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Postcode: IV30 5RH

Lat/Long:  57.688436N 3.362731W

Notes: Castle is sign-posted from the B9012 and found on an Unnamed Road. Drive directly towards the castle and you'll find a small car park on your right.


A well preserved Norman motte, the largest surviving example in Scotland, topped with stone remains of a castle built in the thirteenth century. Some of the masonry has collapsed but the scale of the fortress can still be appreciated. Sections of the bailey curtain wall also survive.

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The castle is managed by Historic Scotland.

Cracked Tower. The twelfth century motte ultimately proved unable to support the weight of the thirteenth century Keep and, at some point after the castle’s abandonment, it cracked. The damage can be seen extending the height of the tower in the photo above.

Scotland > Grampian DUFFUS CASTLE

Duffus Castle was originally a motte-and-bailey castle raised by Freskin, a Flemish mercenary invited to settle in Moray by King David I. The castle was substantially rebuilt in the thirteenth century including construction of the large Keep seen today. Duffus was attacked on numerous occasions but remained in use until the eighteenth century.


Duffus Castle was built by Freskin, a Flemish mercenary who came to Scotland during the reign of David I (1124–53). The King actively encouraged such immigration for men like Freskin brought their castle building skills with them and helped David bring his unruly country firmly under his control. It also enabled the King to move Scotland away from its Celtic routes - where the tradition was loyalty to a local mormaer or earl rather than a distant King - and into a nation fully integrated into continental politics. Such radical change was met with stiff resistance in Moray where a major rebellion erupted in 1130. This was ruthlessly suppressed and the native landowners dispossessed in favour of immigrants such as Freskin. Although he had initially settled in West Lothian, where he held the title of Lord Strabrock, he was encouraged to go north and take control of the lands around Spynie Loch where he built Duffus Castle.

Freskin built Duffus Castle on a ridge of land with superb views across the flat, marshy lands of Moray. His fortification took the form of an earth and timber motte-and-bailey castle - the largest surviving example in Scotland. The motte was topped with a wooden tower and palisade whilst a bailey, also raised above the height of the surrounding land, supported all the ancillary buildings associated with such a site. The entire complex was surrounded by a deep ditch and its defences were probably also augmented by flooded areas. David II visited the site in 1151 to inspect the work on the fortification although he stayed at Kinloss Abbey rather than the castle itself.

Following Freskin's death in 1166, Duffus passed to his son, William de Moravia (of Moray) whose descendants would later become Clan Murray and the Earls of Sutherland. However, Freskin's direct male line failed in the thirteenth century and Duffus Castle passed by marriage to Sir Reginald Cheyne, Lord of Inverugie circa-1270. It was probably he who built much of what is visible today most notably including the square stone keep that sits on the summit of the motte. He also rebuilt the curtain wall surrounding the inner bailey in stone.

The castle would have been a formidable fortress by the time of the outbreak of the first War of Scottish Independence in 1296 during which Sir Reginald supported Edward I and the English faction. Nevertheless Moray was strongly opposed to the English regime and Duffus Castle was attacked no less than three times prompting Edward I to grant him compensation, in the form of 200 oak trees from the Royal forests of Darnaway and Longmorn, for the repair of the structure.

When Sir Reginald died in 1312 his son, also called Reginald, sided with Robert the Bruce and in 1320 affixed his seal to the Declaration of Arbroath. Accordingly Duffus remained with his family until 1350 when the male line of the Cheyne family failed. The castle returned to the descendants of Freskin when it passed through marriage to Kenneth de Moravia, Earl of Sutherland. Probably due to subsidence, and perhaps also due to the desire for a more habitable residence even if less defensible, led to the building of new facilities in the Bailey.

Duffus Castle was attacked by the Douglas Clan in 1452 as part of their rebellion against King. Earlier that year, the eighth Earl of Douglas had been murdered at Stirling Castle by James II prompting several years of civil war between the two factions. The King finally achieved a decisively victory at the Battle of Arkinholm (1455)

During the Wars of Three Kingdoms, Duffus was attacked by Royalist forces under Sir James Graham, Marquis of Montrose. In August 1643 the Scottish Government and English Parliament signed the Solemn League and Covenant resulting in Scotland entering the war against Charles I. In response the King appointed Graham as Captain General of Royalist forces in Scotland. He achieved some early successes including victory at the Battle of Tippermuir (September 1644), an assault on Aberdeen (October 1644) and the defeat of Archibald Campbell at the Second Battle of Inverlochy (February 1645). Thereafter Montrose moved north-east into Moray sacking the lands of Covenanters. Duffus Castle was also owned by a Covenanter - Alexander Sutherland, Lord Duffus - and was plundered by Royalist troops although records suggest the fortification itself was 'not burnt'.

Duffus Castle remained a functional residence until the early eighteenth century. It was visited by John Graham, Viscount Dundee after he had commenced the first Jacobite rebellion against the overthrown the Stuart regime in 1689. Shortly after his revolt came to an end following his death at the Battle of Killiecrankie (1689). The end also came for Duffus Castle when in 1705 James, Lord Duffus built Duffus House nearby probably plundering stone from the old castle. The remaining ruins were sold to Sir Archibald Dunbar whose descendants handed it over to the Ministry of Works in 1926.

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