Located a mile (1.5 km) southeast of the village of Gifford (East Lothian), Yester House was built by the architect James Smith (1645 - 1731) for John Hay, 2nd Marquess of Tweeddale (1645 - 1713). Smith was assisted by his partner Alexander MacGill and although work began in 1697, progress was slow and the house was not completed for more than 20 years. By 1729, the 4th Marquess was already planning modernisation. He turned to William Adam (1689 - 1748) who provided a new roof, some exterior detail and remodelled the interior. The Saloon by William, John and Robert Adam was described by painter Gavin Hamilton (1723-98) as "the finest room at least in Scotland". None of Smith's original interior remains today, but the Adam work is of remarkable quality.
Robert Adam was commissioned once again to restyle the exterior (1789), but only the north side was completed due to Adam's death in 1792. The architect Robert Brown re-oriented the interior in the 1830s, moving the main entrance to the West. To achieve this, the West wing was demolished. The original entrance was converted to a Dining Room and the Garden parlour to a fine Drawing Room. Robert Rowand Anderson made further changes (1877).
Gian Carlo Menotti (1911 - 2007), the flamboyand Italian-American operatic composer, bought the estate in 1972 and his family have done much to preserve and enhance the house.
Yester was build on the site of a previous 16th Century tower house, which itself had been a replacement for the original 13th Century Yester Castle, the ruins of which are still to be found a mile (1.5 km) to the SE.