The real life story of Macbeth in Moray

Shakespeare’s tale of Macbeth is well known around the world, but the real story of the Scottish King is far lesser known.

There are may local legends regarding Macbeth in Moray and Inverness | Credit: Biography

Shakespeare mixed fact and fiction when creating his tale of Macbeth, drawing on the exciting real life tales of Macbeth and Duncan I of Scotland.  The Scottish King had many links to the Moray and Inverness areas, with many sites having at least a local legend regarding Macbeth.

Macbeth and Inverness

The son of Duncan I may have built his castle where the current Inverness Castle now stands, after he defeated Macbeth | Credit: Dave Conner

In The Bard’s play, Inverness was the home of Macbeth’s castle, where King Duncan I is killed in the play.  In the real world, Macbeth’s father, resided in the city, but not in the currently standing Inverness Castle.

Macbeth’s father most likely resided in a hill fort located at Auldcastle, now known as Auldcastle Road.  It is said that Malcolm Canmore, son of Duncan I, destroyed this fort after he defeated Macbeth.  He then built a new castle on the site of the current Inverness Castle.

The real death of Duncan I of Scotland

Duncan I of Scotland’s death happened very differently in real life | Credit: Wikimedia

As for the death of Duncan I of Scotland, he certainly wasn’t murdered in his sleep.  Donchad mc Crinian is depicted in Shakespeare’s Macbeth as an elderly king who was killed in his sleep by the play’s main character.  In real life, the actually rather young king lived until the age of 39, where he was killed in battle against Macbeth’s men in what is now known as Pitgavney, near Elgin in Moray.

Macbeth & Forres

Sueno’s Stone may have been a rallying point for the real life Macbeth and his troops | Credit: Kim Traynor

In Macbeth, Duncan’s castle is said to be in Forres, and the iconic scene when the Three Witches gather to predict the rise and downfall of Macbeth is set upon a hill nearby the ancient Scottish town.

It is also said that Sueno’s Stone, a 20ft Pictish cenotaph in Forres, might have been a rallying point for the real life Macbeth and his troops before they marched east to stop Duncan’s invasion.  The true meaning of Sueno’s Stone and its engravings remain a mystery to this day.

Macbeth’s Hillock

Macbeth’s Hillock in Forres is said to be the grassy mound upon which Macbeth and Banquo met the Weird Sisters | Credit: Wikimedia

According to local folklore, Macbeth’s Hillock is the “blasted heath” where the protagonist and Banquo meet the “Weird Sisters” and hear their prophecy that Macbeth is destined to be king.  This grassy mound is within walking distance of Brodie Castle, and I would definitely recommend you have a look at all the great historic artefacts inside the castle before taking the short walk to the hill. 

Carden Cottages is the perfect base for history and literature fans to explore the many sites in the Moray area related to Macbeth.  Our luxury cottages are just around an hour drive to Inverness, only a 15 minute drive from Pitgavney, a 20 minute drive to Brodie Castle – which is in walking distance of Macbeth’s Hillock and just over a 10 minute drive to Sueno’s Stone.

For more information about Macbeth and his real and fictional life and relation to different areas in Scotland, I thoroughly recommend checking out Visit Scotland’s Guide.

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