Highland Islands

Highland Islands

21.08.19

From the desolate landscape of Yell to the Victorian streetscapes of Bute, Scotland’s 800 islands offer something for everyone. If island buyers can make it work in winter when ferries are less reliable and the only Co-op for miles has run out of milk, they are rewarded year round with beaches on their doorstep, tight-knit communities and age-old traditions.

Skye, Harris and Mull, the tourist board’s island poster boys, have been the property market stars in recent years. Now some of the smaller islands are stepping into the spotlight, after a resurgence in interest from English house-hunters. They like the idea of stepping off the beaten track and are looking past the larger islands and their flocks of summer tourists.

Malcolm Leslie, a director at Strutt & Parker, says islands with a lower profile offer peace and quiet year round.

"A Scottish island with its associated romance, privacy, seclusion and exclusivity embodies the spirit that makes the best-in-class Scottish prime property so sought-after," he says. "It is difficult to put a price on that."

Nicky Archibald, a consultant at Galbraith, an estate agency, says that properties on the smaller islands have been selling at closing dates in the past year. "We have had strong demand over the past two years and have sold several properties on Coll, Tiree, Mull and the smaller islands, as well as entire private islands.

"Buyers will be more interested in properties that don’t require significant refurbishment because building costs tend to be higher — it can be more difficult to ensure return on investment when making improvements.

"Many buyers are from Glasgow and Edinburgh, and they typically want a holiday home that they can use for part of the year and then either let on a commercial basis or allow friends and family to use it.

"This usually works well because there is sustained demand for holiday lets on many islands as tourism has been very strong for several years. Skye and Mull are booming, but several of the other islands also have high numbers of visitors compared with ten years ago."

Where to buy

GIGHA

Population: 165

Average house price: £223,000

"Accessibility to remote west coast islands can be challenging — although for some this is one of the attractions — but this is where Gigha has a distinct advantage because it has a landing strip, used by private planes and microlights," Leslie says. No private plane? The ferry takes just 20 minutes from Tayinloan on the west coast of the Kintyre peninsula, a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Glasgow. Gigha’s climate is influenced by the Gulf Stream, creating prime conditions for the community-owned Achamore Gardens, the island’s most popular tourist destination, and balmy summer evenings. Savills is marketing Achamore House, an A listed baronial mansion at the heart of the gardens for offers of more than £750,000. It has two acres and a rich architectural pedigree — Charles Rennie Mackintosh is said to have worked on it.

GREAT CUMBRAE

Population: 1,500

Average house price: £97,646

The larger of the two Cumbrae islands, this is the classic day trip destination from Glasgow. It takes about 90 minutes from the city centre to Millport, Great Cumbrae’s main town, a journey that includes an eight-minute ferry from Largs.

Most of the island’s homes are clustered in the town and nearby in the south. Similar to other Firth of Clyde islands such as Bute, prices are low. A five-bedroom sandstone villa in the west of Millport seeks offers through Corum of more than £385,000. It has a large walled garden, a contemporary kitchen and views of West Bay.

INCHMARNOCK

Population: 0

Owned by Lord Smith of Kelvin, the chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, Inchmarnock is a 660-acre private island at the northern end of the Sound of Bute. It comes with many extras, including its own ferry (but no captain) to the mainland across the Firth of Clyde. There’s also a four-bedroom property and the suggestion of significant archaeological finds. In the Sixties the remains of a Bronze Age woman were discovered with a flint dagger and a black lignite necklace. Strutt and Parker is handling the sale and is looking for offers of more than £1.4 million.

BARRA

Population: 1,100

Average house price: £165,000

The Outer Hebridean home of the novelist Sir Compton Mackenzie is popular with solitude seekers and those on the trail of single malt. A crowdfunding effort has been launched for £2.5 million to create Barra distillery, which will generate its own energy and use local barley. Four-bedroom croft houses sell for about £175,000; add £30,000 for an acre of land.

This cottage on the island of Luing, in Argyll and Bute, has three bedrooms and is on sale for offers of more than £155,000 with Galbraith

LUING:

Population: 210

Average house price: £130,866

Luing is an archipelago 16 miles south of Oban that once produced slate. The whitewashed cottages’ gleaming grey roofs still bear signs of the island’s industrial past. Islanders with a car catch a ferry to Luing from the neighbouring Isle of Seil, which has a bridge to the mainland. Walkers use a footbridge from Luing to Seil. Not the simplest of journeys, perhaps, but Archibald says this is part of Luing’s appeal. "I live on Luing and its relative isolation and tranquillity is one of the reasons I choose to stay year round. Getting there is part of the fun."

Abode Affiliates

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  • Dominic McKenzie Architects
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