Duffus Castle is one of the finest examples of a motte and bailey castle in Scotland. The raised ground of the motte and bailey look somewhat out of place sitting like an island in a sea of very flat farmland, but at the time of its construction its position was far more strategic. The castle was located by the shore of Loch Spynie and was surrounded by water and marshy ground. Over the years the loch silted up and was eventually drained and reclaimed as farmland, creating the flat landscape that now surrounds the castle.
The castle was built in the mid 12th century by Freskin, Lord of Strathbrock, a Flemish knight, whose descendants took the title ‘de Moravia’ (of Moray). Freskin was given the land at Duffus by King David I, and by 1151 the castle was complete enough to accommodate the King while he supervised the construction of nearby Kinloss Abbey.
The castle was held by the Cheyne family, supporters of the English king, Edward I, during his campaigns in Scotland, and was attacked and burnt down by the Scots in 1297. The destroyed wooden defences were then rebuilt in stone. The wooden palisade around the bailey was replaced by a stone curtain wall and a stone tower was built on the motte. The construction of the largely artificial motte does not appear to have been strong enough to support the heavy new tower and at some point the north-west corner collapsed down the slope. A range of buildings was added along the north side of the bailey, but these are now even more ruined than the tower. The castle was abandoned towards the end of the 17th century in favour of nearby Duffus House.