Duffus Castle

There’s just something special about Duffus Castle – everyone I know who has been ranks it amongst their favourite Scottish castles. That might be surprising at first sight, but there are some very good reasons why.

The story of Duffus is the story of Scotland’s early castles. The distinctive mound that the stone tower rests on is an older motte-and-bailey, an earth and timber castle built by the incoming Norman and northern European knights in the wake of William the Conqueror’s victory at Hastings. A Flemish mercenary called Freskin received the lands from David I, and Freskin’s son, William, built the first castle and took the name ‘de Moravia’ – later to become the influential Moray/Murray family.

The stone castle was built around 1305, but eventually the earthen mound gave out under its weight causing the main tower to partially collapse. Part of Duffus’ romantic appeal is that it almost feels like a deliberately constructed demonstration of how castles evolved over the centuries, set within the still-wet trace of an old moat crossed by a charming cobbled bridge. The compactness and complexity of the site lends itself perfectly to imaging how you’d defend or attack it, and given that it’s not on the main tourist trail you’ve often got plenty of space to let your inner big kid run rampant.