20th Century Aikwood Tower
After the second world war, the tower and farm - the last of the Harden properties in Ettrick - were sold to the Duke of Buccleuch. In 1989, the present Duke made possible the realisation of a dream of Borders M.P. Sir David Steel (now Lord Steel of Aikwood) by conveying to him the tower, byres and adjacent garden ground. The regeneration of Aikwood Tower was about to begin.
The roof, upstairs floors, and every window in the tower had to be completely renewed, and electricity and water installed for the first time. All the stone work was repointed and much of it required repair. The large chimney had been in danger of collapse, so too was the exceptional "joggled lintel" of the Great Hall, with its masons' marks. Here as elsewhere, old plaster -covered with hundreds of signatures- had to be completely stripped and renewed. Kitchen, bathrooms, and all the conveniences of modern living were installed. Gradually, painstakingly, and superbly, a home was recreated in this fine building.
The restoration of Aikwood Tower, which has received five architectural awards including the Europa Nostra, was carried out almost entirely by firms from Selkirk. It began in September 1990, and was completed in the summer of 1992, in time for the marriage of the Steels' only daughter Catriona.
The garden of Aikwood was completely recreated along with the restoration of the tower, on a design by Louise Wall. It is based on two main axes of intersecting paths with a formal lawn,at the corner of which are four Irish Yew Trees.
To the left as you exit from the tower are informal hedges of roses: Apothecarie's Rose, Rosa Mundi, Moss Rose and Rose Dagmar Hastrup. At the end of this path is cobbling which like that immediately beside the tower door, reflects, in its pattern, the saltires of the chimney heads. To the right, leading up to the garden gate, is an allee of Laburnum, with lady's mantle (alchemilla) at the base, and, to the right, herbs.
The lawn is surrounded by deep borders on two sides. These are filled with a mixture of shrubs, herbaceous plants, and bulbs, which have been in cultivation since the 15th and 16th centuries. A beech hedge separates this more formal part of the garden from the orchard, which has a more naturalistic ambience.
The orchard has been planted with fruit and nut trees. Amongst the apples are White Melrose, which was grown by the Cistercian monks of Melrose Abbey. There is also crab-apple, medlar, damson and quince. Along the wall are Court Pendu apple trees, said to date from Roman times, and given the Scots translation Corpandy in a document of 1541.
The terrace is of salvaged York stone slab, the majority of which came from the quayside at Eyemouth, where the fishwives gutted the catch. Between the stones are dwarf herbs and wild native strawberries. From the terrace, a sandstone step edged with lavender leads to the lawn, via a half moon of "causey stones" of local river cobbles.
As you exit through the garden gate, you will see two dates on the lintel: 1906 and 1991. The former date gives the establishment of the productive fruit and vegetable garden that existed here until the 1960's. Twenty years later, when the garden had been used as a bull run, all that remained were two old apple trees. They have been integrated into the pleasure garden created in 1991.