The extensive forests of Darnaway were begun in the 1780s by the 9th Earl of Moray. The present mansion was built between 1802-12 to the design of Alexander Laing. There are no known landscape designers at Darnaway. The forests were extended and replanted from 1872-1917 by Daniel Scott.
The first written references to Tarnaway record the King's permission to cut down oaks for the building of Dornoch Cathedral in 1291. In 1314 Robert the Bruce gave the Castle and Lands of Tarnaway to Thomas Randolph, his nephew, who had commanded the left wing of the Scottish army at Bannockburn. He was also created Earl of Moray. Randolph's Hall was built and named after him. Tarnaway Castle itself was started in the 15th century for one Archibald Douglas, who was killed in 1455, and it was finished for King James II. The former Castle has been described as a massive old baronial Castle, perched above a steep slope.
In 1562 Queen Mary bestowed the title and lands of Tarnaway on her half-brother James Stuart, later the Regent, and they have remained in his family ever since. However, it was not until the 9th Earl succeeded in the late 18th century that a designed landscape was laid out at Tarnaway. The 9th Earl, Francis, was known as the 'Tree Planting Earl' and he commissioned the building of a new Castle to the design of Alexander Laing. This incorporated Randolph's Hall and was built from stone quarried locally. The 9th Earl died in 1810 when the building was incomplete, and it was finished by his son, Francis, the 10th Earl. The park trees date from the early 19th century from around the time the house was completed.
The next phase of development at Darnaway occurred from c.1867 when the 13th Earl, Archibald, succeeded his half-brother. The lodges and gates were built in 1868 and probably their associated sweeping drives were laid out at this time. A grand external staircase was added to the mansion in the 1870s. In 1872 Daniel Scott was appointed as forester to the estate, and he was the architect of the commercial forests seen today during his 45 years' work on the estate. The arboretum was started during the 1870s.
The 17th Earl, Morton, who succeeded in 1910, continued planting more ornamental trees, added the Dutch Garden in 1917, and planted the limes along the avenue c.1928. Since World War II, when Darnaway was used as a hospital, the estate has continued to be managed on commercial lines, a modernisation programme starting in the early 1950s. Interpretation of the history of the Darnaway estate is displayed at the visitor centre at Tearie, two and a half miles west of Forres.