Updated: May 29, 2019
I finally made it to Duffus Castle today, it’s been on my list for awhile due to the tilty, sunken wall which gives the ruin quite a unique quality. It was fun walking into a doorway sideways 😂
Duffus is just outside Elgin in Moray. Around 1140 it was built by a Flemish man named Freskin (whose son created the title de Moravia - "of Moray") as a motte and bailey castle. A motte and bailey castle was a timber fortification, made of a wooden keep on top of an artificial earthwork mound with an enclosed courtyard (bailey), below that would have housed stables, bakehouses, workshops etc. King David I sent Freskin up north to establish a royal presence after a pesky uprising by the Men of Moray in 1130. The descendants of Freskin would become the earls of Sutherland and Clan Murray - so Duffus was a significant and powerful ancient seat.
Around 1305 the stone castle was built by Sir Reginald Cheyne. Apparently his loyalty to the crown during uprisings against English rule in 1297 made him a target and his lands were set on fire several times. Finally he received a grant from King Edward I for 200 oaks from the royal forests "to build his manor of Dufhous." He would most likely have used the oak for scaffolding, flooring and roofing. I was quite impressed by the size of the ruin, as it was quite expansive - and it had a moat, which is a pretty awesome feature of any castle! (Ok so it was more of a wet ditch but lets go with moat...)
As for the tilty wall, it was due to the ill advised decision to build such a large stone castle on an old earthwork. Over time it becomes too much and the north wall fell down the hillside. The lord who occupied the castle at the time was forced to move his quarters to another part of the castle. In 1705 the castle was abandoned.
Duffus is managed by Historic Environment Scotland and is free to explore. I highly recommend a visit.