Often think, “I’m so sick of this crowded city! What I need to do is move to a remote island in the Shetlands!” Who doesn’t?
Meet Vaila Island, one of just 16 inhabited islands in the Shetlands, off the northern coast of Scotland, and available to purchase for $2 million. Sound remote? It is. Vaila may be just 10 minutes by boat to the subarctic archipelago’s main island, but the Shetlands are 12 hours by ferry from northern Scotland. See. Remote. But who wants to leave Vaila, anyway, when your new friends are sheep!
Vaila is currently home to a flock of 200 purebred Shetland ewes, who graze on about 142 acres. Human residents of the island are nicely accommodated in several buildings that include a three-bedroom farmhouse and two-bedroom cottage, as well as an 18th century watchtower — useful in case of peasant uprisings! — and for the new laird, a 17th century castellated mansion. All this is set on 757 acres of stunning scenery, which includes 6.5 miles of coastline. A base on the nearby main island conveys with the property, which includes parking, a pier and slipway for a boat.
Probably because it’s mostly flat, the island has been inhabited for thousands of years. In the 8th and 9th centuries, Vikings settled in to farm the Shetlands, and by about 1450, a number of Norwegian landowners held major estates on the islands. In 1576, the island now known as Vaila was leased by a Scot; it was later owned by a James Mitchell who built a house known as the Old Haa, in 1696.
By the late 19th century, Old Haa had been transformed into a grand summer residence, now known as Vaila Hall. The current owners, who bought the island in 1993, have restored and updated the house into a comfortable home. Today, the mansion includes six bedrooms and four bathrooms.
The great hall boasts a massive stone fireplace, stained-glass windows and a minstrels’ gallery. There’s even a hidden door to the kitchen. Also on the ground floor is the morning room, with another large fireplace, a conservatory with great views to the watch tower, and a study inside the circular bell tower. Up the stairs are four bedrooms, including the main bedroom, which has a secret passageway to a tower bedroom that sports incredible views. Two more bedrooms and a bathroom are tucked up on the top floor.
Outside are numerous walled gardens and two former kitchen gardens, along with rolling fields, craggy cliffs and a protected cove with a boat landing. Perfect for a caretaker, the pint-sized two-bedroom cottage has a modern glass solarium, while the sea-view three-bedroom farmhouse has a more unusual feature: a nearby byre (cowshed) where the skeleton of a 42-foot sperm whale, known as Boney Dick, washed ashore in 2000.
As evidenced by the above, the area is rich in wildlife, including seabirds such as puffins, otters, and orcas. And of course, fish and shellfish abound in the area’s clear water and ripe natural landscape. Interested in a life of sheepherding solitude? Get on the horn to Luke French and Emma Dalglish at Savills.