A magnificent early Georgian mansion, designed by William Adam for the Earl of Fife, is now open as a Country House Gallery of the National Galleries of Scotland.
for more information on Duff House.A tale of two Williams
Duff House was intended to be the chief seat of William Duff, Lord Braco (later 1st Earl Fife). An astute businessman, his ambition was not simply to succeed but to be seen to succeed. But he fell out with his architect, William Adam, and never spent a night in the building.
Duff House was the culmination of William Adam’s practice rather than any new development. The complex façades, with their pattern-making and sculptural decoration, were paralleled in his earlier work (such as Hopetoun House, near Edinburgh). After Duff House, Adam switched from the Baroque style to the more modern Palladian style, best seen at Haddo in Aberdeenshire.
House for an earl
Earl William’s son, James, 2nd Earl, completed the main part of Duff House himself. He laid out the surrounding parkland and arranged the interior as a piece of social machinery.
The basement was occupied by sparsely furnished servants’ quarters, pantry, wine and ale cellars. An impressive external horseshoe stair led to the first-floor vestibule, where important guests were received. The other rooms on this level provided a private drawing room and dining room, and bedroom accommodation for James and his estranged wife, Dorothea.
On the second floor were the principal reception rooms – salon and drawing room – and further bedrooms. The top storey became the Earl of Fife’s library.
Following James’s death in 1809, Duff House declined. Indeed, the 4th Earl (1811–57) preferred Delgatie Castle to Duff House. His taste for the high life led to debts, and gradually the contents of Duff House were sold off.
Prince Edward (later King Edward VII) paid a visit in 1883, but by then Duff was serving as little more than a shooting lodge.
A modern role
In the 20th century, Duff House was used as a hotel, a nursing home, a prison of war and an army barracks. In 1956 it was rescued by the State. It has now found a new role as a country house museum.
Since the 1990s, the house has played host to a very large collection of artworks from the national collection, managed by the National Galleries of Scotland. There are also loans and temporary exhibitions.Highlights
- The setting – impressively situated amid lawns fringed by woodland and enchanting follies.
- Adam’s ornate external staircase – follow in the footsteps of the ‘great and good’, including the future Edward VII in 1883.
- The interior – explore the lovingly restored rooms and the artistic treasures that now grace them.
Highlights include art works by El Greco, Gainsborough and François Boucher.
The building also houses the Dunimarle Library, a rare collection of over 4,000 volumes, which can be viewed by appointment.
There is a tea room and shop on ground-floor level (to which admission is free), as well as temporary exhibitions by visiting artists and societies.
Region – North and Grampian
Postcode: AB45 3SX
1 April - 31 October, Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun, 11.00 am to 5.00 pm
1 November - 31 March , Thu Fri Sat Sun, 11.00 am to 4.00 pm
Admission to Galleries
Adult £7.10, Concession £5.70, Child £4.30