My favourite castle in Scotland - Duffus Castle near Elgin

Written by Chris Thornton | 14th of February 2021
Castles / Ruins Lossiemouth Moray
Duffus Castle

There's something magical about this ancient ruin, jutting out of the flat Laich of Moray landscape it is an imposing landmark reminding us of times long ago.

As a child, I lived just outside Lossiemouth near Duffus Castle and we often visited the castle on bike rides and picnics.  It's still a favourite place for me to take my young family and we visit a few times per year.  It also has a perfect hill for sledging in snowy weather!

A motte and bailey castle

Duffus Castle is a prime example of a motte and bailey castle.  It began as a wooden keep/fortification built on top of a steep man-made hill, with a connecting enclosed bailey or courtyard.  This bailey would contain additional buildings associated with the keep, including bakeries, workshops and stables.  There is a perimeter moat that surrounds the castle grounds and bailey.

The motte and bailey castle design was extremely popular for 200 years due to it's excellent defensive capabilities.

Who built Duffus Castle?

The castle was built in the 1100s by a Flemish man named Hugh de Freskin who was granted lands in Northern Scotland in return for fealty to the crown of King David I of Scotland.  This helped the King secure control of the area and lessen the possibility of uprisings.  Freskin may also have been responsible for the building of Skelbo Castle.

The castle at Duffus was occupied for over 500 years until the 1700s.  It was upgraded sometime around 1270 to be the stone keep / stone castle fortification we see today (as shown in the photo) by Sir Reginald Cheyne the Elder, Lord of Inverugie.  He also built the boundary wall around the bailey.  

By the 1680s the castle was held by Lord Duffus and soon abandoned in favour of the more comfortable residence of Duffus House nearby.

Time has not been kind to Duffus Castle as the north wall has began to slip down the mound due to being built on unstable old earthworks and could be the primary reason it was abandoned.  All of the wooden roofs and flooring are also long gone, leaving an empty shell.

Two coins were found at the site in 1993 dating from 1292 and 1390, a John Balliol half penny and a Robert III half groat.

RAF Lossiemouth plane spotting

If you like military aircraft, Duffus Castle and its hilly prominence is a great place to view planes taking off and landing at nearby RAF Lossiemouth.  In the past, I have seen Tornado GR4s, Eurofighter Typhoons and Poseidon MRA1s.

How do I get to Duffus Castle?

The best way to get to the castle is from Elgin along the A941.  Then turn left onto B9135.  Follow the brown tourist sign with a left turn.  Follow straight on past Drainie Road, keep an eye open for another left turn with another brown tourist sign.  You should see the castle at this point.  Park at the car park on the right, then enter by foot via the gate/bridge.

Admission is free.

The Castle is roughly 3 miles from Elgin, or 3 miles from Lossiemouth.

Please click this link to see the location of the castle on Google maps.

Conclusion

Duffus Castle is a great ruin to visit and should definitely be on your list of attractions to see in Moray.

Please see my article on Dunrobin Castle for my second favourite castle in Scotland!

Map of Duffus Castle

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