The Bishop’s Palace at Dunkeld included an early 15th century tower house, but nothing of the complex now remains.
Dunkeld occupies a strategically important site close to the geographical centre of Scotland and was an early population centre going back to at least the 9th century and probably earlier. In 848 Kenneth MacAlpin built an abbey here, dedicated to St Columba, and by the early 12th century Dunkeld was one of the largest and most important of Scotland’s medieval bishoprics.
In 1408 the Bishop of Dunkeld, Robert de Cardeny, built a tower house to protect the abbey and the associated Bishop’s Palace. According to the Statistical Account this tower house was built close to the palace with “a great hall, with vaulted granaries and a larder”. The site was still called “the Castle Close” at the time that the Statistical Account was written in 1842.
The tower house was burnt by the Jacobites in 1689, along with the rest of Dunkeld, leaving it ruined. An image of it survives in the form of a drawing of Dunkeld by John Slezer, published in 1693. It shows the ruined tower house of the Bishop’s Palace to the left of the cathedral, at the bottom of Bishop’s Hill.
Slezer drew his view from Birnam Hill, looking roughly north-west to Dunkeld. This would suggest that the tower house was located approximately west-south-west of the cathedral. The RCAHMS give the co-ordinates of the Bishop’s Palace as NO 022 426 to the north of Bishop’s Hill, although that is referring to the palace itself rather than the tower house specifically. However a survey in 2008 revealed the remains of an artificial platform at the base of Bishop’s Hill on the east side.
This location appears to coincide with the position of the ruined tower house shown on Slezer’s drawing, so this is where I have placed the site of it for now.
Interestingly the site of the Bishop’s Palace is marked as to the south of the cathedral on 19th century Ordnance Survey maps.
The Bishop’s Palace and the tower house don’t appear to have been rebuilt following their burning. The village was rebuilt to the east of the cathedral but the properties to the west and north-west weren’t and the land became part of parkland belonging to the Duke of Atholl, whose mansion Dunkeld House had been built in the 16th century.
Alternative names for Bishop's Palace