How many of you, especially after the year we’ve just had, would like to own your very own island? I imagine, without being able to see or hear any of you that a lot of you just put your hand in the air or said words to the effect of “Yeah, actually… owning my own island would be class.”
Back in 2011, Adam and Cathra Kelliher bought Taransay – a remote Scottish island made famous by the BBC show ‘Castaway’. The Kellihers, who already owned the historically significant Borve Lodge Estate on South Harris, fought off some fierce competition for Taransay from Ben Fogle. Fogle made a name for himself on ‘Castaway’ so, naturally, it was a story that captured the public’s imagination and thrust the island back into the spotlight.
“A remote Scottish island made famous by the BBC show ‘Castaway’”
Since then, Adam, a New Zealander by birth who spent 14 years working as a TV cameraman in war zones, and his wife Cathra have set about rewilding their Highland island paradise. Keen to find out more about their decision to buy the island, the responsibility they feel towards it, and their vision for the future we fired some questions over to Adam. You’ll find the answers to those questions right beneath this nice aerial shot of Taransay.
Hi Adam. What inspired you to buy Taransay?
We already owned Borve Lodge Estate, which sits on the West Harris coastline, facing the sound of Taransay, and so we had had many glorious summer evenings watching the sun recede behind this most magical island.
“It just felt ‘right’ and something we would have regretted for the rest of our lives if we hadn’t gone for it”
We had visited only a few times, but on each trip, were taken by the calmness and majesty of the island. Then my wife Cathra called me one day while I was at work to say there was photo spread in a national daily saying that Taransay, the ‘Castaway Island’ (known for the being the location of the BBC reality TV show) was for sale. We knew the owners, the MacKay family, but the fact that they were selling it was a real surprise to us.
Anyway, Cathra and I had a very brief discussion, and were immediately in agreement: this was one of the those ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities, as Scottish islands are rarely for sale, and particularly one as precious as Taransay. It was very much an emotional buy. It was instinctive. It just felt ‘right’ and something we would have regretted for the rest of our lives if we hadn’t gone for it. So we did.
What does the island buying process involve? Is there a Zoopla for island buying?
Well, as far as we know there isn’t a separate website for ‘islands for sale’!
I think it is the same as pretty much any sale of private property, but the estate agent did a good job of maintaining the uniqueness and the aura of the offering and ran the sale very professionally. Scotland has a sealed bid system, so you have to be able to give it your best shot without knowing what you’re up against.
“There was evident competitive pressure, and a lot of media interest too, because of Castaway”
In the instance of Taransay, there was evident competitive pressure, and a lot of media interest too, because of Castaway. But we moved, and very quickly: I think we found out about the sale on a Thursday, and had won a brief but nerve-rattling bidding battle against another buyer by the following Tuesday. That was when we learned that our ‘best shot’ had won, and we were now custodians of this very special island.