For the Love of Durn House

For the Love of Durn House

 By Sandra Scrudis


(Click on photos to enlarge)


If you take a stroll along the leafy lane, once known as ‘Lovers Lane’ and

  now signposted as Durn Road, Portsoy, you will eventually come across Durn House, a stunning Scottish Georgian Mansion House built c. 1770, which sits quietly and unobtrusively, tucked into a corner, surrounded by huge trees and old stone walls, where the Burn of Durn trickles along under an ancient stone bridge on its journey to the sea.









This is the first verse of a poem encompassing Durn House is mentioned in the famous Portsoy Past and Present book by author James Slater:

‘Tis said, “ In spring a young mans he’rt tae thochts o’ love will turn,”

What better place fir sic’ a theme than on the road roon’ Durn

And so oot by the Boolin’ Green, you’ll find this weel-kent-glade,

Whaur lovers aft stroll hand in hand , aneath its tree-lined shade


Durn House stands majestically on the outskirts of portsoy. It has links with the Scottish Crown Jewels, the romantic tale of Bonnie Prince Charlie as well as the Battle of Culloden.


In 2006 it was bought by us, John and Sandra Scrudis, and the beginning of a painstaking 7-year’s restoration.

The original ‘Durn Estate’ goes way back to the 16th Century, and possibly before that, where among the papers of Gordon of Letterfourie are the writs of Durn (then spelt Durne), ranging from 1508 – 1604, with the estate in occupation by Currours during the reign of James IV to Sir William Ogilvie of Strathearn.

Sir Thomas Menzies was the next owner, and his son (also called Thomas) succeeded to Durn in August 1593, became provost of Aberdeen, and has been credited with finding the famous ‘Kellie Pearl’, said to be the largest freshwater pearl ever discovered not only in Scotland but the entire United Kingdom.

In 1621, the estate referred back to the Ogilvies until in 1678 the lands, barony and mansion house were acquired by William Dunbar of Kintessack. By 1695 he dropped the title of Kintessack in favour of Durn. William Dunbar was the son of Ninian Dunbar, Sheriff of Banff, who was the man who sentenced John McPherson to hang. McPherson played a tune on his violin while being led to his death, since known as the famous ‘Macpherson’s Rant’.

His son, Sir James Dunbar of Durn was very interested in mechanical designs and in 1720 James Ferguson set out to visit at Durn House with maps, his globe and a home-made clock, was invited to remain to clean local noblemen’s clocks and time-pieces. He was also a gifted portrait painter. James Ferguson went on to become one of the UK’s most famous astronomers.

In 1745, Sir William Dunbar 3rd of Durn joined Lord Pitsligo in Aberdeen and then joined Bonnie Prince Charlie and others on October 9th at Holyrood Palace to spur the Jacobite uprising.


In April 1746 the Duke of Cumberland and his troops came to Portsoy en-route to Culloden. Whilst ‘resting’ they burnt down the Chapel of New Durn. The communion cup was rescued and is now still used in St. John Baptist’s church at Portsoy.


Cumberland also took from the church a date stone as a ‘trophy’, which was eventually returned to the Dunbar family and was cemented into the wall upon the building of the current house in approx. 1770. The date stone is known to be the second oldest date stone in Banffshire. The ruins of the Chapel are still to be seen on a little haugh by the burnside.



In 1884 the Earl of Seafield sold the estate off in various parts. The Dunbars of Durn, however still exist today.



Durn House is now a highly respected guest house.

 It is the no.1 guest house in Aberdeenshire, according to Trip Advisor reviews. Durn House is also a wedding venue, and more recently host to a ‘Gourmet Club’, where foodies can meet in comfort to eat, enjoy good conversation and company at various organised events.

You can see all that Durn House has to offer on their website or visit their facebook page

Visitors are always welcome. Durn House has an open door policy and is willing to show small groups round the house and provide a historical chat on the history of the Durn Estate. For Enquiries call 01261 843424







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