Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site

Mayshiel Farmhouse, Mayshiel, near DunsLB17513

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
East Lothian
Planning Authority
East Lothian
NT 62352 64120
362352, 664120


Mayshiel Farmhouse possibly dates to the mid-17th century with late 19th or early 20th century alterations and additions and interior alterations of around 1973. It is a rendered, two-storey, three-bay former L-plan farmhouse with a stair tower forming the southeast corner and with a 20th century wing to the northwest side. The earlier part of the building has thick walls, rounded corners and sits on prominent exposed base rock foundations. It is in a rural location within an early 21st century development of a country house estate and ancillary buildings.

The entrance (south) elevation has a round-arched doorway in the re-entrant angle with a semi-circular glazed fanlight and a sandstone surround. To the right of the door is an advanced and round cornered stair tower with a gunloop. To the left of the door is a later tripartite window. The east elevation has a very small ground floor window which has been built up in stone on the interior.

The pitched roof is slated with a piended detail over the stair tower. There are lead capped skews to the older part of the house which curve at the eaves matching the curved shape of the walls. The east and west gable has square chimney stacks. There are no skews on the later north gable and the roof slates extend over the wallhead.

The early part of the house has red sandstone margins around the single windows. The tripartite and the later windows in the earlier part of the building have concrete margins. The east gable windows are deeply set in the thick walls. The 20th century addition has windows with projecting concrete cills and no margins.

The interior of the building was seen in 2017. The turnpike stair (in the earliest part of the building) has uneven steps and a low ceiling with plain cornicing to the upper part. There is some timber boarding at the bottom of the stairs. The main part of the ground floor is one living space. Elsewhere the remaining detailing is thought to be contemporary with the mid to later 20th century addition to the northwest side.

Statement of Special Interest

Mayshiel Farmhouse is an interesting example of a farmhouse because it incorporates a former 17th century Scottish borderlands tower house. The various phases of construction of Mayshiel Farmhouse are clearly evidenced in the fabric of the building, such as the exposed heavy rock foundations, the rounded corners to the masonry, thick walls and prominent stair tower. The building became a farmhouse at a time when East Lothian was at the forefront of improvement farming.

Age and Rarity

The Mayshiel estate is first marked on Timothy Pont's map of 1630 as 'Maysheel' and Elphinstone's map of 1744 notes it as spelt "Maysheil". Thompson's map of 1822 is the first to show a house on the land and on this map it has its current spelling of Mayshiel. The 1822 map shows the estate with clear angular lines of shelterbelt trees surrounding the estate. It is the only estate in a large area marked in any detail and as such must have been an important estate in the Lammermuir Hills.

The lowlands of East Lothian have a long associated history with monastic life. In the 14th century the Carmelite monks were well established in Dunbar and the Cistercians in Haddington, Nunraw and Papple. The hill land to the south in the Lammermuir Hills was gifted to the monastery on Lindisfarne in the 8th century. In the 13th century this land was again in private ownership and both the Earl of Dunbar and the Earl of Wemyss granted the large area of land in which Mayshiel sits to the Priory of the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth. Lang notes this history in 'The Seven Ages of an East Lothian Parish' and suggests that this early association with the Isle of May is how the estate came to be known as Mayshiel.

The historic ownership of the Mayshiel estate is noted in Lang's book and by Coventry in the book The Castle of the Clans. The ownership history is complicated and these accounts do not always support each other. It is believed William Cockburn of Duns feued the land until 1631, and around 1634 the lands passed to Lord Fenton in Fife who later became the Earl of Kellie. The estate remained in the ownership of the Earl of Mar and Kellie until 1794. The Knox family are then noted as occupying the estate for most of the 18th century.

The Old Statistical Account of Scotland (1791-99) records that the Mayshiel estate was owned by Andrew Houstoun Esq who was the fourth largest landowner in Whittinghame Parish at that time. It is believed that the Houston family were responsible for installing the formally laid out tree planting which is evident on the 1822 map. The estate remained in the Houstouns' ownership until at least 1929 when it was used as a holiday shooting retreat. Some shooting parties were hosted by the collector William Burrell who owned Hutton Castle in Berwickshire.

The map evidence and the construction details of Mayshiel Farmhouse suggest that it was first built as a tower house, and it is described as such by Coventry. The building was taller when first constructed and it is likely to have been truncated around the time it became a farmhouse. The physical evidence of the rock foundations, the substantial stair tower and the detail between the curved walls and the roof supports this theory.

Tranter in his book The Fortified House in Scotland (as quoted on Canmore) describes the alterations to the building as 'two storeys and a garret, the roof of which has been lowered and made less steep…Most of the windows have been enlarged…The interior has been wholly altered; the basement is not vaulted.' Tranter also noted that there had been a courtyard to the south and that part of its buttressed walling remained to the east. No evidence of the buttressed wall was seen at the site visit.

At some point in the 18th century the estate is likely to have developed into a working farm as part of the wider developments in improvement farming in East Lothian. The 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map (surveyed 1853, published 1855) shows the buildings on the estate in a greater level of detail, than the previous maps. The footprint of the farmhouse is shown in its L-plan form. This map also shows an extensive courtyard steading with a round horse gin extending to the north and west of the farmhouse.

By the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1892, published 1895) the plan form of the steading has changed from a courtyard layout to two linear lines of buildings and the horse gin has been lost. This may represent the changes in improvement farming which were taking place in East Lothian at the time.

