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Dufftown in Moray

Welcome to Dufftown
the malt whisky capital of Moray.....!

 Dufftown is situated in the north east of Scotland, around 17 miles from Elgin in Moray which is the commercial and administrative capital of MorayDufftown is an interesting, spacious and well planned Scottish village which can be reached by taking the main A95 road between Elgin and Grantown and turning off towards Dufftown on the A941 at Craigellachie.   Dufftown had 1,546 residents at the time of the census in 2001 although this will have increased substantially in the intervening years as people re-locate to the area, in common with the theme in most other parts of Moray
 dufftown_square_and_clock_tower.jpgDufftown was founded in 1817 by James Duff, 4th Earl of Fife, and is a typical planned town of the area with the main streets being laid out in the shape of a cross.   At the intersection of the main streets is the focal point of Dufftown which is its clock tower.   The clock tower has a varied and fascinating history which we have detailed in our Dufftown history section below.   Dufftown was built next to, and to some extent replaced the much older village of Mortlach.  
The village of Mortlach is worth a visit to see the Dufftown distillery, the Mortlach distillery which is the oldest in the area and the Mortlach Church which is an important ancient building while still functioning as a church.   You will find more about the Mortlach church in our Dufftown history section.
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Dufftown is situated in the area where the Fiddich and Dullan rivers meet on their way to the River Spey and because of its situation, Dufftown benefits from a plentiful supply of water, which is ideal for the whisky distilling industry.  Not surprisingly, Dufftown promotes itself as the "Malt Whisky Capital of the World".   Dufftown is steeped in distilling history and has seven working distilleries either in, around or nearby the village of Dufftown.   It is claimed that Dufftown generates more export revenue per capita than any other town in the UK due to the high density of famous brand malt whisky distilleries in the area.
 There is a well known local saying: "If Rome was built on seven hills, Dufftown was built on seven stills.   The original seven distilleries of Dufftown were:
Mortlach (1824 - On the site of a previous illicit still)
Glenfiddich (1887 - which now has the largest export market of any Speyside Malt)
Balvenie         (1892)
Convalmore (1894 - Now closed and used as a bonded warehouse for Wm. Grant)
Parkmore        (1894 - Now closed)
Dufftown         (1896)
Glendullan (1897)
They were later joined by: 
Pittyvaich  (1974 - Shortlived and closed in 1993, now demolished)
Alt a Bhainne  (1975)
Kininvie (1990)
 Dufftown Attractions and Amenities

When planning a visit to Scotland and particularly Moray, don't plan a whistle stop tour of DufftownDufftown is a small town but there is a great deal to see and do in the area.   You can visit distilleries, such as the Glenfiddich distillery which is situated on the northern outskirts of the village on the A941 and which has an excellent visitor centre.   Dufftown also has a variety of sites of historical interest such as Balvenie castle which stands next to the Glenfiddich distillery, Auchindoun castle which is located two miles south of Dufftown on the A941, dramatically perched on the peak of a hill, surveying the valley below. There is also Mortlach Church which nestles in a dip along the Dullan water between the Dufftown and Mortlach distilleries.   These historic monuments are discussed further in our local history section at the bottom of the page.

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Dufftown can offer a huge selection of nature trails and beautiful walks for the casual rambler along the banks of the Dullan water and up to the striking Giant's chair rock formation and can also offer serious walks for the more adventurous through the surrounding countryside and to Ben Rinnes which is the highest peak in Moray and one of the Scottish Corbetts, rising to 2775 feet or 840 metres.   Dufftown also sits at the end of a spur on the Speyside Way which is the famous long distance walk between Aviemore and Spey Bay in Moray.

For cyclists, the Dufftown area is a must.   Whether looking for challenging mountain biking or a quiet cycle along secluded country tracks, surrounded by the splendour of the Speyside country, Dufftown is a cyclists paradise.

