Dastardly deeds at Duff House

Duff House. Picture by Sobolevnrm
Duff House. Picture by Sobolevnrm

Duff House is anything but duff. A grand classical country pile that sits about an hour’s drive North of Aberdeen, the building itself is reckoned to be one of William Adam’s best.

Commissioned by William Duff (that’s Lord Braco to thee and me), building work started in 1725 and was completed only five years later. It took more than 100 years to complete the interior. In fact lord Braco, the 1st Earl, had a falling out with his architect over money and it was the subsequent generations that took the house and grounds to completion.

The estate grounds were first planned in the 18th century by James Duff, the second Earl, with formal gardens and the Bridge of Alvah, a gothic Mausoleum to host deceased family and ancestors as well as a useful ice-house to provide for chilled gin-swilling.

Upon completion in the 18th century, subsequent heirs to the not-so-Duff House enjoyed the architect designed “his” and “hers” apartments, and easy access to the bountiful servants via the four service spiral staircases in the corner towers. One can only guess at the shenanigans that took place upstairs and downstairs in Duff House. Now the house is accessible to the rest of us, and is open for viewing and to purchase in-house provisions and scoff tea and scones in the tearoom.

Each spring Duff House is loaned a masterpiece from the National Galleries of Scotland to place on display, and for 2012 it is The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania, painted in 1849 by Sir Joseph Noel Paton. The dreamy woodland scene from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream depicts Oberon and Titania – the king and queen of the fairies – arguing over possession of a changeling (a human child kidnapped and taken to the fairy realm and replaced by a fairy imposter). The painting is well worth seeing and according to author Lewis Carroll – who in 1850 was captivated by the painting – contains no less than 167 fairies. That’s a lot of little folk.