Ayton Castle is a beautiful castle situated slightly to the east of Ayton in the Scottish Borders. It is roughly 9 kilometres northwest of Berwick-upon-Tweed, in the former county of Berwickshire. It is built around a medieval tower house. The present castle dates back to around the 19th century.
Ayton Castle is the caput of the feudal barony of Ayton. It is protected as a category A listed building.
The history of Ayton Castle
The grounds of Ayton Castle are included in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland, the national listing of significant parks and gardens. The Castle is an extremely important Scottish baronial castle.
It is a prominently sited, impressive local landmark, renowned for being one of only two Baronial structures by architect, James Gillespie Graham (1776-1855).
The early history
The original castle was only a peel tower that was once the stronghold of the Home family. In 1497, the castle was captured by the English and the nearby church was the scene of the subsequent negotiation of the treaty of Ayton. The treaty of Ayton Castle was signed on the 30th of September in 1497.
Not long after, the tower was replaced by a classical mansion that burnt down in 1834.
Ayton Castle changes hands
In 1778, the estate was purchased by William Mitchell, later known as William Mitchell-Innes, of Parsonsgreen, Edinburgh. William Mitchell was the Chief Cashier of the Royal Bank of Scotland from the years 1808 to 1827. After inheriting the Parsonsgreen estate, he was an extraordinary director of the bank from the years 1840-1841.
After William inherited the Stow estates from a distant cousin, he hyphenated his surname to then be called William Mitchell-Innes or Parsonsgreen, and ordinary director of the bank from 1841 to 1853. Between these dates, he acquired the Ayton estate.
From then on, he was recorded as William Mitchell-Innes of Ayton Castle, an ordinary director from 1853 to 1859.
A new castle at Ayton
In 1851, William Mitchell-Innes commissioned James Gillespie Graham to build a brand-new castle at Ayton in a traditional Scottish Baronial style in red sandstone. Then, in 1860, architect David Bryce extended the whole drawing room and also added a billiard room. The castle underwent further addition from 1864 to 1867 by James Maitland Wardrop.
Further on, in 1875, extensive redecoration was carried out by Bonnar and Carfrae, still largely extant, with stencilled imitation silk damask. Not only does Ayton Castle boast elaborate offices and stable blocks all in red sandstone, but it also has a beehive type sixteenth century dovecote which was restored in both 1745 and 2015.
Following on from William Mitchell-Innes’s death at the castle in 1860, Ayton Castle passed to his eldest son and heir, Alexander Mitchell-Innes of Ayton and Whitehall, a Deputy Lieutenant and Justice of the Peace for Berwickshire. He went on to continue his family’s building works at the castle by commissioning James Maitland Wardrop to build a new parish church with a 36-metre (118 ft) spire.
Stained-glass windows were also added by Ballantine & Sons.
Disputes at Ayton Castle
Alexander Mitchell-Innes went on to marry Charlotte, daughter of Sir Thomas Dick Lauder of Fountainhall, 7th Bt. Unfortunately, she died in childbirth when having their sixth child. He then went on to remarry Fanny Augusta, daughter of James Vine, in Puckaster, Isle of Wight. They went on to have a further nine children.
Obviously, this then sparked a plethora of inheritance disputes. Oddly enough, Alexander Harold Mitchell-Innes of Ayton & Whitehall was soon served heir of entail to his grandfather, Alexander Mitchell-Innes of Ayton & Whitehall, in 1892. Then, in 1895, he sold the barony of Ayton, including the castle and lands, for £90,000 to Henry Liddell-Grainger of Middleton Hall, Northumberland
Apparently, Alexander Mitchell-Innes had shared his entire estate with his large family. This then led to them being paid out following the sale of Ayton Castle. Conservative MP The Much Hon. Ian Liddell-Grainger, a descendant of Queen Victoria, has been Baron of Ayton since 2007.
In 2014, Ayton Castle was sold by Lady Christine de la Rue to Richard Syred for £2.4 million
The current day
Nowadays, when open, Ayton Castle is a very popular tourist attraction. Weddings and other special events are also often held at the castle or on the grounds. Though the house we see today is most definitely a product of a romantic Victorian vision, it is based around a genuine medieval tower house. Right now, the castle is undergoing renovations so is no longer open to the public until the renovations are complete.
Ayton Castle Timeline
- 1497- The castle is captured by the English and the nearby church is the scene of the subsequent negotiation of the treaty of Ayton
- 1497- The treaty of Ayton Castle is signed
- 1778- The estate is purchased by William Mitchell, later known as William Mitchell-Innes, of Parsonsgreen, Edinburgh
- 1808 to 1827-William Mitchell is the Chief Cashier of the Royal Bank of Scotland
- 1851- William Mitchell-Innes commissions James Gillespie Graham to build a brand-new castle at Ayton in a traditional Scottish Baronial style in red sandstone
- 1860- Architect David Bryce extends the whole drawing room and also adds a billiard room
- 1864 to 1867- The castle undergoes further additions by James Maitland Wardrop
- 1875- Extensive redecoration is carried out by Bonnar and Carfrae, still largely extant, with stencilled imitation silk damask
- 1892-Alexander Harold Mitchell-Innes of Ayton & Whitehall is soon served heir of entail to his grandfather, Alexander Mitchell-Innes of Ayton & Whitehall
- 1895-The barony of Ayton, including the castle and lands, is sold for £90,000 to Henry Liddell-Grainger of Middleton Hall, Northumberland
- 2007-Conservative MP The Much Hon. Ian Liddell-Grainger, a descendant of Queen Victoria, is named Baron of Ayton
- In 2014, Ayton Castle was sold by Lady Christine de la Rue to Richard Syred for £2.4 million
Ayton Castle facts
- Ayton Castle is the caput of the feudal barony of Ayton
- The castle is protected as a category A listed building
- Ayton Castle is renowned for being one of only two Baronial structures by architect, James Gillespie Graham
- The medieval tower was rebuilt as a mansion in neo-classical style, but was soon after burned to the ground in 1834
- Author Mark Twain visited Ayton in 1873 and was so taken by the fireplace mantle in the dining room that he bought it and had it sent back to America
Books on Ayton Castle
- Ayton Castle: Its History and Excavation by F.C. Rimmington and J.G. Rutter (1967)
Who owns Ayton Castle?
In 2014, Ayton Castle was sold by Lady Christine de la Rue to Richard Syred for £2.4 million. Richard is now renovating several areas of the castle before reopening the castle to the public.
Ayton Castle is currently closed to the public as it is undergoing several renovations. However, when it is open, there are guided tours around the castle. You can also hire out the castle and grounds for weddings and events.
Nearby, you can visit Coldingham Bay, St Abb’s Head, Marshall Meadows Bay, St Abb’s Head National Reserve, and Gunsgreen House.