Duffus Castle

Duffus Castle is one of the largest surviving Norman mottes in Scotland, with stone ruins from the 13th century. The motte was a stronghold from the 1100s to the 1700s when it fell into disrepair. Although some masonry has collapsed, part of the castle remains along with part of the curtain walls. 

If you visit Scotland, this captivating ruin should be part of your itinerary and is open to view for free to the public. Once one of the strongest castles in Scotland, Duffus Castle now lies in a state of ruin.

Visiting Duffus Castle



There is parking available to the public near the castle site.


There is no entry fee for visitors who wish to view Duffus Castle.


Open year-round; visit at any reasonable time during daylight hours

Location and Access

Elgin IV30 5RH

United Kingdom

Designations: Scheduled Monument (SM90105) 

Taken into State care: 1925 (Guardianship)

One may park, take pictures or find the medieval bridge, explore the tower, and view the said collapse of the once-proud stronghold. Visitors may access the site 5km northwest of Elgin on the B9012 to Burghead.

Know Before You Go

  • The ground floor is easily accessible but the upper levels are blocked off for public safety.
  • There is an area of rolling green hills where children may play safely.
  • The surrounding well-maintained grass area is perfect for a picnic.

History of Duffus Castle

Duffus Castle stands on its man-made mound after 500 years of tumultuous highland history. Although initially made of wood and earth, the 13th-century stone building still stands, albeit in a state of ruin. The castle offers an intriguing history to those who visit Laich of Moray near Elgin, Moray.

(Time Line)

-1130 (Construction Begins) 

The Celtic Earl of Moray Oengus revolted against David I but suffered a defeat. David settled the Duffus castle's site on Freskin, a trusted supporter, who began construction of the motte and bailey castle.

-1151 (The King Visits) 

David I visited the castle to inspect the monastic foundation's construction at Kinloss Abbey.

-The 1100s (Clan de Moravia) 

Freskin’s son, William, adopted the surname 'de Moravia' (of Moray) 

-1200 (Stronghold) 

The family became one of the most powerful clans in Northeast Scotland. They built St Peter's church in Duffus, which served as the family mausoleum.

-1270 (Changes Hands) 

The direct Freskin line ended, resulting in the castle and lands passed into the hands of the Cheynes of Inverugie by marriage. Historians believed Reginald Cheyne built the square stone keep and much of what is visible today, including the curtain wall around the inner bailey.

-1296 (Attacked) 

Sir Reginald supported King Edward I in the First War of Scottish Independence and suffered no less than three attacks for his English support.

-1297 (Burned Down) 

Edward I of England burned down the castle early in the War of Independence.

-1305 (King's Grant) 

Reginald Cheyne received 200 oaks from King Edwards royal forest to build his manor. Historians believe Cheyne built most of the stone structure and the curtain wall around the inner bailey.

-1320 (Peace Treaty) 

Reginald Cheyne II signed the declaration of Arbroath and entered King Bruce's peace treaty.

-1350 (Changes Hands) 

The last Cheyne died, and the castle changed hands, leaving an heiress who married Nicholas, the son of the Earl of Sutherland.

-1452 (Castle Attacked) 

Duffus Castle is attacked by the Douglas Clan as part of their rebellion against King James I.

-1639-1651 (Castle Attacked) 

Duffus is attacked by Royalist forces under Sir James Graham, their leader, during the Wars of Three Kingdoms.

-1689 (Jacobite Uprising) 

John Graham, the Jacobite uprising leader, visited the castle before victory at Killie Crankie.

-1705 (Duffus Clan Moves) 

Lord Duffus died, and the family moved to a new residence Duffus house near the castle site, probably using stone from the castle itself.

-1793 (Historic Reference) 

Historical records referred to the fine orchard and garden of Duffus Castle, showing that the family still used the estate.

-1926 (Ruins Sold) 

The remaining ruins were sold to Sir Archibald Dunbar, whose descendants handed over the site to the Ministry of Works.

Duffus Castle Occupants


  • Freskin, thought to be of Flemish descent, inhabited the first motte and bailey castle. 
  • King David I visited the Duffus castle in 1151.
  • The Cheynes of Inverugie inherited the estate by marriage. 
  • John Graham, the Viscount of Dundee, visited the castle.
  • Sir Archibald Dunbar received ownership of the castle until his descendants handed it to the Ministry of Works in 1926.
  • A notable son of the Freskin line was Andrew Moray, an associate of Sir William Wallace and died from wounds he sustained at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.

Images of Duffus Castle

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Duffus Castle Q&A

How Much of Duffus Castle Remains?

Duffus Castle is a fine example of a fortress-residence common in the history of the region. Standing for over 500 years from the 1100s to the 1700s, the stone castle ruins we see today were built in the 1300s. The stone and lime castle replaced the motte and bailey structure beneath it and from wood and earth on the boggy ground in the Laich of Moray.

A motte and bailey fortress consists of an artificial mound, crested by palisades and topped with a wooden tower. Attached to the motte which held the lord's residence is an enclosed bailey or basement within a palisaded bank and ditch. It housed the wooden buildings of the lord's household, such as chapel, stable, barn smithy, and dovecote. 

The 1300s stone structure replaced the original motte and bailey, but unfortunately, builders did not create the large man-made mound to bear the stone structure's added weight. Thus, the northwestern corner of the tower has broken off and slid down the mound, and severe cracks pervade the south face. 

How Big Is Duffus Castle?

The bailey enclosure of Duffus castle and one stretch of wall still survive. The wall was initially estimated to be about 15 feet (4.57 metres) high, and a wooden walkway could be reached by a door at each end of the tower. The walls enclose an area of around one acre, and a 25-foot (7.62-meter) wide ditch surrounds the castle and an area of about 8 acres (3.24 hectares). 

Is Duffus Castle Haunted?

Visitors have reported sighting an unknown woman waving from the castle windows on occasion. Her origins are a mystery, and a child saw the red-headed woman last in 1996. Visitors also caught a large black cat on camera footage, said to be twice the size of a domestic cat. However, one may remain a bit sceptical with regards to supernatural Duffus residents. 

Monuments Near Duffus Castle

Duffus Castle stands proudly in the countryside, less than two miles southeast of Duffus, three miles southwest of Lossiemouth, and three miles northwest of Elgin. Not much of the original stone structure remains due to the passage of time and the stone construction's structural faults. However, the parts that remain reveal a glimpse into the distant history of Scotland.

St Peter's Kirk 

St Peters stands nearby the Duffus Castle ruins, and historians believe Freskin de Moray built this church to service his castle occupants. The church was severely damaged in the 1300s during the Wars of Independence, but most of its stone structure still stands. It is set in a beautiful location among mature trees and is home to a rare medieval 'mercat' that lives among the gravestones. 

Spynie Palace  

Spynie Palace is the largest medieval bishop’s house in Scotland and housed the bishops of Moray for almost 500 years. Once at the entrance of a bustling port, the now inland palace boasts a mighty tower house built by Bishop David. The tower once stood six stories high and even today still reaches up to 22 metres (72.18 feet) high.

Location of Duffus Castle