masonry, possibly applied after the fire, supporting solid squat tower with blind cusped panels below parapet. Original rood screen gone but traces of small stair survive; across the chancel arch is a gallery with arms of the 8 secular families who owned the Abbey between 1560 and 1943.

SOUTH TRANSEPT: probably 14th century with elaborate and progressive detailing to the clerestory and passage, the latter spanning the 3-light windows and with subsiduary pointed arches flanking the shafts on the intervening wall space. 2 original vaulted side chapels more elaborate but reoriented as at north. Night stair leads from south transept, stepped, 5-light window in south gable head.

CHANCEL: some traces of Romanesque detail but this old fashioned style superseded (after the fire?) by a daring arrangement of windows, the mouldings of the reveals, show the vast planned size of the windows now filled with later masonry and smaller intersecting traceried windows on south wall (possibly for stability). East window now 4 lancets with large 3-light traceried window above, vesica and apex opening. Finely carved sacrament house and 3 sedilia. Modern timber panelled ceiling. Considerable remains of 15th century wall painting can be found around the chancel arch, the chancel transepts and the Lady Chapel.

LADY CHAPEL: to south of south transept, a squint opens from the chancel transept, groin vaulted roof.

DUNBAR SACRISTY: later (?) 16th century addition at northeast with vaulted roof. Monastic range (east side of original cloister). 2 storeys, now with attic rooms.

LADY CHAPEL: (a) south of Chapter House with paired doors deeply recessed and flanked by elaborate arrangement of nook shafts; central trumeau, (b) the Slype, (c) the Calefactory.

Remains of cloister garth and Prior s House to southwest of Abbey Church.

Statement of Special Interest

House of Valliscaulian Monks founded 1230 by Alexander II. United 1454 with Urquhart Priory (also Moray, now demolished) of Benedictines. After 1560 monks continued in decreasing numbers to inhabit Priory until circa 1590. 1594 sold to Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail. 1662 to Brodies of Lethen. By 1710 Pluscarden property of Duff of Dipple who became earl of Fife; purchased by 3rd Marquis of Bute in 1889 and gifted to Benedictines of Prinknash by his heirs in 1943. Reroofing and restoration followed, by late Ian Lindsay and W Murray Jack (still in progress 1987).

'Pluscarden Priory, precinct walls' is Scheduled Monument No 2144 and is excluded from the listing.

Listed building record and statutory address updated in 2015. Previously listed as 'Pluscarden, Abbey, Monastic Buildings and Precinct Walls.'



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 16094

Ordnance Survey (Surveyed 1870, Published 1874) Elgin Sheet XII.9. 25 Inches to the Mile Map. 1st Edition. London: Ordnance Survey.

MacGibbon, D. & Ross, T. (1896) The Ecclesiastical Architecture Of Scotland, Edinburgh: D. Douglas. Vol 2. pp.146-160.

Young , R. (1879) Annals Of The Parish And Burgh Of Elgin. Elgin: R. Young. pp.28-39.

Anson, P. F. (1959) Monastery In Moray. London: SPCK.

Skinner, B. & Hay, G. (1981) Guide Book to Pluscarden Abbey.

About Listed Buildings

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

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