Duffus Castle looms, majestic and huge against the skyline as you approach. It’s imposing and impressive… dramatic too…
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’.
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.
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.
I tiptoed round shells, yolks and egg whites inside the old keep too.
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!
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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.