A Weird History – The Lost Palace of Inchinnan

Scotland is famous for its haunted castles, but Inchinnan trumps them all, for it had a moving palace.

In the sixteenth century most Scots families lived in one room, so travellers on the river Clyde must have gawped at the luxurious character of the Palace of Inchinnan, newly built for the Earl of Lennox. The two family suites (one for the Earl’s family, one for their guests), their lounges, and the private chapel were each a hundred yards in length. The lush mysteries of the private garden were hidden behind six hundred yards of walling. The palace boasted nine tall chimneys, a tower, and at least two double turrets. Visitors approaching from the south would see a row of twenty-foot tall windows lighting the chapel, which was as big as the king’s chapel at Linlithgow.

Despite this display of luxury, the Palace of Inchinnan had a short history. It was designed for a range of purposes. It was a holiday home for the earl’s family (the Stewarts of Darnley); a conference centre during political negotiations; and a base for the earl’s private army when the negotiations failed. But the world moves on and, by 1600, the palace was no longer ‘fit for purpose’. Later owners decided to re-cycle the roof, then the walls and by the 18th century nothing was left but the foundations.

Being foundations, they stayed where they were – but officially, the palace moved. An 18th century book recorded it in a nearby field, and that became its official, but incorrect, location on Ordnance Survey maps. So, in the 1970s, Strathclyde Regional Council sent a team of archaeologists to investigate an empty field while a couple of JCBs destroyed what remained of the palace 200 yards away. The old palace site is now a roundabout.

Since then, some members of the Renfrewshire Local History Forum have collected enough information to make a reconstruction of the palace. We peasants may have a chance to gawp at it again.

© Alan Steel