INTERNATIONAL businessmen are snapping up Scottish sporting estates to escape the rigours of day-to-day work life, it was revealed today.
There has been a significant shift in the ownership of Scottish estates in recent years with a move from people buying them to enjoy their retirement, to wealthy individuals, often from overseas, who are attracted to the sports on offer.
In the last year buyers spent around £54 million on shooting and fishing properties, with a large interest from Scandinavia.
Experts even believe that Scots estates are becoming more attractive as prices for property in London rocket.
Although only five or six estates with sought-after grouse shooting or salmon fishing are sold each year, there has been no sign that the recent financial crisis has slowed the market.
One estate renowned for its grouse shooting sold for almost £20 million this year, with two properties selling for between £8 and £10 million.
The total worth of the estate market this year was up £10 million this year.
According to estate agents Savills, individuals working in financial services have shown the majority of interest in estates over the last 12 months.
Evelyn Channing, of the company’s rural department, said that sporting estates were “at the top of Christmas wish lists” for businessmen looking to spend their weekends shooting.
She said: “Almost without exception those contemplating purchasing a Highland estate have been attracted by the range of sport on offer.
“This is in contrast to the typical buyer of ten years ago, who bought an estate to enjoy the fruits of their labour full-time in retirement.
“The market for sporting estates is now dominated by high net worth individuals seeking good quality sport in beautiful surroundings, away from the incessant demands of business life. All of this can be found from deep within the grouse butt.”
She said next year’s independence referendum appeared to have made little difference to the market, although she was aware of a “handful” of buyers who had decided to put their search on hold until the outcome of the vote was known.
Charles Dudgeon, head of the firm’s rural agency, said two thirds of viewers originated from Europe, and in particular from Scandinavia, with strong interest from Denmark.
He said: “Acquiring a Scottish country estate is still a popular ‘trophy buy’, and with the recent significant property price growth in London, the Scottish Highlands have never looked better value for money.
“It is possible to buy 10,000 acres in the Highlands, with a Grade A listed nine-bedroom castle and 10 ancillary dwellings for the same price as a 3-bedroomed flat in Knightsbridge.”
Savills is currently marketing the 10,000-acre, £7.5 million Cluny estate near Kingussie in Inverness-shire, which has “walked-up” grouse shooting, stalking, pheasant shooting, salmon fishing and a seven-bedroomed castle.
The estate is being sold by Alain Angelil, 70, an Egyptian-born telecoms tycoon who is based in Norway and bought the property in 2000.
It includes a farming enterprise and 10 estate houses and cottages. Cluny Castle was the ancestral home of the MacPhersons of Cluny until the direct line died out in 1943.
Mr Dudgeon said the interest in Cluny and other estates had been “global”, with two thirds of viewers coming from Europe.