The twin communities of East and West Ayton are the first villages on the road from Scarborough to Pickering, and sit on opposite banks of the River Derwent where it emerges from the Forge Valley. The Derwent marked the boundary between the parish of Hutton Bushel, to the west, and of Seamer, to the east, East Ayton falling into Seamer Parish.
To the north-east of the village is one of the best Neolithic long barrows in the park, at Ayton East Field, and the entire plateau to the north-east of the village is covered with ancient earthworks.
East Ayton has all of the major road junctions in the twin villages. At what must have been the original centre of the village, close to the church, is the junction between the Pickering to Scarborough road and the road to Seamer, now a useful short-cut for anyone attempting to bypass the worst traffic jams in Scarborough. At the western end of the village, close to the bridge over the Derwent, is the road up Forge Valley, leading on to Hackness and the open moors. The bridge itself was built with stones from Ayton Castle, which overlooks West Ayton.
East and West Ayton appeared in Doomsday Book as Atune, meaning a farmstead or estate on the river.
East Ayton was the birthplace of Philip Cunliffe-Lister, first earl of Swinton (1884-1972), who as secretary of state for air from 1935 to 1938 was responsible for the pre-war expansion of the Royal Air Force and who ordered the Spitfire and Hurricane into production.
The chapel of St. John the Baptist is has a mainly 13th quire, with 15th and 18th century repairs and modifications. One lancet window survives from the 13th century, as do two 15th century windows. The chancel arch is older, and dates back to the 12th century, but with an 18th century inner ring. The nave is of the same ages as the chancel arch, with 15th century windows in the south wall. The tower may have a 15th century base, but the upper part is more recent. The font dates back to around 1120, and is decorated with an arcade of semicircular arches carved in low relief.
The village lies on the edge of the National Park, and has expanded significantly outside the park, with the largest block of new houses on the northern side of the road to Scarborough.
Grid Reference: SE 991 849