Sitting in London on a warm summer’s day, it’s easy to fantasize about enjoying a slower pace of life elsewhere. Somewhere remote, perhaps, with private beaches and acres of space.
The Shetland Island of Vaila, Scotland could be your answer. With its sheer cliffs, caves and pebble beaches, the entire island, with 17the century mansion – is currently for sale for £1.75 million.
Located at one of the most northerly points in the UK, Vaila is accessible by a 10-minute boat ride from the Shetland mainland.
“I can’t think of fewer better places in the world,” former Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman once said of the island. He has a point. At 757 acres, Vaila has 6.5 miles of coastline, 142 acres of grazing land (there are 200 Shetland sheep for company) and 518 acres of wild heathland to the south of the island.
Lashed by the Norwegian and North Seas, Vaila has a rugged landscape: green, rocky and weather-beaten, surrounded by inky-blue water.
Its clear and protected waters attract killer whales, dolphins, otters and birds. And you might want to think about taking up fishing: there are cod, mackerel, halibut, crabs and lobsters to catch off Vaila’s shores.
The jewel in the crown, however, is Vaila Hall, a spectacular 17th-century mansion with impressive stone steps, turrets and battlements.
At 7,480 square feet, with six bedrooms and four reception rooms, the “extraordinary estate” was originally the estate of a laird. late 19the and early 20’sthe For centuries, however, it was used as a large summer residence, hosting lavish parties for island residents and employees (30 in 1901).
It is still well equipped to entertain, with its spacious Great Room, furnished with original 19the century pieces and centered around a massive arched stone fireplace. There is also the living room, with its own large carved wood fireplace, and the conservatory, which has sea views.
Other highlights include full-height stained glass windows, a minstrel’s gallery, and a library, complete with built-in bookshelves and original cornices.
The master bedroom is located in a tower, with panoramic sea views through four windows.
The study, meanwhile, is a more unusual work from home location, with a hidden entrance through the kitchen and a bell tower.
If 757 acres and a mansion weren’t enough to sell it, the island also comes with 18the century watchtower, a two-bedroom cottage and a three-bedroom cottage. (In the farmhouse stable is the skeleton of a 42-foot whale, which washed up on the island in 2000).
“At the meeting point of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, this is a wild and beautiful part of the world. The juxtaposition of the dramatic and elemental land and seascape with the exquisite craftsmanship of the historic Vaila Hall makes for quite an extraordinary property,” says Luke French, Savills Edinburgh office manager.
“A rare prize for the next owner, but also one that benefits from the practical foresight of the sellers, as the shoreline base building provides easy access and the farming company, farmhouse and cottage create a variety of opportunities”.
Vaila has been inhabited for thousands of years and was once home to Norwegian Viking chieftains. One of its previous occupants was Arthur Anderson, the founder of the P&O shipping company, who also established the island’s Shetland Fishery Company in a move that broke the power of the lairds, who had previously controlled the industry.
Since 1993, Vaila has been home to Richard Rowland and Dorota Rychlik, a couple who moved to the island from London, opting for a change of lifestyle.
With 757 acres and multiple properties to look after, they are now looking to downsize elsewhere in the Shetland Islands.
Scotland has more than 900 offshore islands, several of which have been bought and sold in recent years. Linga, for example, was listed for £250,000 and sold in 2021, and Ulva, an island with six inhabitants in the Hebrides, traded for £4.25m and sold in 2018.
30 years ago, Vaila gave Rowland and Rychlik a radical new way of life; now, that opportunity is open once again.
Vaila is listed with savills for offers over £1,750,000.