Click for Bookshop

Gordonstoun School

Gordonstoun is a famous independent boarding school occupying a fine A-listed mansion set in extensive parkland, ¾ mile (1.3 km) east of Duffus and 3 miles (5 km) west southwest of Lossiemouth in Moray. It was founded as an international school in 1934 by innovative educator Dr. Kurt Hahn (1886 - 1974), who had fled Nazi Germany the previous year. Hahn had established the Schule Schloss Salem in Germany and created Gordonstoun along similar lines, based on principles of self-discipline, challenge, community, service to others and compassion. Drawing influence from Ancient Greece, the school places great emphasis on discipline and physical education.

The unusual mansion comprises a three-storey central block with two-storey wings, built in the 17th century. The north front is in ashlar, with a fine door-piece featuring paired Corinthian columns which support a decorated pediment. The wings project slightly to the south and feature sweeping slate roofs and bartizans on the outer corners.

This land was once the property of the Ogstons, but was bought by the Innes family in 1473. In the 16th century, they built the tower house which forms the well-hidden core of the present mansion. Sir Robert Gordon (1580 - 1656) acquired the property and extended it in 1616, erecting the Barony of Gordonstoun in 1642. The house was remodelled in 1730 and given its fine Classical north front in 1775. The estate passed to the Cummings of Altyre in 1795 and it was this family who initially rented the house to Hahn in 1934 and then sold the entire estate to him after World War II. Further alterations were made following a fire in 1940, while the house was commandeered by the army and the School was evacuated to Wales.

The school roll has grown steadily from two boys in its first year and has been co-educational since 1972. The junior school now has 130 pupils, having moved here from its original base at Aberlour (Speyside) in 2004. This is the only independent boarding school in the north of Scotland for children aged 8 to 13. There are 450 students in the senior school.

Unusually, the school provides a fire, coastguard and lifeguard service for the local area, and assists with mountain rescue, all part of Hahn's vision of community involvement. There is a fire station equipped with two fire engines within the school grounds. Sport is an important part of the broad curriculum offered. Gordonstoun provides playing fields, tennis courts, a 400m running track and a sports centre, which houses a swimming pool, rock climbing wall, gym, squash courts and an indoor sports hall.

The boarding houses are named Cumming, Altyre, Duffus, Bruce, Gordonstoun (located within the mansion itself), Round Square (within Gordon's immense circular stable block, now A-listed), Hopeman, Plewlands and Windmill Lodge. The latter three are now designated for girls, while Altyre is mixed. The Gordonstoun International Summer School has operated since 1976 to give a taste of the school's ethos. Gordonstoun registered its own tartan in 1956, based on Hunting Cumming.

Prince Philip of Greece, later the Duke of Edinburgh and British Royal Consort, followed Hahn from Salem to Gordonstoun, completing his education here in 1939. The Royal Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward all attended Gordonstoun, as did the children of HRH the Princess Royal, although Prince Charles reportedly did not enjoy his time here. The Duke of Edinburgh's Award, instituted in 1954, borrowed from the school's outward-bound, volunteering and expeditionary ethos. Other former pupils include the cartographer John C. Bartholomew (1923 - 2008), the folk musician Roy Williamson (1936-90), author William Boyd (b.1952) and actor Jason Connery (b.1963), the son of Sir Sean Connery.

Within the grounds are two churches; the modern St. Christopher's Chapel and the Michael Kirk, which was the original estate church. There is also a fine example of a beehive doocot dating from c.1600 and now B-listed.


Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry arrow

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better