In 1517, the grounds of Aikwood were granted to the Scott family during the reign of King James V, and the estate 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.
Stories and sorcery
There are many fantastic stories and legends about Aikwood Tower. One of them features the 17th-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. He places characters from two of his Border ballads here, and it appears in his own 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, who was reputed to live here, in The Warlock of Aikwood. In his novel, ‘The Three Perils of Man’ (which were war, women and witchcraft), the central section is set at Aikwood, where the happenings are presided over by Michael Scott.
There is also a later story that associates the Laird of Aikwood with Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite rebellion and relates his escape after the Battle of Culloden from the Government forces.
A new life
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 a hundred 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.