Duff House is a magnificent Georgian mansion situated in the lovely north-Scotland coastal town of Banff. The mansion is home to a large collection of artworks and is managed by Historic Environment Scotland.
Review of Duff House
The historic coastal town of Banff in the north-east of Scotland is becoming increasingly popular with tourists who visit in their droves to explore the rugged coastline and secluded coves and beaches that this part of the country is renowned for.
But the Banff and Buchan area is also a firm favourite with visitors who want to see the huge number of historic buildings and castles that dot the landscape.
Aberdeenshire has long held the nickname ‘Scotland’s castle country’ and you’ll find a surprising number of formidable fortresses and grand stately homes along its eastern coast.
The northern coastline is also rich in history and if you head that way you’ll find a real gem of a country house that should definitely be on your list of places to visit if you’ve got an interest in Scotland’s history.
Duff House is an impressive stately home that’s totally unexpected in a quiet coastal town like Banff, but it offers a fascinating walk through its maze of rooms and the outside grounds are lovely – especially in spring when the wildflowers start to bloom.
You can wander through the house at your own pace and there are lots of information panels to answer any questions you might have as well as Historic Environment Scotland guides in most rooms to answer any questions the information panels don’t tell you.
If the weather holds out I recommend you take the time to visit the Duff House gardens because they’re the highlight of the entire estate in my opinion.
The walk through the grounds passes through landscaped lawns and ornamental follies before branching off onto a path that runs for around two miles towards the Bridge Of Alvah, and along the way you’ll pass a couple of curiosities including the Duff House ice house and the family mausoleum.
Read on to find out more about this attraction.
Things to do at Duff House
Built as a giant status symbol by William Duff, the First Earl of Fife, Duff House never fails to impress visitors who come not just to admire the architecture of the building but also come to view the collection of national treasures on loan from the official collection of the National Galleries of Scotland.
The entire estate is joint run by Aberdeenshire Council and Historic Environment Scotland and the artworks have been included as a way to open up Scotland’s national collection to audiences who might not be able to visit the main collections in the Edinburgh Galleries.
While the mansion-house is a peaceful place today its beginnings were surrounded by in-fighting between William Duff (the owner) and William Adam (the architect) so the east and west wings of the original design were never completed.
However, the house is stunning in its current form and visitors will no doubt enjoy seeing the baroque architecture and exploring the 18th-century decorated rooms with their meticulously restored furniture.
Although William Adam died before he could receive the debt owed to him for building Duff House, he would no doubt be proud to see modern-day tourists enjoying the salon and drawing rooms, the fine art, and the Dunimarle library with its collection of more than 4,000 rare books.
Externally, Duff House is surrounded by landscaped grounds with paths leading past several ornamental follies as they make their way alongside the River Deveron before finishing at the Gothic Duff family mausoleum hidden deep inside the woodland.
The walk back through the grounds will probably work up an appetite for the on-site café and its mouth-watering selection of home-baked food, while children will no doubt be entertained by the well-stocked gift shop at the main entrance.
All-in-all, Duff House is a highly recommended attraction for visitors exploring this part of Scotland.
Find more attractions in Scotland with my handy Scottish Tourist Attractions Map.
- The house is interesting to explore but I found the grounds to be even better – especially the woodland at the back. There’s a lot to discover during your visit.
- The food in the café is top-notch and reasonably priced.
- If you like antique artworks Duff House has one of the best collections in Scotland. Even if it’s not your cup of tea I guarantee you’ll be impressed by the number of paintings on display.
- Try to find the mausoleum and the old ice house in the grounds. A mini treasure hunt looking for them is a good way to keep the kids entertained.
- After you’ve visited Duff house head into Banff and walk the Banff Heritage Trail.
- …or head up the road and visit the historic villages of Cullen and Portsoy.
Things to do near Duff House
- Macduff Marine Aquarium. 11 High Shore, Macduff AB44 1SL. 5-minute drive. Aquarium that features a collection of different marine habitats including seep sea, shallow water and coastal. There is also a kelp reef exhibit which is the only one of its kind in Britain.
- Museum of Banff. High St, Banff AB45 1AE. 8-minute walk. Founded in 1828, Banff Museum is one of the oldest museums in Scotland. There is a large collection of silverware on display as well as exhibits that inform visitors about the history of the town.
- Banff Heritage Trail. Banff AB45 1AY. 9-minute walk. The historic town of Banff borders Banff Bay and the River Deveron. There are many historic buildings in the town centre which can be discovered by following the heritage trail that aims to show visitors the story of this quaint coastal town.
- Cullen. 20-minute drive. A coastal village and former royal burgh. Cullen boasts a very clean golden sand beach backed by a golf course overlooking the North Sea. The village is famous for being the birthplace of one of Scotland’s favourite dishes – Cullen Skink.
- Portsoy Harbour. Shore St, Portsoy, Banff AB45 2RX. 13-minute drive. A small but historically significant harbour that was originally built to service the export of marble which Portsoy became famous for. Today the harbour is a popular recreation spot and the location of a major annual sailboat festival.
Address and map
Tickets and opening times
Special offer! Click this affiliate link to purchase a Historic Environment Scotland Explorer Pass from Viator. Your 5-day or 14-day pass allows free entry to more than 77 castles, cathedrals, distilleries and more throughout Scotland.
- 1 April to 31 October: Daily, 11am to 5pm. Last entry 4.30pm
- 1 Nov to 31 Mar: Thursday to Sunday, 11am to 4pm. Last entry 3.30pm
- 25 and 26 December
- 1 and 2 January
- Telephone: 01261 818 181
- email: NA
- Website: Historic Environment Scotland
Photos and video
More places to visit in Grampian
- Aberdeen Travel Information – Complete GuideAlthough the city is best known for its links to the oil and gas industry it also has a vibrant nightlife and extensive shopping areas, as well as some fascinating history in the old part of the town like Aberdeen University which dates back to 1495.
- The Speyside Malt Whisky TrailSpeyside is famous within whisky-drinking circles for having the largest number of operational distilleries out of all six whisky-producing regions, with two of the most-consumed brands in the world originating from the area.
- The Complete Guide to Free Attractions in Aberdeenshire and MorayFind a great selection of free attractions with my list of the best free attractions in Aberdeenshire and Moray
- The Banff Heritage Trail – Aberdeenshire: Complete Visitor GuideThere’s a huge amount of history in this little town including a pre-reformation market cross, a tollbooth, the gorgeous 18th-century Duff House, and of course the lovely harbour which now mainly serves leisure craft.
- The Aberdeenshire Castle TrailAberdeenshire has long been hailed as Scotland’s castle county, and with good reason, as this remote area of Britain is home to more castles per acre than anywhere else in the nation.