Why your dream home may just be up in Scotland’s northern reaches

THE number of holiday homes in the UK is on the rise, according to research by Knight Frank. After declining in 2008, the number of British second homes swelled 2.6 per cent last year and is set to rise another 2 per cent this year.

So with demand once again on the up, buyers should be on the lookout for homes that will retain both their peaceful appeal and their value. North-western Scotland is one of the few areas where it is not only possible to buy a rustic home set amid pristine scenery, but to buy a sizeable chunk of the scenery as well.

Strutt & Parker’s Suzanne Moss says that it is not hard to find acreage attached to a rural Scottish home: “A lot of properties have land with them. To get something similar down south, you’re paying double the money.” Often it is not just a matter of buying a big garden. Even many of the lowliest cottages come with three to 30 acres of the surrounding land and some hunting lodges come with hundreds or even thousands. In places like Sutherland, the Cairngorns, along the Spey River and the Isle of Skye, that can mean acres of heather-clad moorland, wildflower meadows and woodland overlooking a misty valley or loch.

Despite these attractions, the Scottish property market is still sluggish in many places: a lot of houses have come onto the market and stayed there, which gives buyers both choice and a discount. However, in a slow market it’s not just a matter of snapping up a bargain; it’s important to make sure the home you buy will retain its appeal – and therefore its value.

The key here, says Chris Hall of Edinburgh estate agent Rettie, is to only go for the exceptional: “When something that is manifestly good pops up, people are still recognising quality.” By that, he means homes with that rare combination of character, tranquility and a reasonably convenient transport connection. This can be a difficult balancing act for buyers: even a beautiful old stone-built cottage will lose its value if it is too close to a road or if a wind farm is installed nearby. But if you do find a home that fits that bill, it is likely to be a bargain given its investment value. Estate agent GKD Galbraith’s Sue Bourne says: “The demand for traditional cottages in beautiful villages far outstrips the supply.”

For buyers who have had enough of ekeing out narrow spaces in cities or tourist hotspots, Scotland is the perfect antidote. And once you’ve bought the place, Rettie’s Chris Hall says it’s simple: “The right quality of property will look after you if you look after it.”

Price: £450,000
This secluded three-bedroom property is set amid three acress of grassy meadow and comes with two other cottages that can be rented out to holidaymakers. The main cottage features an open fire in its living room and offers stunning views over the River Beauly, home to excellent salmon fishing. It is within eight miles of the bustling village of Beauly and 17 miles to Inverness (one hour flight to London).
Contact: 01463 723 500. www.macandrewandjenkins.co.uk

Price: £1.1m
This three-bed hunting lodge from 1871 comes with a 183-acre plot of woodland, pasture and a private trout-fishing loch. It has a gatehouse with wood-panelled dining room and is set between a tranquil pond and thick alpine forest. It’s nine miles from the village of Ardgay, and 54 miles to Inverness airport.
Contact: 01463 719 171. www.struttandparker.com

Price: £300,000
Set amid wildflower meadows, this three-bedroom cottage features exposed stonework above its cosy fireplace, as well as a sunny master bedroom with balcony. Large windows overlooking the beautiful River Spey – one of the best salmon-fishing rivers in Scotland. It is three miles from Grantown-on-Spey and 30 miles from Inverness.
Contact: 01463 719 171. www.struttandparker.com

Price: £1,550,000
The Waternish Estate extends to 255 acres of pasture, mature woodland (including a bluebell wood), a burn with old waterwheel and a mile of Skye coastline. The main house, with five bedrooms, has its original courtyard and belltower steeple still in tact and features solid oak doors as well as fully modern fittings throughout. Rooms have sweeping sea views. It is 132 miles to Inverness.
Contact: 0131 247 3720. www.savills.com

Price: £520,000
Designed by the eminent Edinburgh architect Ian Gordon Linsday in 1937, this four-bedroom house sits in 3.2 acres of land with spectacular views of the highest Highland peaks. Many of the rooms retain original features such as a bell-pull system on the wall. The grounds include a small burn, a wildflower meadow and vegetable garden. It is one mile to the village of Spean Bridge and 56 miles to Inverness.
Contact: 0131 220 4150. www.rettie.co.uk