Duns Castle

The Hay family show how improvements allowed the use of Duns Castle as a destination for wedding parties, and the surrounding properties for a holiday lettings business.

Duns Castle in Berwickshire has been in the ownership of the Hay family since 1696.

Historically, the land that supported the property was extensive, stretching from Merse valley into East Lothian, also renowned for its good arable ground. However, over time much of the Duns Estate land was sold. 

The present owners, Alick and Aline Hay, took over the castle in 1967 following the premature death of Alick’s father.

The house and estate cottages and buildings were not in great repair at that time and there was little in the way of finance to make improvements.  

Rebuilding the estate

Alick is a Chartered Accountant and worked as a partner in a local practice. This provided enough of an income to maintain the status quo and to explore ways in which improvements could be made.

Improvements to the other estate houses and buildings were tackled first since they were in poorer repair than the castle.  

As houses and cottages were gradually vacated by long-term tenants and those who had tied-accommodation, improvements were made and the properties started to form a holiday lettings business for the Estate.

By 1985 the Hays were in a position to concentrate on the Castle itself. 

Making the most of the Castle

The Hays had been reluctant to host a wedding at the Castle, but in 1991 they decided to accept an enquiry to hold a reception only at the Castle. This proved successful and more bookings were taken.  

Over time more and more people wanted to be married in the Castle itself rather than simply hold their reception there and now the Castle hosts a number of weddings each year, with some famous celebrities choosing it as their venue.  

The Castle is also booked for weekend shooting parties, birthday parties, romantic breaks, corporate events, and has also been used as a film location.

The Hays firmly believe that retaining the Castle as a family home gives the property a character and personality that it would not otherwise have.