Wednesday, February 4 2004

More frequent transport, and the attractions of a ‘different’ kind of lifestyle are encouraging people to move to one of the most remote, and stunning parts of the UK.

The outer hebrides – Lewis, Harris, North Uist, South Uist and Benbecula – have long been considered the most remote outposts of the UK after the shetland islands but this is slowly changing according to estate agents in the area.

According to Nationwide figures, property prices throughout Scotland have risen by around 35% over the past two years, and in the outer hebrides many estimate the figure to be closer to 40%.

Communities are finding new leases of life after suffering years of brain drain to the mainland and the central belt of Scotland as youngsters left to study and find work. However, renewed media interest and word of mouth has meant business is picking up for local agents.

‘People are coming both from mainland Scotland and England as families are looking to get away from the low quality of life to be found in some parts of the country,’ says Mike Ferris at Anderson Macarthur & Co, based in Stornoway on Lewis.

‘The interest started almost exactly two years ago, mainly for large country houses, and prices have increased considerably; in some cases they have doubled.’

At the top end, estates rarely come on the market but when they do the interest is intense, although the Land Reform Act may change the way people think about buying large swathes of land when it finally comes fully into force.

However, large country houses are still bargains, going for half what they would in the home counties, and this is only set to rise, with property overlooking water and with dramatic views at a premium.

‘We are seeing more and more people buying up here and I see no reason why it shouldn’t continue,’ says Mr Ferris. ‘As people hear about the different kind of life you can lead up here the islands are bound to get more popular.’

Anderson Macarthur & Co