A SCOTTISH island once popular with tourists and passing sailors has been effectively closed to the public by its millionaire owner.
Sanda Island, which used to boast an award-winning pub and several self-catering cottages, was a welcome haven for those making the rough crossing between Kintyre and Ireland.
But Michi Meier, the Swiss millionaire who bought Sanda three years ago for £2.5 million, has announced that the 314-acre island is a private holiday home and “closed to the public”.
He has shut the restaurant and the seasonal hotel, which were opened last year.
On their website, Sanda Island Dreams, Mr Meier and his partner Berni Civeleker have said the “private” island, which lies off the tip of the Mull of Kintyre, is now “the most beautiful holiday home for its private owner”.
Last summer, the website was promoting the opening of The Sanda Island, an exclusive hotel, which aimed to attract an upmarket clientele.
The seasonal business opened last June and closed in late August.
Now Mr Meier, who lives in Sweden, has confirmed that the hotel and restaurant will not open this year. He added that the island’s pier is private and was not available to the public.
While admitting that hotel and restaurant bookings last year had been affected by bad weather, as well as the island’s remoteness and the low numbers they could cater for, he blamed problems with the water supply for the closure.
Mr Meier said: “We will have the island closed and use it privately this year because the Scottish Government and Argyll and Bute Council found out that the water we have on the island is not the quality of drinking water, so they do not allow us to open the hotel.
“We decided to close the restaurant until we find a solution, because it’s too complicated to bring the water from the mainland.”
Iain MacKinnon, environmental health manager at Argyll and Bute Council, said the water had failed a bacteria test and a simple notice had been issued requiring water for human consumption to be boiled.
Mr MacKinnon added: “There is a Scottish Government grant, available through the council, to improve water treatment.”
Argyll and Bute councillor Donald Kelly, from Campbeltown, said: “This is extremely disappointing. When I met with the new owners, they said they meant it to be open to the public as a tourist destination, but obviously that is not happening.”
Previous owners Dick and Meg Gannon spent 20 years building Sanda into a popular tourist destination.
Yesterday, Mr Gannon said: “It’s a terrible shame that Sanda is closed to the public.”
Mr Meier said he hoped to reopen the hotel and restaurant in the future. He said the pier was private because if anyone had an accident there, it would be the owners’ responsibility.
Asked about people’s legal right to roam, he said: “They can land on the sandy beaches, that is no problem, but people should respect our private home – and part of this private home is the pier, which is in front of the living room of the house.”