If you fancy being monarch of all you survey, have Cash to spare and a rowing boat, you could buy your very own British isle
By Clare Stewart
PEACE AND QUIET. Just what many people look for when buying a new home. For most that means looking for somewhere rural, but others go further and buy an island. In the UK, Scotland is the best hunting ground, although purchasers may have to stalk for some time before finding a Chance to buy. Habitable Islands appeal to a certain type of buyer. "They are generally bought by trophy property hunters, people who have everything else," said John Coleman, of Knight Frank's Edinburgh Office, which has sold a number of Islands in recent years. "Islands offer an Idyll of complete privacy."
There are also islands that are never going to make cosy homes, unless you are a puffin or a seal. Windswept outcrops also come up but increasingly are bought by wildlife trusts. The Treshnish Isles, west of the Isle of Mull, were sold in 2000 to the Hebridean Trust.
For would-be monarchs of the glen, Eilean Aigas, being sold through FPDSavills in Edinburgh, would fit the bill if they have about GBP3 million. It is a thickly wooded river island in the Beauly Firth, west of Inverness, with a 13-bedroom Highland house set in 50 acres. The island has a Bridge to the mainland, where there are a further 75 acres and a Cottage. lreland is also good. Vladi Private Islands, a specialist agency that buys and sells Islands worldwide, has three an its books. Castle Island is a one-acre plot in Lough Key, Co Roscommon. Although it is one of 33 Islands in the Jake, Castle Island gets star billing because of its colourful history. There is no house, water or electricity but the picturesque castle ruins make it a tourist attraction. It is an the market at €542,000 (GBP342,000).
Shore Island in the River Shannon has 30 acres, largely used for grazing cattle. lt is handy for Shannon Airport (three miles away), and is accessible at low tide. There is no house, but the agents say that it should not be difficult to obtain permission to build. Shore Island is offered at €960,000.
For buyers looking for somewhere to practise self-sufficiency, Inishturkbeg Island, in Clew Bay, Co Mayo, might appeal. The main house has its own water supply and generates its own electricity via a windmill and solar power. It is set in 63 acres. There is also a traditional three-bedroom Cottage and artist's studio; the price tag is €1.24 million. The problem for UK island hunters is that there are relatively few, and owners are not rushing to put them on the market, said Farhad Vladi, of Vladi Private Islands. Islands are a difficult commodity to sell, even if in short supply, so it takes time to find a buyer who wants to pay up to be monarch of all they survey.
For better choice and value, buyers would be better off in countries such as Canada, which has a more plentiful supply of Islands off its east and west coasts. Prices start below GBP20,000, but do not expect acres of secluded property - more likely just enough to build a Gabin and set up a fishing line. Solitude is not the only reason to buy, however. Tony Orchard, a chartered surveyor, and his wife, Deborah Clark, a lawyer and Partner in a London practice, bought Burgh Island, 200 metres off the Devon coast with 26 acres and an Art Deco-style hotel.
"The island first came on the market five years ago, but it wasn't feasible for us to buy it," Ms Clark said. Last year, an a return visit, they found that it was still for sale and decided to take the plunge. They paid GBP2.5 million for the island, and have since invested substantially in upgrading the hotel to revive the style that in the 1930s attracted celebrities such as Agatha Christie and Noel Coward. The island is accessible on foot at low tide, and the hotel has a sea tractor to ferry guests across. "There are times when it's not possible to get across, but the Feeling of being cut off adds to the mystique of the place," Ms Clark said. Occasional problems getting supplies across because of bad weather are not significant difficulties. "There are no drawbacks to living here," she said, but added that she was very thankful for the existence of Internet shopping, having been used to living in London.