The first mention of Aikwood comes in the Lord Treasurer of Scotland’s accounts of 1455, when it was one of the royal forest steadings of Ettrick Forest leased from King James III to Lord Home.


Five Centuries

In 1517, the grounds of Aikwood were granted to the Scott family during the reign of King James V, and it has been owned within the Scott clan since. During the early seventeenth century ownership passed to the Scotts of Harden, a major Border family, whose head became ‘Baron of Harden and Oakwood’ (the name was then anglicised from Aikwood to Oakwood). They remained in possession of Aikwood for over 300 years.

The Harden Scotts continued to own Aikwood up until just after the Second World War. In the early part of that time, it was usually occupied by the heir of the family, who took an active part in local Selkirk civic affairs. However from the mid eighteenth century, the tower was abandoned as a home and the farm was let out.


There are many fantastic stories and legends about Aikwood Tower. One of them features the seventeenth century owner, Sir William Scott of Harden who, along with his father, was a renowned ‘Border Reiver’.  On a raid to Elibank Castle by the Tweed, he was captured and given the choice between being hanged or marrying the Laird of Elibank’s daughter, ‘Muckle Mou’d Meg’ (big mouthed Meg).

Sir Walter Scott was a descendant of this union, and Aikwood Tower certainly fired his imagination with it appearing in his first great epic poem 'The Lay of the Last Minstrel'.

However, his contemporary, James Hogg, ‘The Ettrick Shepherd’, made even more use of Aikwood in his writings, including a legend about Michael Scott, the Border Wizard. 

There is also a later story that associates the Laird of Aikwood with Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite rebellion and relates his escape from Government forces after the Battle of Culloden.


For the majority of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the tower itself served as a building for agricultural storage. The tenant farmer, who did a lot to keep the tower in a decent state of repair, tried living in it, but just one winter proved too much for him. It then remained uninhabited for 100 years.

In the late 1940s Lord Polwarth, head of the Harden Scotts, parted with the farm to their kinsman, the eighth Duke of Buccleuch.

Then in 1988, the ninth Duke of Buccleuch made possible the realisation of the dream of David Steel (now Lord Steel of Aikwood) the long-serving MP for the Borders, which was to restore the tower as a home. Sir David - who, with his Scott blood, continues a long clan tradition with Aikwood - and his wife, Judy, restored it using local Selkirk craftsman and moved in with their younger son, Rory, in 1992.

The restoration of Aikwood has won no less than five architectural awards, including the prestigious Europa Nostra. For nearly twenty years it has been a hub for artistic creativity and a meeting place for national and international politicians.

It is now under the ownership of The Honourable Rory David Scott Steel and his wife Vicki, who have refurbished the property, upgrading its facilities. Their wish is that many more people enjoy its magical charms in the years to come.

Local History

The Scottish Borders has some of the richest and most dramatic history in the whole of Scotland. During the late Middle Ages, Scotland and England were frequently at war, with the Borders bearing the brunt between the two countries. Cattle rustling, feuding, murder, fire-raising and pillaging were all common occurrences and the families of the area lived in a state of semi-lawlessness. They were rugged, tough people who became know as the 'Border Reivers' and today their descendants can be found all over the world. 

The legacy of the Reivers lives strong throughout the Scottish Borders. From the fortified Peel towers, such as Aikwood Tower, that were built for defence as well as homes, through to the annual Common Ridings (a celebration of the riding of the marches, when the townsfolk would ride around the boundaries of their borough's common lands to protect them from any encroachments). 

Ancestral tourism

With over 50 million people across the world able to lay claim to Scottish ancestry, more and more people are becoming interested in researching their family roots and setting out on a visit to Scotland to explore their ancestry further.

We have links with some of the leading genealogists and tour guides in the Scottish Borders who can support you with research into your family history. And we really love to hear from families whose descendants were previous occupiers of Aikwood Tower!


The most magical place, the ambience, decor, attention to detail just perfect. Nothing was missing, everything you could possibly want was there. We WILL be back!"


– the grant family, austria


A PLACE For comfort

Without a doubt, Aikwood Tower offers some of the best luxury self-catered accommodation in Scotland for ten guests.  Our 500 year old history combines with five-star interiors and contemporary, boutique accommodation to surprise and charm you in every room. And you will find your new favourite place in the world in front of our roaring Great Hall fire.