Monday, May 20, 2024

Islands on the market

Scotland: Some like it hot….

but not everyone. A tropical atoll fanned by balmy breezes may fulfill some people’s dream of paradise but there are those who prefer the more windswept end of the climate spectrum.
If that’s the case then the islands of the OUT SKERRIES off the North Sea coast of Scotland will have definite appeal.

The furthest east of  all the Shetland isles, the Skerries is a archipelago of five main islands plus various islets and stacks which are on the market; for sale as a group or separately in five lots.

Out Skerries Shetland

Out Skerries Shetland

Lot 1 includes Housay and Bruray, which are the largest and only inhabited islands with a population of around 80, mostly crofters and fishermen.  The remainder of the lots are home only to sheep, basking seals and teeming bird colonies.

Designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area, the islands are a ‘twitcher’s’ paradise being the first eastern landfall for migrating birds and breeding grounds for Terns, Kittiwakes, Shags, Oyster Catchers, Eider Duck, Fulmars and Gulls.

And if there are nesting birds then it follows there must be fish to sustain them. Mackerel is the main catch along with flounder, lobster and crab.

During the short cool summer the islands are particularly beautiful, covered with wild flowers such as Sea Pinks. And, as the land is mostly flat and treeless like much of the Shetlands, there are marvellous walks along rocky shores and dramatic cliffs with infinite views of  the ocean.

Even though there is regular contact with the mainland – ferries to Vidlin and Lerwick 25 miles away, which take between 90-150 minutes – having your own boat would be both a necessity and a pleasure. The sea can be quite rough once away from the shelter of the islands and cars loaded onto the ferries are regularly strapped down.
However the sea in summer is calm enough to allow the annual Lerwick-Skerries Yacht race in August.

For the more adventurous, a trip to Bergen and the Norwegian coast would be easily do-able providing you have a long-range expedition craft. Something like a PJ Ice Cl

Out Skerries, Housay Loch

Out Skerries, Housay Loch

ass World Yacht,  the chunky RMK Marine Jasmin or the luxurious Allure Shadow with its own pool, underwater scooters and heli pad.

In fact the Skerries and the rest of Shetlands were for centuries Norwegian territory and a regular staging post for the Viking invasions of Britain in the 8th and 9th centuries. For over 600 years, the islands’ trade, language and social life were thoroughly Norwegian, leaving thousands of place-names and dialect words which still testify to the Scandinavian influence. Out Skerries is itself derived from Old Norse – Ut Sker -which translates as east reef or rocky island.

After the eclipse of the Vikings, Shetland continued its trade with northern Europe exporting its salt fish through the powerful Hanseatic league of merchants. It wasn’t until 1469 that the islands became Scottish when James III received them as part of the temporary marriage settlement from Margaret, King Christian 1 of Denmark’s daughter. Despite pleas to have them back, the Scots held on to them and the next year permanently annexed the islands to the crown.

Interestingly, the estate is still owned on a Udal title basis, deriving from the Norse legal system which to date has not been superseded by either Scots or British Law. Under this system a landowner holds an absolute title, free of any interest of the crown or intervening superior and without the need for written title deeds.
Additionally the land is subject to crofting tenure with the exception of the islands south of Housay.
(For more details consult the estates’ solicitors in Inverness, Harper McLeod)

For such a remote place of barely 620 acres (251 ha), there’s lots of  historical and archaeological interest including undiscovered bronze age settlements and shipwrecks which regularly occurred off the harsh coastline before the lighthouse on Grunay (not included in the sale) was built in the mid 19th century.

The islands are not lost in the past however and there is a gravel airstrip on the island with regular flights to Tingwall on the main island with onward connections to Scottish and English airports. Electricity is supplied by undersea cable and there is potential for using renewable sources such as waves and wind to provide additional power.

The lots
1  Housay and Bruray
2 The Benelips
3 Guens and Filla
4 Muckle Skerry
5 Little Skerry and Vongs

(For sale through Knight Frank’s Edinburgh office/

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