St Peters Old Parish Church, Duffus

National Grid Reference (NGR): NJ 17510 68650, map




St Peter's Church is located in the centre of a surrounding rectangular graveyard, originally within the grounds of Gordonstoun School, which lies a short distance to the east. It is reached by a wooded trackway which leads from the south-eastern edge of Duffus village. The church and graveyard are surrounded by mature woodland and small fields, which would likely have belonged to the Gordonstoun estate. 

The church is in ruins today after going out of use in the 1860s, when a new church was built nearby. Most of the remains date to the 18th century, but there are some surviving sections of medieval structure. 

Description (exterior)

The church ruins today comprise the main rectangular nave or body of the church, two external stairs and the remains of a medieval tower and porch. The church has been built using coursed sandstone rubble with ashlar corner stones (quoins) and dressings. There are no remains of any of the church's roofs. 


The nave dates largely to the 18th century and is a rectangular structure, aligned east-west. The west gable has a small, rectangular window at gallery level and a birdcage-style bellcote sits on the apex. The bellcote is built in ashlar and has stumpy pinnacles and a small finial. Scars in the stonework of the gable shows where a (probably later) structure was built on to it. The base of a medieval tower stands alongside the gable and is described below. The south elevation of the nave has four rectangular windows with a small doorway towards the east end. The remains of an earlier porch are attached at the west end (described below). Above the porch is a small rectangular window at the wallhead, presumably to light a gallery inside. A similar gallery window is placed at the east end of the elevation and supporting the south-eastern corner is a substantial buttress. The east gable of the church is fairly plain, with a central rectangular doorway. Alongside is a sturdy external stair which provides access to a rectangular gallery doorway.  The north elevation has an external stair at the centre, leadin g to a small gallery doorway. Towards the east end is a small square gallery window and at the east end is an equally small rectangular window set lower down, below gallery level. 


The remains of the medieval tower are attached to the west end of the church. It is roughly square in plan and around 2m in height. There is a wider base course just above ground level. There is a tall, narrow pointed-arch (lancet) window in the west face with chamfered edges. Above is an ashlar panel with the remains of a coat of arms. In the south face is a smaller lancet window, close to ground level, again with chamfered edges. Mounted on the wall is a later granite memorial with a stone gable-shaped hoodmould above. The interior of the tower is rib-vaulted and may contain later burials. 


On the south elevation is a 16th century porch. There is a large pointed-arch doorway on the south face with moulded margins and hoodmould, now quite weathered. A stringcourse runs around the building. The top of the porch appears to have been altered to form a slope - it seems likely this was to re-roof it with a single-pitch lean-to structure, which reached the south wall of the church below the gallery window. The interior, like the tower remains, are vaulted. 

Description (interior)

The interior is open to the elemants but is well-maintained. The stone flag floor is still in situ and there are a number of later burials and memorials. Socket holes in the walls show that there were galleries around the east, west and north walls. 


  • Church founded here (12th-13th century)
  • Tower built (14th century)
  • Porch built (1524)
  • Church closed (1869)
  • Church built on site of previous building (18th century)

Archive References:

Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 482
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 2307A-listed
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: RCAHMS NJ16NE 2
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 16123

Bibliographic References:

Exploring Scotland's Heritage: GrampianIan Shepherd1986p113
The Architecture of Scottish Post Reformation Churches 1560-1843G Hay1957p236
Scottish Medieval Churches: Architecture and FurnishingsR Fawcett2002p89 & 331
Duffus Castle and ChurchW D Simpson1951p7
The New Statistical Account of Scotland1835p41