If you've been hankering to buy an island of your own, the Isle of Vaila is the one you've been waiting for.
If you’re fishing in the £1.5-£2 million end of the property market pool, you had tricky decisions to make. In Guildford, for example, you’d get this four-bedroom new-build home at £1.6m. Look further in to London and you’ll find things like this two-bedroom flat in Chelsea Creek that costs £1.85m up front, plus a whisker under £1,000 a month between service charges and ground rent.
Look further afield, though, and you’d come across some really extraordinary places. £1.8m in the North York Moors will buy a gorgeous five-bedroom home with equestrian facilities, while the same amount spent in Devon could get you a mansion with sea views.
All decent options, of course. And yet a new property that’s just been launched by Savills will have the prospective buyer of all those houses questioning their life choices. That property is the Isle of Vaila, in the Shetlands.
The entire island is on the market via Savills at a price of £1.75 million, which includes the 757-acre island with 6.5 miles of coastline that take in sheltered bays, caves and natural arches.
There is grassland, moorland and freshwater lichens; puffins, great skuas and oyster catchers nest around the island, while otters and orcas play in the sea that surrounds it. No less a figure that John Betjeman came to visit; he proclaimed that ‘I can think of few nicer places in the world.’
But this island — just a ten minute boat ride from the Shetland mainland — is far more than just its extravagant natural wonders. There are a series of buildings on the island which have long been the site of extravagant parties; top of the list is Vaila Hall itself, a castellated mansion situated on the north of the island.
At the heart of this late 17th century building is a Great Hall, but there are also six bedrooms, a morning room, minstrel’s gallery and a bell tower.
It’s been well restored and looked after by the present owners, who run a gallery on the mainland of Shetland.
There are original features throughout, with timber panelling, fine plasterwork, fireplaces and other fittings that — together with some really superb furnishing — give the place the feeling of a real time capsule.
If towers are your thing, there is a very special addition nearby: Mucklaberry Tower, a B-Listed observation tower at the head of a long narrow peninsula lying about 400 metres west of Vaila Hall. The present owners (who’ve been here just under 30 years) have restored it completely, and it’s now a folly with incredible views of the mainland and surrounding islands.
Almost as delightful is Cloudin Farmhouse, built in 1894 in the Arts-and-Crafts style by then-owner Herbert Anderton, who had recently stepped in to buy this dot on the map when the land was no longer sufficient to support the crofters who were here before.
Beyond that, there is also a two-bedroom caretaker’s cottage, a modern (1998) building with living facilities at one of the island’s two private piers, walled gardens, sheds, storage buildings, and an old byre which now houses the 42ft skeleton of a sperm whale which beached on the island 22 years ago.
For those who want a project, there is a pair of ruined cottages which could — subject to the usual legal hoops being jumped through — be developed as holiday cottages or similar.
We could probably go on all day about a property like this. Yes, Shetland is not exactly simple to get to — the usual routes go via sea or air from Aberdeen — but people have lived on Vaila for 1,000 years, so in the age of satellite broadband and solar panels, we’d reckon you could make a go of it. And given the price, we can imagine a long list of people who’ll be keen to try.
Catch up on the best country houses for sale this week that have come to the market via Country Life.