The Dufftown Golf club can be found one mile south of Dufftown on the B9009 road between Dufftown and Tomintoul in Moray and is set in the heart of one of the most scenic areas in Moray.   The 9th tee is one of the highest in the UK at 1,294 feet above sea level and the clubhouse itself sits at 795 feet.   Due to the nature of the countryside near Dufftown, the course is very challenging.   The 7th hole at Dufftown is one of the shortest holes in Scotland at 67 yards and the 10th tee at Dufftown surveys the town in the valley below from 1,213 feet with a vertical drop of 339 feet.   Both the 7th and 10th holes at Dufftown feature in "Britain's 100 Extraordinary Golf Holes" by Geoff Harvey and Vanessa Stowger.
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The Loch Park outdoor adventure centre is nearby and is situated only three miles from Dufftown on the B9104 Dufftown to Keith road.   Here you can take part in a range of activities such as Canoeing, Kayaking, Archery, Gorge Walking, Raft Building, Rope Course challenges and fishing, with some of the best brown trout fishing in Scotland.   Self catering accommodation is available near the centre in the Swan bunkhouse which has two rooms which can take up to six people and two rooms for two people.   The bunkhouse also caters for disabilities with easy access and ensuite facilities available.   There is a kitchen, sitting room, laundry facilities and four single shower rooms.

Dufftown railway station sits just to the north of Dufftown on the A941.   The line between Dufftown and Keith is an eleven mile stretch linking Dufftown with the market town of Keith in Moray through remarkable Speyside scenery.   It was originally opened in 1862 but was closed by British Railways in 1991 and lay disused for almost ten years until reopened by enthusiasts and volunteers during 2000 and 2001 to operate historic locomotives.   Hot and cold snacks and beverages are served at "The Buffer Stop" in beautifully decorated historic carriages on the platform at Dufftown station.
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Dufftown has a wealth of guest houses and an excellent hotel, as well as a wide selection of superb cuisine from a variety of restaurants that will leave you spoiled for choice.

Dufftown is a very important part of the Malt Whisky Trail and is home to the annual Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival in September which has become a very popular event.   During the festival at Dufftown you are able to visit distilleries that are not normally open to the public, become involved in nosings and tastings, attend lectures, ceilidhs, concerts and sample excellent cuisine.   The whisky festival in Dufftown still includes the notorious seven stills tour which lasts for around five hours and covers the seven distilleries of Dufftown.
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Dufftown has hosted an excellent annual Highland Games for over 150 years, which now takes place on the last Saturday of July.   The origin of highland games dates back to a more warlike time in Scotland when clan chiefs would conduct these games in order to test the fitness of the men in the clan and develop strengths and techniques in order to make them better able to defend themselves in battles with other clans.   These original games developed in to clan gatherings which allowed contestants to battle with each other for a prize, rather than to the death.   The games were re-invented in Victorian times with the first large gathering taking place in Braemar.   Many towns and villages in Scotland host Highland games, including traditional strong man events such as tossing the caber, putting the shot and throwing the hammer, as well as track and athletic events.   They also include highland dancing, music and general entertainment.   The Dufftown Highland games is a special event because of the large amount of massed bands who attend and the Dufftown games are categorised as a massed band event.

Dufftown History

Dufftown, originally named Balvenie, was founded in 1817 by James Duff, 4th Earl of Fife to provide accommodation and employment after the Napoleonic wars. Dufftown soon became a centre for whisky distilling due to the excellent pure water sources in the area.  The Dufftown area was rife, in common with other areas in Moray, with illegal whisky production and the first legal distillery to be built in Dufftown was the Mortlach distillery which was completed in 1824 on the site of an illicit still.   

The much older village of Mortlach preceded Dufftown and still sits on the edge of the village, next to the Mortlach Church which is an ancient monument and is one of the oldest places of continual worship in Scotland.   The Mortlach Church is believed to have been founded by St. Moulag in 566 and indeed it appears that prior to the building of the church, the site was used as a place of Pictish worship.   As evidence of the earlier presence in the area, there is a Pictish cross in the graveyard in the shape of a cross, known as the battle stone and standing 1.75 metres high.   Another older stone, known as the elephant stone was found in the churchyard in 1925 and has now been built in to the wall of the church inside the north wing.   Some parts of the original church still exist, although it has been heavily reconstructed through the years.   The last heavy reconstruction took place in 1876 and more restoration work was undertaken in 1931.

