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In former times Great Ayton's industries included linen making, tanning and brewing; and the mining industries of whinstone (a hard igneous rock used in roadmaking), ironstone, alum and jet were important locally. Nowadays most of its residents work outside the parish boundary while farming remains an important local industry.
Great Ayton has two village greens. The High Green is the centre of the village while the Low Green, with the river running alongside, is a popular picnic place in the summer months. To the north of the village the view is dominated by the 330 metre high Roseberry Topping. This hill, and the adjacent whinstone outcrop, are of geological importance.