THE price of a Highland estate which was the summer retreat of Conservative statesman and prime minister Sir Robert Peel has been slashed by £12 million by its reclusive billionaire owner.
Eilean Aigas, a private wooded island within a 547-acre estate near Inverness, is expected to reach around £3m when it is sold at an auction in London in September.
But the owner, Canadian telecoms tycoon Brendan Clouston, initially put the estate, which includes a modern mansion house, on the market at a price of £15m. His decision to sell came a year after he tried to block the forced sale of part of his land to make way for controversial Beauly to Denny power line, which is currently under construction.
It has been claimed in the past that he initially invested £20m in creating his new home on the island in 2006.
Mr Clouston, who is a friend of Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates and made his fortune through Denver-based telecoms firm Tele-Communications (TCI), no longer spends long spells at Eilean Aigas and relocated to his home in the Channel Islands.
It is understood he retreated from the public eye after “Una-bomber” John Kaczynski – who targeted people involved with modern technology – threatened fellow TCI director John Malone and security was tightened around the firm’s board.
This was always a personal restoration journey, never purely a financial investment.Evelyn Channing, Savills
Eilean Aigas, which features the mansion, a gatehouse and hunting lodge and sits on the River Beauly, was also rented by Whisky Galore! author Sir Compton Mackenzie in the 1930s, while author Lady Antonia Fraser – the wife of the late playwright Harold Pinter – is said to have worked on some of her books in a summer house on the island.
The mansion house was built on a high bank above a river on the eastern side of the island and is modelled on the original hunting lodge. It includes a cinema, games room and hair salon. Evelyn Channing, of selling agent Savills, said: “The family has invested an enormous amount of time, resource and effort into creating and renewing more than 500 acres of historic and beautiful Scottish landscape whilst protecting the wildlife within.
“This was always a personal restoration journey, never purely a financial investment.”
She added: “A buyer could prevent Eilean Aigas from reaching the auction by purchasing it by private treaty this summer. For this to happen, their pre-emptive bid would need to be at a level which reflects the incredibly high standard of craftsmanship that has gone into the design and build of this beautiful home, and its breathtaking location”.
Mr Clouston decided to sell the house after energy giant SSE applied for a compulsory purchase order for a portion of his land, which lies in a narrow strip between Eskadale and Hughton.
The firm wanted to install a section of an overhead electricity transmission line, comprised of around six hundred 200ft towers along its length, close to the new mansion.
Mr Clouston helped finance a local campaign group Pylon Pressure and gave evidence at a public inquiry into SSE’s plans. In 2012, a spokesman for the tycoon confirmed the new power line had contributed to his decision to sell the island estate.