There are two castles in the Dufftown area, both with interesting and violent histories.   Balvenie Castle, originally known as Mortlach Castle is looked after by Historic Scotland and is a castle of enclosure with a massive curtain wall.  It has changed hands and been fought over many times over the centuries.  Balvenie Castle was built in the 13th century for the powerful Comyns, Earls of Buchan and fell in to the ownership of the "Black Douglases", one of the most powerful families in Scotland, in the early 14th century when the Comyns were destroyed by Robert the Bruce during the wars of independence.   In turn, James II wiped out the Douglases and the castle and estate was granted to John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl in 1459.   Balvenie served as a garrison for government forces during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 and was finally abandoned after the battle of Culloden in 1746.   The Duke of Fife placed the castle in to a state of care in 1929.  

Auchindoun Castle is an L plan tower house of three storeys, built on the earthworks of an iron age hill fort near Dufftown.  Auchindoun was built in the 15th century for John Stuart, Earl of Mar.   John Stuart died while being held prisoner by his brother, James III.   The castle, estates and titles of the Earl of Mar were bestowed on Robert Cochrane who was an architect and favourite of James III.   Following the murder of Robert Cochrane, the castle passed through many hands before being taken over by the Gordon clan in 1535 but was destroyed when the Mackintosh's burned the castle in 1591 in revenge for the murder of the Bonnie Earl o' Moray by the Marquis of Huntly and Sir Patrick Gordon of Auchindoun.   Auchindoun was restored after the Mackintosh's destructive rampage but fell in to disuse and by 1725 the stonework was being heavily pilfered for use in local house building.

Dufftown square is enhanced by an attractive clock tower with a fascinating history in its own right.   Built in 1839, the tower was originally the Dufftown jail, later the burgh chambers and now houses the tourist information centre.   The clock itself was originally from Banff and is known locally as "the clock that hanged Macpherson".  

James Macpherson was born, the illegitimate son of a Scottish Laird and a gypsy girl, in 1675.  He was a well known freebooter and outlaw around the north of Scotland, and particularly in the Moray area, towards the end of the 17th century.   James (Jamie) Macpherson was a man of magnificent stature, strength and intellect; an expert swordsman and accomplished fiddler.   He led a band of Gypsies which terrorised the landed gentry around the Moray area and he earned a reputation as a Scottish Robin Hood by stealing from the wealthy and sharing the spoils with the less fortunate.   

Jamie was finally captured in Keith in Moray by a posse organised by his arch enemy, Lord Duff of Braco.   He may have escaped if a woman had not thrown a blanket over him from an upstairs window.   He was tried in Banff by Sheriff Nicholas Dunbar (A friend of Lord Braco) and condemned to hang for the crimes of purse cutting, theft and of being an Egyptian or gypsy.   Thus the last capital sentence executed in Scotland under Heritable Jurisdiction took place in mid November 1700.   On the day of the execution, Lord Braco heard that a lone rider was approaching from Turriff with a reprieve, and had the town clock turned forward by fifteen minutes to ensure the execution was not stopped.

Jamie had composed "Macpherson's Lament" in jail which was later re-written by Robert Burns.   It is said that Jamie played the lament on his fiddle at the gallows and then offered the violin to anyone in the crowd who would play at his wake.   When no one came forward, he broke the fiddle over his knee and said "no one will ever play Jamie Macpherson's fiddle again".   Another less likely version of the story says that he broke the fiddle over the executioner's head and jumped from the platform, hanging himself.   The fiddle can still be seen today in a folk museum near Newtonmore.

The people involved in Moving the clock forward were punished, and for many years afterwards the clock was kept fifteen minutes fast, as a reminder of that fateful day.   It is interesting to note that the clock tower in Macduff has the clock on its western side blanked out as a gesture to the people of Banff.

Because the clock is now in Dufftown, we have used this rather tenuous link to tell a lovely story which is perhaps more appropriate to Banff.   The Dufftown clock tower itself, however, holds another amusing story from the beginning of the 20th century.   It is understood that around 1900, when the clock tower still housed the Burgh Chambers, an illicit still was in operation in the basement.   Exisemen crossing the square on their way to work could often catch the smell of a fresh mash in production, but put it down to legal production from the many distilleries surrounding Dufftown.   The history of illicit distilling is recounted in the small Whisky Museum at 24 Fife Street where you can view equipment, books and old photographs.