Duffus Castle – Elgin, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

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Duffus Castle

Elgin, Scotland

Once considered one of the country's finest motte and bailey castles. 


Duffus Castle was a medieval stronghold belonging to the Moray family and was a successful fortress that acted as a residence for more than 500 years, from the 1100s until the 1700s.

Duffus Castle is situated on the Laich of Moray, a fertile plain previously swampy foreshore of Spynie Loch. This location was actually a much more defensive position than it now appears.

Mottes were common in Scotland during the 1100s and 1200s, until stone castles replaced them. Mottes were fortifications that usually consisted of a wooden keep on top of a vast mound. Some fortresses also had an enclosed courtyard or bailey, which would contain additional wooden buildings, which were protected by a ditch and palisade. 

The castle was built here by Freskin, a Flemish man who came to Scotland in the first half of the 1100s. In about 1270, the castle passed to Sir Reginald Cheyne the Elder, Lord of Inverugie

The stone castle seen today was constructed around the 1300s, replacing an earlier timber fortress.   

Duffus Castle was set out with steep sides and a wide ditch separating it from the bailey. The whole site was then enclosed by a water-filled ditch, which was actually more to mark its boundary than a serious defensive measure. 

Sometime after 1689, Lord Duffus moved to the nearby Duffus House and the castle quickly fell into decay. Today, the castle ruins remain an impressive sight, situated on a mound rising out of the flat Laich of Moray. 

Know Before You Go

There is a car park with a drinks cabin near the castle.

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September 12, 2022

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