The Lothians were recognised as the foremost agricultural area in Scotland from as early as the 16th century. In the 18th century, they were at the forefront of improvement farming and agriculture remained an important part of East Lothian's economy during the 18th and 19th centuries up to the present day. Glendinning et al in their book Buildings of the Land states that the period from 1730 to 1790 demonstrated the development in enclosure farming in East Lothian and the years that followed saw an increase in the average size of farms. This growth was ahead of the rest of Scotland and fuelled in the local area by the invention of the threshing machine by Andrew Meikle in East Linton in 1787. It is likely that Mayshiel Farm was developed around this time of peak industrialisation as it is noted in the New Statistical Account that the area between Haddington and Dunbar in particular was at the forefront of improvement farming in East Lothian and therefore Scotland as a whole.

19th century farmhouses are not a rare building type in this area because of East Lothian was at the forefront of agricultural improvement. Although Mayshiel is not an early example of a post-improvement farmhouse it is interesting because it is incorporates an earlier tower house which has created an unusual design. The various build dates of Mayshiel Farmhouse are evidenced in the fabric of the building. This includes the difference in thickness of the walls, the exposed rock foundations and the different sizes and treatments of the window openings.

The site where the former bothy is believed to have been was around 60 metres to the south of the farmhouse. The former bothy building is not marked on any of the above maps. The previous listed building record revised in 1989 states that the bothy probably dated to the late 18th century. It is possible it was a hen house or game larder but when seen in 1989 it had later 19th century fireplaces inside. A photograph dating to 1987 shows the bothy was linked to a rubble boundary wall which has since also been lost. Both 19th century Ordnance Survey maps illustrate a track going past the site of the bothy towards the southwest. This correlates with the assumed former position of the bothy linked to a field boundary wall.

Architectural or Historic Interest


The interior of the farmhouse has undergone several stages of change since it was first built as a tower house. The majority of the interior detailing is thought to date to the mid to later 20th century. The turnpike stair and the deeply set windows indicate the earliest phase of the buildings existence and add to its special interest.

Plan form

The earliest plan form of the building is thought to have consisted of a simple rectangular plan with a protruding stair tower creating an L-plan. This type of floor plan often had single rooms to each floor and in Mayshiel the ground floor of the original part of the house remains one open space.

The curved corners of the building evidence its early build date and are of interest. The 20th century addition to the north of the building has changed the plan form and in its current form the plan is not thought to add any significant interest in listing terms.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

Mayshiel Farmhouse may originally date to the mid-17th century. When first built it is likely to have been in the form of an L-plan tower house and taller than its current form. Some of the original construction methods are clearly evident in the earlier part of the building such as the exposed heavy rock foundations on which it is built. The rounded corners to the masonry on the earliest part of the building and the stair tower are also indicative of pre-1800 construction. The very small window in the east elevation has stone walling built up against it on the interior is an interesting remnant which evidences an earlier internal layout for the building.

The arched entrance door and gun loop also appear to be contemporary with the early construction date and are architectural details that are unusual for a farmhouse.


When the former Mayshiel Farmhouse was built as a tower house it was remotely located in the high areas of the Lammermuir Hills, the border lands of Berwickshire. In the 19th and 20th century the estate was developed into a farm to include considerable steadings and outbuildings. The house no longer retains any of the former farm buildings which are evident on the 19th century Ordnance Survey maps.

The farmhouse is presently adjacent to two mid-20th century bungalows and at the entrance to an early 21st century shooting lodge, chapel and orangery built in an 18th century style. It is the only building on the site that predates the mid-20th century.

The setting of Mayshiel Farmhouse has changed significantly with the loss of the 19th century former farm steading and the addition of other buildings in the 20th and 21st centuries. The current setting does not add any significance interest in listing terms although its rural location continues to indicate the building's previous functions as a tower house and farmhouse.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

Close Historical Associations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2017).

Statutory address, category of listing changed from B to C and listed building record revised in 2017. Previously listed as 'Mayshiel Farmhouse and Bothy '.



Canmore: CANMORE ID 57545


Pont, T. (1630) A new description of the shyres Lothian and Linlithgow.

Elphinstone, J. (1744) A New and Correct map of the Lothians from Mr. Adair's observations.

Thomson, J. (1822) Haddington. J. Thomson and Co: Edinburgh

Ordnance Survey (Surveyed 1853, Published 1855) Haddingtonshire, Sheet 16 (includes: Garvald and Bara; Innerwick; Spott; Stenton; Whittingehame) 6 inch to the mile. 1st Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey (Surveyed 1895, Published 1892) Haddingtonshire Sheet XVI.SE (includes: Stenton; Whittingehame) 6 inch to the mile. 1st Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Printed Sources

Coventry, M. (2008) Castles of the Clans: The Strongholds and Seats of 750 Scottish Families and Clans. Musselburgh: Goblinshead. p.110.

Glendinning, M. and Wade Martins, S. (2008) Buildings of the Land, Scotland's Farms 1750-2000 Edinburgh, RCAHMS. pp 33-35.

Lang, M, B. (1929) The Seven Ages of an East Lothian Parish Being the Story of Whittinghame. Edinburgh, Robert Grant and Son. p.58 and 178.

New Statistical Account (1834-45) Haddington, County of Haddington. Volume.II p.9

Old Statistical Account (1791-99) (Whittinghame, County of Haddington, NSA, Vol. II p.642.

Tranter, N. (1962-70) The Fortified House in Scotland'. Volume 5. Edinburgh. p.219-20.

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Mayshiel Farmhouse, principal elevation, looking north, during daytime, on clear day with blue sky.
Mayshiel Farmhouse, side elevation, looking west, during daytime, on clear day with blue sky.



Printed: 05/10/2022 00:36