Visiting an Elegant Stately Home with Kids; Duff House, Banffshire

Funnily enough I wasn’t entirely sure if my energetic, noisy and sometimes sticky toddlers would be a good fit with a visit to a rural stately home. But when we were hostelling around the Moray coast we were practically on the doorstep of the alluringly ‘Austen’ Duff House and I wasn’t gonna let two rug-rats cramp my inner Elizabeth Bennett.

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Mr Husband wheels our buggy towards the Georgian Duff House

For any history buffs inhaling sharply yes, Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813 and Duff House is a stunning Georgian property dating back to 1735, but let’s not get all period drama about it.

You get some very masculine castles and towers in Scotland, they’re defensive and conflict always feels a heartbeat away, but Duff House is a refined property with a feminine air to it. The front of the house is so symmetrical and somehow intricately simple that it’s a popular wedding venue. I can picture any bride looking radiant descending the exterior staircases. As we wheeled our buggy up the carriageway in the rain we felt slightly less glamourous.

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Sir John Lavery’s The Pergola

The house itself isn’t buggy territory so our tots (aged 3 and 1) either walked, or the little one was occasionally carried. A sling for babies would work well too. As we passed from one opulent room to another, taking in the rich furnishings, the works of art on the wall including Lavery and El Greco, hearing the history of the family, discovering how the Earl who commissioned the house had a HUGE fall out with the renowned architect William Adam, my children acted quite strangely. They amused themselves!! There is nothing within the house to particularly entertain a young child but children are versatile and can surprise you.

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The Private Drawing Room: site of the “men in ‘funny’ clothes” discussion

In the Private Drawing Room they gaped at the huge portraits on the wall which must have seemed really odd to them (our house is nothing like that!), in Countess Agnes’ Boudoir they liked looking in the many mirrors and finding each other in the mirrors, in the North Drawing Room they lay on their backs and gazed at the huge sparkly chandelier, and in another vast room they crawled about the extensive floor space pretending to be dogs and barking. Admittedly that last one doesn’t sound so good, but on the whole people (be it the public or members of staff) don’t mind happy children finding a way to entertain themselves. They weren’t crying or trashing the place so the staff of Historic Environment Scotland seemed to almost enjoy seeing youngsters take in Duff House in their own inimitable style.

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The chandelier in the North Drawing Room

We did engage our 3 year old occasionally with chat about the property; what did he think of the ‘funny’ clothes the men were wearing in the paintings, would he like a four-poster bed at home? That kind of thing naturally helped keep him involved, and one of the guides even let him play the piano (badly).

At the end of the tour there’s a video, about 15-20 minutes, presented by Kirsty Wark, about Duff House. My pair didn’t sit through this, sorry Kirsty, but perhaps your children will.

Outside there’s a playground near the car park. The grounds are meant to be a lovely walk on a pleasant day, including an impressive mausoleum and a quirky ice-house, but it was bucketing down when we visited so, whilst we were delighted to be inside, we did miss out on exploring the estate. There’s also a tearoom on site for refreshments.

I appreciate I’ve only touched on the history of Duff House. When the family moved out in 1906 it went on to be a country house hotel, then a sanatorium, and it played many roles during WW2 including a detention camp for ‘enemy aliens’ so it’s a fascinating destination. I felt I had an adult experience with my children, which made a nice change from soft play.

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The Entrance Vestibule at Duff House – don’t touch a thing!

I guess my conclusion is that taking kids to such an elegant location made me feel I’d underestimated them (and I think parents often worry in advance about their children’s potential behaviour), secondly these attractions (run by bodies such as Historic Environment Scotland) are there for everyone and they make you very welcome and at ease, and lastly it opened my eyes to certain details. When my kids lay on their backs gazing at the chandelier it made me look up, admire the craftmanship, enjoy the sparkles, see it from their eyes, and that was an absolute pleasure.

THE LOWDOWN – Duff House is located just outside Banff in Aberdeenshire. We drove north from Aberdeen and stayed at the new Sail Loft Hostel in Portsoy, just west of Duff House . The following evening we visited the Cullen Harbour Hostel. Duff House is approximately an hour’s drive from Aberdeen with its rail, bus and airport links, or catch the 305 bus from the Granite City up to Banff. From 1 April – 31 October 2017 Duff House will be open seven days a week.

If you like what you read then don’t miss a post, enter your email address in the ‘Follow’ box then click ‘Follow’ or join the conversation on Facebooktwitterpinterest and instagram at Tots2Travel. Tots2Travel were given complimentary entry for review purposes, Lord Boy and Arch Duke Toddler say thank you and good day sir. For any queries or opportunities please email tots2travel@hotmail.com.  All images copyright of Tots2Travel.

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March 8, 2017

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19 Comments

  1. Reply

    Travel-Wise / Natasha

    March 9, 2017

    This looks like such a gorgeous historical spot; a place I would have adored as a child! It seems like a vastly different day tour than the Peterhead Prison Museum and it sounds like your kids love the opportunities!

    Thanks for sharing 😀

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      March 11, 2017

      Variety is the spice of life! Definitely a good contrast of days out.

  2. Reply

    Agness of Fit Travelling

    March 13, 2017

    This place seems amazing! I would love to visit more historic looking spots like this one!

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      March 14, 2017

      It’s so elegant and refined. A lovely day out.

  3. Reply

    Jenni

    April 7, 2017

    Reminds me a little of when I took my toddler to a stately home – he also liked to lie down and look at the ceilings, and he would walk in to every room shouting “wow, look at that!” It made the attendants on duty smile. #culturedkids

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      April 9, 2017

      I guess they’ve never seen a home like it! Ours is, well, a little different.

  4. Reply

    Wandermust mummy

    April 7, 2017

    We love visiting states homes! This looks like a fab one! #culturedkids

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      April 9, 2017

      Desperately elegant. Quite feminine too.

  5. Reply

    Wherejogoes

    April 7, 2017

    It’s great that so many stately homes now welcome children – after all they are the visitors of the future! Always good to find one with a playground too. #culturedkids

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      April 9, 2017

      Ideal to start them young and get them engaged. As you say, potential members, or non-members, of the future.

  6. Reply

    pigeonpairandme

    April 8, 2017

    My son also surprised me when I took him to a stately home. He really entered into the spirit of it, even gasping in awe at a grand corridor. Mind you, he’s seven, and I’m not sure he’d have done as well as your two under the same circumstances! Thanks for joining in with #CulturedKids

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      April 9, 2017

      They definitely surprised me but they’d never seen the like!

  7. Reply

    Jenny (The Liitle Adventurer)

    April 10, 2017

    I love your post – you really convey a sense of this grand place- it’s great you all enjoyed it. I always think the staff’s attitude makes such a difference- if there are no disapproving stares, everyone relaxes and enjoys themselves! #culturedkids

  8. Reply

    Cindy

    April 11, 2017

    Beautiful photos! It sounds like it was a great experience – truly makes a big difference when the staff are so welcoming to young children. #CulturedKids

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      April 11, 2017

      They enjoyed it more than I could have expected.

  9. Reply

    Cultural Wednesday

    May 4, 2017

    We took the juniors to a NT House when they were buggy size, the house had one of those Hippychick supports but only one. Mr CW and I took it in turns with it, we invested in carry punches for future visits! #CulturedKids

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      May 4, 2017

      Totally prepared! We just used persuasion and muscle power!

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