A Tentative Tiptoe Round Duffus Castle

Duffus Castle looms, majestic and huge against the skyline as you approach. It’s imposing and impressive… dramatic too…

Duffus Castle silhouetted against the sun

On the day I visited – Easter Sunday – it was busy, really busy, and the air contained a mysterious hint of sulphur. This medieval fortress of the Moray family, one of Scotland’s most beautiful motte and bailey castles, had become a giant playground for the seasonal pastime of ‘egg rolling’.

The castle ramparts

You see those white bits in the grass in the photo above that look like daisies? Not daisies. Everywhere, the ground was strewn with smashed boiled eggs, as people, both old and young, hurled them with great gusto from the top of the ramparts.

I recall rolling eggs sedately down a gentle slope on Easter Sunday when I was a child. Then, once your egg was cracked, you peeled and ate it, despite the fact that the colour from your decorating efforts had soaked through the porous shell and onto the egg white.

No one was eating their eggs at Duffus Castle. The goal was definitely to throw them as far as possible. A bit like shot put. Or tossing the caber. And you know what? It wasn’t entirely unfitting. There was something medieval and combative about it. Risk was in the air and on the ground; you could be hit by, or step on, an eggy missile at any moment.

View of Duffus Castle from the moat

It was quieter on the moat-side walk, though one or two eggs had somehow found their way down there too. The path offered some of the prettiest views of the castle and its walls.

wall at Duffus Castle - Ailish Sinclair, author

I tiptoed round shells, yolks and egg whites inside the old keep too.

The interior of the old keep - Ailish Sinclair, author

As I look at the photo of the fallen privy chamber below, I am actually still thinking about the eggs. Who cleans them all up? There were large mounds of them, warming in the sun, at the foot of the ramparts. I imagine the circling seagulls swoop down and help themselves once the crowds have gone. But some poor person, presumably a member of Historic Scotland‘s staff, must be stuck with the task of clearing it all away properly? I hope they get given a large chocolate egg to make up for it!

fallen privy chamber

I’m off on holiday in a few days, so lots of new, probably less eggy, places should be appearing on my Twitter and Instagram feeds daily, mountainous mobile phone coverage allowing!

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Cover of Ailish Sinclair's 'The Mermaid and the Bear'
Out October 18th 2019

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story.




72 Replies to “A Tentative Tiptoe Round Duffus Castle”

  1. That sounds like a really fun tradition. I’m happy to say I visited Duffus a few weeks ago and all the eggs remnants were gone. 🙂 The birds must have been quite happy!

  2. Glorious!
    I didn’t manage to see inside the walls the last time I was there.
    I was shown through a gap across country that you can actually see Ben Nevis from there – on a good day.

  3. What a lovely looking castle, Ailish. I’ve never heard of the egg custom though – but it’s much healthier than the Cadbury chocolate egg hunts we’re bombarded with down here! As you say, it does seem to have a medieval feel about it too, dodging missiles thrown from the castle walls, so despite the detritus left over it can’t be all bad! 🙂

  4. So beautiful! Visiting Scotland is definitely on my bucket list. It seems to be rich with history and natural beauty.

    Thanks for the follow! I enjoy your photos and posts!

  5. What a weird and wonderful tradition! I’m sure the wildlife will snap up the free food – lots of babies to feed at the moment

  6. Great post. I remember we always ate our egg once it had cracked. We still go egg rolling at the shore but it’s more of a battle to see whose egg lasts the longest before falling to bits – then the gull have dinner.

  7. Thanks for the very interesting post. As a child, I remember rolling my easter egg down a hill on a freezing day in SW Scotland. We also painted them with faces as well – the reason is now lost in the mists of my memory.

  8. Good morning. The thoughts you had about cleaning up were running through my mind also. The fact is the smell would be strong in the warmth (though it’s probably not quite as warm there as would be here at Easter) and the bugs would also be attracted. That and as you said the possibility of someone getting hurt.
    Enjoy your holiday. I’m sure you’ll be posting some lovely pictures as always.

  9. Beautiful pictures! I was a tad envious. 🙂 Been studying Viking history and these pictures stir a lot of interesting story plots. Enjoyed your whimsical stroll and pondering s. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Lol when I played Sims Medieval, characters could throw eggs at those who were sent to the stocks. What people did with the eggs on your trip sounds like an interesting take on Easter eggs!

  11. That sounds like fun! Rolling Easter eggs down hills is a thing here in Lancashire as well, but it’s one of those traditions that seem to exist in some parts of the UK but not others. Lovely castle.

  12. From where I sit, castles are the best, and any castle is worth investigating!
    Many thanks to you, for following my blog.
    I am very appreciative of that, believe me. :0
    Best wishes, Pete.

  13. Great post! I hadn’t heard of the egg rolling Easter tradition before. It sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing. Lovely photos too! I loved my visit to Scotland a few years ago, but I didn’t make it to Duffus Castle.

  14. Wonderful, amazing, photos! And a great narration, too!

    “There was something medieval and combative about it. Risk was in the air and on the ground; you could be hit by, or step on, an eggy missile at any moment.”
    This had me folded up, laughing

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