Myself and a large group of friends went for a sporadic picnic at Duffus Castle today. I'd heard of the motte-and-bailey castle, just outside of Elgin, and most of the Nairn/Lossie-based people I knew had been - but I'd never been up there.
It's a gorgeous castle with no fees to view it, and we got lucky and had brilliant weather to see it in - the grass was bright, and you could see the sun moving across the yellow fields that stretched outside of the castle grounds. The land itself is huge, with lots of open space considering that only a small amount of ruins remain.
Metal plaques across each section of the ruins describe what each area would have been. When a short rain shower hit our picnic, we sheltered in an archway where the portcullis machinery had once been, and now only a hole remained. There was also a latrine just down from the portcullis - a gaping hole pointing down the side of the castle.
'Inside' the castle, the roof is now gone and large chunks of the second floor have collapsed into the hill due to some severe subsidence - the most amusing of these being the latrine from the castle lord's bedchambers, which is now planted in the hillside with a long chute pointing down the mound.
It's a beautiful ruin, without any of the tourist shops and entry fees that tend to spoil historic areas these days. You just need to follow the trail to the castle (use a map, it's difficult to find), and then you'll join a small group of dog walkers, locals and tourists out enjoying the beautiful scenery. Nobody thought anything of our group sitting out on the grass with a picnic (and a few families had the same idea), and we were left to ourselves to play frisbee and ball games across the mound and flat lands surrounding it.
If you're out exploring the Nairn/Elgin/Lossie/Morayshire area and the weather is nice, don't miss your chance to take a look at the ruins. The area is open to the wind and rain, so carry a warm jacket in case the weather shifts. Bring food and friends to get the most out of it!