Now a bid to buy Inchconnachan Island on Loch Lomond has been launched by the daughers of its last resident, with hopes to open it up to the public as an eco-retreat and education centre for those wanting to get closer to nature.
Elise Wilkes-Brand, 28, spent much of her childhood visiting Inchconnachan Island with her sisters after their father, Tony, moved there in the mid-1990s to become its warden.
The island, which is famous for its pack of feral wallabies, which were brought to the island from Australia in the 1940s by Fiona Bryde Colquhoun, Countess of Arran, has recently gone on the market for offers over £500,000.
Ms Wilkes-Brand said she and her sisters had always wanted to take on the island and bring it into good use for the public and surrounding community. A crowdfunder to raise enough to buy the island from the Colquhoun family has now been launched.
Ms Wilkes-Brand, an architect of Devon, said the island retained a strong sentimental pull but added that her family believed it should be opened up for the greater good rather than becoming a private retreat for a wealthy buyer.
She said: “We want to do everything we can to save the island and do with it what it deserves."
The family vision is to restore the islands’ 1920‘s Colonial-style timber lodge which will serve as a visitor and education cente, rebuild the jettty to allow the public to safely visit, open a cafe and create a raised boardwalk which will wind through the woodland.
It is hoped to offer a retreat for disabled children on the island with camping pods dotted over Inchconnachan also part of the plan.
Ms Wilkes-Brand said her father paid Luss Estates to live on the island as part of a deal where he would look after the properties and the land.
She added: “As a kid, we would drive up and I always remember that getting on the boat to the island was just like magic.
"It always seemed to be night time when we arrived and then we would head to the house, which a lot of people told us was haunted.
"There was this big ditch you had to go by and I was petrified of that. In my head, I was crossing this dark swamp in the middle of the night.”
She also recalled the generator building, which made the ‘loudest noise’ and the wallabies, especially the tamest one which she named ‘kangaroo’.
Food shopping trips were made to Luss, where water bottles were also filled, but the island’s blaeberries were also popular.
Ms Wilkes-Brand said her father, an inventor and writer who now lives in France, was happy on Inchconnachan although she added he did find it a little lonely at times.
A recent trip there found the cabin vandalised and litter left by wild campers, she said.
Ms Wilkes-Brand admitted her family’s plans were ambitious but that news of the island's sale presented the ‘only opportunity’ to take it on with the crowdfunder and plan quickly turned around.
Ms Wilkes-Brand added: "The island was put on the island for £500K which we thought might achieveable but we spoke to the estate agent a few days ago who said there had been a lot of interest already and that he didn’t think it would go for anything less than a million.
"There is now a closing date of Augus 11 which means we need to raise double the original amount in three weeks.
"Whatever amount of money were receive, we will make an offer.”
Ms Wilkes-Brand said the family had gone for the simplest crowdfunding model, with the deadline making it impossible to set up a charity or business in the first instance.
However, she said that, if the bid successfull, a trust will be set up to run the island.
She added: “If our bid it is declined for a higher offer, the money will then be used to support the John Muir Trust, People’s Trust for Endangered Species and Enable Scotland, who work with the environment, wildlife, endangered species, education and people with disabilities.
"This way, whether we succeed or fail, the ‘Wallaby Island Project’ will have a lasting positive impact for the local area and the environment.”
She added: “The island really is part of us. We want to know we did everything we could to save it.”
For more information, visit https://www.inchconnachan.co.uk/