Duff House Visitor Guide

By Craig Neil. This post includes affiliate links.

Duff House, located in Banff, Aberdeenshire, is an exquisite example of Georgian architecture, designed by William Adam in the 18th century. This grand baroque mansion, once home to the affluent Duff family, today serves as a part of the National Galleries of Scotland.

Nestled within a lush landscape, the estate also features charming woodland walks and stunning gardens. Duff House’s rich history, combined with its artistic treasures, make it a must-visit landmark for history and art enthusiasts.

Duff House
AB45 3SX
Opening Hours:1 Apr to 30 Sept:
Thur to Sun, 9.30 am to 5 pm (last entry 4.15 pm)
Closed for lunch from 1 pm to 2 pm

1 Oct to 31 Mar:
Fri to Sun, 10.15 am to 4 pm (last entry 3.15 pm)
Closed for lunch from 12.15 pm to 1 pm
Admission Price:Adult (16-64yrs) £9.50
Concession (65yrs+ and unemployed) £7.50
Child (5-15yrs) £5.50
Family (1 adult, 2 children) £18.00
Family (2 adults, 2 children) £26.00
Family (2 adults, 3 children) £30.50
Parking:Free on-site car park
Contact:01261 818 181
Facilities:Toilets, disabled access, gift shop, guided tours, picnic area, water refill
Photos:Virtual Tour
YouTube Video


Virtual tour


The historic coastal town of Banff in the northeast of Scotland is becoming increasingly popular with tourists who visit in 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 have an interest in Scotland’s history.

Duff House

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.

Beyond this point, you’ll pass a couple of curiosities including the Duff House ice house and the family mausoleum.

Duff House

The highlights

1: The house is interesting but I found the grounds to be even better – especially the woodland at the back. There’s a lot to discover during a visit to Duff House.

2: The food in the café is top-notch and reasonably priced.

3: 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.

Visiting tips

1: 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.

2: After you’ve visited Duff House head into Banff and walk the Banff Heritage Trail.

3: If you’d prefer to enjoy the coastline in this part of Scotland, I recommend heading up the road and visiting the historic villages of Cullen and Portsoy.

Duff House

Tourist information

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 to view the collection of national treasures on loan from 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.

Duff House

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.

Duff House

Things to do

Historical Exploration: Immerse yourself in the history of Duff House on a self-guided tour of this grand Georgian mansion. Designed by William Adam, the house is filled with beautiful artwork and precious antiques, and each room has been meticulously restored to reflect the different eras of the Earls of Fife.

Art Appreciation: As part of the National Galleries of Scotland, Duff House boasts a collection of significant art pieces. Marvel at works by renowned artists such as El Greco and Gainsborough in rotating exhibitions that provide ever-changing experiences for art enthusiasts.

Nature Walks: Explore the beautifully landscaped grounds surrounding Duff House. The manicured lawns, colourful flower beds, and shady woodland trails offer a tranquil setting for leisurely walks. Keep an eye open for the Duff Ice House and the Duff Mausoleum in the grounds.

Afternoon Tea: After a day of exploration, unwind with a traditional Scottish afternoon tea in the Duff House tearoom. Savour freshly baked scones, delectable sandwiches, and a variety of teas and coffees before finishing your day with a visit to nearby Portsoy.

Local Culture Events: Duff House often hosts cultural events such as music concerts, art workshops, and historical reenactments. Check out the Historic Environment Scotland website to see what’s coming up next.

Duff House


Historical Significance: Duff House was built in the Georgian era, around 1740, by renowned architect William Adam for William Duff, the first Earl of Fife.

Architectural Marvel: The house is considered one of the finest Baroque buildings in Scotland. It was designed to be a symmetrical structure with a central block and two pavilions, displaying the typical characteristics of the Baroque style.

A Source of Conflict: The construction of Duff House led to a bitter dispute between the architect William Adam and the Earl of Fife, resulting in the building never being truly finished to its original design.

Role in World Wars: During World War I and II, Duff House served various roles including a prisoner of war camp, a sanatorium for soldiers, and a billet for Norwegian airmen. It was also bombed by the German Luftwaffe in 1940, causing significant damage.

Extensive Grounds: The house is set within an extensive parkland, featuring a woodland walk and a golf course. The grounds, like the house, are symmetrically designed and include a Mausoleum and several bridges over the River Deveron.

Restoration Efforts: After being damaged in the war, Duff House was restored by the Ministry of Works in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The restoration work was again carried out in the 1980s, which returned the house to its former glory.

Ghostly Tales: As with many old buildings, Duff House has its share of ghostly tales. It is said to be haunted by a ghost known as the ‘Grey Lady’, believed to be a previous resident of the house who died tragically.

Things to do nearby

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.

banff harbour

Macduff Marine Aquarium. 11 High Shore, Macduff AB44 1SL. 5-minute drive.
An aquarium that features a collection of different marine habitats including deep 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.

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.

Frequently asked questions

Who designed Duff House?

Duff House was designed by the architect William Adam (1689-1748).

Who lived in Duff House?

Duff House was built between 1735 and 1740 for William Duff of Braco, 1st Earl of Fife.
When the Duff family moved out in 1903 they gifted the house to Banff Burgh, and it is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland and National Galleries of Scotland.

Is Duff House dog friendly?

Assistance dogs are allowed at Duff House. Other dogs are not permitted.

How old is Duff House?

Duff House is 283 years old (as of 2023).

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By Craig Neil

Craig Neil is a travel writer from Edinburgh with a passion for visiting Scotland's tourist attractions. Over the last 15 years he has explored Scotland from the Shetland Islands to the Scottish Borders, and he shares his travel experiences in Out About Scotland.