Explore the BBC
3 Oct 2014
Click for a Text Only version of this page
BBC Homepage
BBC Radio
TodayBBC Radio 4
Listen Again
Latest Reports
Interview of the Week
About Today
Britain at 6am
Have your Say
Contact Today

by Mike Thomson

Location, location, location is famously said to be the prime consideration when buying a home. Yet despite fantastic views, unspoilt beaches and countryside and a complete absence of crime or noisy neighbours, one of Britain’s best hideaway homes is still up for sale.

Eighteenth century Howlin House on the Scottish Island of Eigg went on the market for £40,000 pounds several months ago. The listed three bedroom stone property lies at the far end of the island’s only road and is without any doubt a bit remote for some. Add to that the fact that in winter there are only four ferries a week to the mainland and that is when the often wild weather allows any to sail at all. But this hasn’t stopped more than a hundred people expressing an interest in buying a house which was once said to have been home to JRR Tolkein, author of Lord of the Rings.

Not that the eighty strong community which bought up the island for 1.5 million pounds in 1997 are allowing any old riff raff to move in. Those interested in snapping up Howlin House have been asked to write a two page essay explaining why the islanders should allow them to buy it. After all, says Maggie Fyfe of the Eigg Heritage Trust “ We wouldn’t want someone who’s thinking of speculating, buying it, doing it up and selling it. We’re looking for the lights to be on in Howlin again.”

But despite piles of enquiries and many visits the lights of Howlin house have stayed off….and not because Maggie and the Trust have sent them packing. The reality is that the house doesn’t have any electric lights, mains water, phone line or even a working toilet or bath room. Indeed, house hunters surveying the property have been warned that they might fall through the floor of the master bedroom, which already has a rather large hole in it. Many, I can now reveal, have fled in horror without even stopping to tell Maggie and the Trust that they are no longer interested.

If you are aching for that hermit home far away from it all and believe you are made of harder stuff, I have good news for you. The house had been taken off the market so that all those who had expressed an interest could take a look at it whilst the islanders took a look at them. But following the current lack of offers the Eigg Heritage Trust is now considering the prospect of allowing new bids.

I’m told the most favoured applicants will be those with young children so that they can help beef up the numbers at the island Primary school which currently has just three pupils. Candidates should also be DIY enthusiasts who are as good at making their entertainment as they are at repairing their homes and cars. In addition, they should have the right mentality to cope with life on this remote and unusual Isle. Sue Kirk, who runs Eigg’s only shop summed it all up like this. “We have a long winter when there’s not many people around so it can get a little bit inbred at times. You’ve got to be able to cope with the Eigg factor. If it can go wrong it will go wrong.”

Howlin House lies at the far end of Eigg's only road.
There are only four ferries a week to the mainland in winter...
...if the weather allows for any sailings at all.
House hunters have been warned that they might fall through the floor of the master bedroom.
A hermit's palace: the living room of Howlin House.
Some modernisation may be needed: the kitchen of Howlin House.
Island primary school (it has just 3 pupils).
"You've got to be able to cope with the Eigg factor."
Howlin House on Eigg does promise fantastic views and beautiful countryside.
Listen - The attractions of the Scottish island of Eigg.
Other Stories

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy