Nick Churton of Mayfair International Realty relives a childhood dream in the remote and romantic Outer Hebrides.
After his terrible defeat at the battle of Culloden in 1746 – when the British army led by the ‘Butcher Cumberland’ ruthlessly crushed the Scottish Jacobites – Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped to the islands of the Outer Hebrides. There he found supporters to give him food and natural terrain to give him shelter. It is from here that the Prince escaped with Flora McDonald over the sea to Skye in an open boat. Follow, the English Redcoats did not dare.
As a small boy holidaying in this part of the world I dreamt of a life spent in this most romantic of locations – a place where only the eagle has full access.
Now I am a bit older I can dream of this life again as one of these remote, wild, beautiful islands is for sale. Better still, this one has it is said a cave used by the Young Pretender himself for evading the Redcoats. Some American Patriots thirty years later would understand the feeling.
The island, called Wiay, is close to Benbecula, one of the most southerly of the main Hebridean islands. Wiay has about 970 acres, a ruined croft and no electricity, gas or mains water. There is a sheltered anchorage and it is 15 minutes by boat and another 15 minutes on foot to the nearest shop. If the weather is bad don’t bother. You know what they say about the weather in this part of the world – if it isn’t raining it’s about to. But when the weather is fine I promise you there is not a more achingly beautiful or more blissfully peaceful place in the world in which to be.
Take your rod to catch trout for the pan and your gun to shoot woodcock for the pot. Forage the foreshore for mussels. You can renovate the crofter’s cottage into a cosy retreat using peat dug from the bog for the fire in the way of the old crofters – that is if you are not at all ecologically minded! But then to live on this island nowadays you probably will be, so you will have to figure out another way to keep warm and cook. There are no trees for firewood.
If you have seen Burt Lancaster fall in love with a Scottish beach in the film, Local Hero, you may understand a little what this place is like – except on Wiay there are no locals to interrupt the plaintive cry of the curlew or the piercing squeak of the oystercatcher as it busily twists and turns low above rocks and sand at low tide.
Here is a place on which children’s dreams and adults’ lives are made.