There are dozens of islands for sale in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The pandemic has seen inquiries triple. If you are a buyer, don’t wait around.
And you don’t need to be a billionaire, or even a millionaire. Islands in Scotland can be snapped up for a fraction of the price of a one-bed apartment in LA, New York or London.
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Even in the Atlantic, island buying is an international game. Dominic Daly, an Irish island broker, said inquiries for islands in the last three months are 200pc up on 2019 levels, with extra interest from Ireland, Germany, Russia and the United States. Though for now, many viewings are constrained by travel restrictions. “The first thing with buying an island, you have to pay for the boat to go out to facilitate the viewing,” said Mr Daly. Buyers can have to fork out €100 (£90) per visit.
I want to be alone
At first it was celebrities who dreamed of island life – a place where they would not be asked for selfies. In 2009, the magician Uri Geller bought Lamb Island in the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh for £30,000. It is one of three volcanic outcrops said to mirror the layout of the Pyramids of Giza.
He was preceded in the Nineties by the British actor Jeremy Irons (voice of Scar in The Lion King), who bought an island in Roaringwater Bay in Ireland ( near the island pictured), and restored an abandoned 15th century castle built by a clan chieftain.
Survivalist Bear Grylls owns St Tudwal West, Gwynedd, Wales, where in 2013 he caused controversy with local planning authorities after installing a giant slide down the cliff side into the sea.
But private island agents view the recent uptick in interest with a heavy dose of scepticism. There is a bigger gulf between interest and sales in the island market.
Some prospectors are simply dreamers, said Mr Vladi. “People always say ‘dear Mr Vladi, do you have an island where I can be king and it is independent of government?’”
Cameron Ewer, of Savills estate agents, said: “Quite often the question is ‘if I buy this island, does it come with a title?’”
Tom Stewart-Moore of Knight Frank estate agents, said past requests from island buyers have included grounds for keeping llamas, and planning permission to build 25 houses to move a buyer’s entire extended family to an island.
Mega price range
Owning an island sounds glitzy but the scale of glamour is a big one. In January, Savills sold the 14-acre Creinch Island in Loch Lomond – namesake of the 5th hole at Loch Lomond Golf Club – for £90,000, said Mr Ewer.
It sounds like a steal, but owning Creinch is not plain sailing. There is no residence, no running water and no electricity. On the plus side, the island is covered in wood anemones and wild garlic.
“There are some very, very small islands that people buy because they just want to say ‘I own an island’,” said Mr Ewer. Some can go for as little as £15,000, he said. Many are in national parks where there are restrictions on building and on the number of nights owners can stay.
Across the sea off Ireland’s west coast, meanwhile, broker Montague Real Estate has just helped a wealthy European buyer purchase Horse Island (pictured) via Knight Frank for more than £5m.
The 157-acre island comes with a 4,500 square foot main house, six guest properties, a helipad, a boathouse, and a shipwreck playhouse.
“Value comes down to accessibility, size, and whether or not you can build,” said Mr Stewart-Moore.
Location location location
Coronavirus has changed the private island market. “I can see there is concern and demand for self-sufficient islands,” said Mr Vladi. “I have a group of very wealthy people going to Fiji, where they are happy to quarantine for two weeks, to look at a self-sufficient island.”
For those who want something a little closer to the British mainland, Vladi Private Islands is marketing a 64-acre island off the coast of Shetland for £250,000.
It comes with planning consent to build cottages, agricultural buildings, and a pier, plus a watermill, wind turbines and solar panels.
Scandinavians are after islands with stalking grounds, said Mr Stewart-Moore. “Whereas the Americans are very, very big into wanting something that looks like a castle or is called a castle.”
Castle Island, a 123-acre isle which is a neighbour of Mr Irons off the coast of West Cork, might be just the ticket. It comes with the ruins of an O’Mahony family castle, and a swathe of agricultural land. It is being marketed jointly by Dominic J Daly & Co and Knight Frank for €1m (£910,000).
Beware the logistics
“Islands are rare beasts,” said Mr Stewart-Moore. Only about 120 private freehold islands come up for sale each year globally, said Mr Vladi.
Scotland is the heartland of Britain’s private island market, though even here there will only be a handful available annually. Most are kept within landowning families for generations, said Mr Vladi.
In Loch Lomond, the Colquhoun family have just listed Inchconnachan, which has been in the clan since the 14th century. It comes with a house that was formerly the holiday home of Fiona Gore, Countess of Aran – a powerboating enthusiast who in 1980 set the women’s speed record on water, hitting 102mph on Lake Windermere.
The 103-acre island is on the market jointly with Knight Frank and Savills for £500,000.
Mr Vladi recommends renting an island in the area before purchasing one (he has 64 you can choose from), to get to know the environment and your neighbours.
…and over the other side of the globe
A small, private island at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef has hit the market for the first time in 17 years, with the slice of tropical living coming with a price tag of $25m.
It is just the second time Pumpkin Island has come onto the market since it first became available in 1961. Situated at the base of North Keppel Island and 14km offshore from Yeppoon on Queensland’s central coast, the six-hectare resort destination has been recognised internationally for its eco-friendly luxury.
The island is possibly best known for its advertising collaboration with food and beverage company Lion, which leased and renamed the tourist spot “XXXX Island” between 2012 and 2015 in a promotional campaign for the iconic Queensland beer.
The Rumble family purchased the island’s leasehold in 2003 for $1.3m, running an eco-resort under the Sojourn Retreats brand. Roger and Merle Mason are the only others to own the land.
Knight Frank agents Deborah Cullen, of the Prestige Residential team in NSW, and Pat O’Driscoll, partner and head of Knight Frank Rockhampton, have been tasked with the sale.
Ms Cullen hopes to capture the imagination of a buyer wanting their own tropical paradise in a COVID-struck world, or someone hoping to run a tourist escape.
“The buyer will be purchasing an entire island – rather than just a parcel of land on an island – on a rolling lease current until 2046, which is an opportunity that only presents itself once in a blue moon,” she said.
“We expect it will be even more attractive in the current climate post-COVID-19 for someone who wishes to use it as a safe haven during any possible future pandemics. During this pandemic, life continued on the island as normal.”
Since first opening to guests in 1964, Pumpkin Island has evolved into an off–the–grid eco escape and was named Australia’s most sustainable hotel in Australasia in 2018 at the World Boutique Hotel Awards.
It was also the first Australian Island to be recognised as “beyond carbon neutral”, offsetting 150 per cent of its annual greenhouse gas emissions with solar and wind energies and extensive rain water reserves.
Guest accommodation currently caters for 34 people with five fully self-contained oceanfront guest cottages and two bungalows, which all have open-air kitchen and bathroom facilities.
The property also contains staff quarters, a double-storey lookout building, a bar lounge area, two registered moorings, a helicopter landing pad and a custom-built 36-passenger catamaran.
There is opportunity for development with the appropriate approvals from council and state authorities, Mr O’Driscoll said. An oyster lease also belongs to the owner and can be sold or be used to allow for the shucking of fresh oysters off the rocks.
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