Ben Fogle 'bitterly disappointed' after mystery buyer snaps up Taransay

THE uninhabited Hebridean island of Taransay has been sold to a private buyer less than two weeks after it was put on the market, dashing plans for a community bid backed by the TV personality Ben Fogle.

The island, which lies two miles off Harris and was the setting for the BBC series Castaway, was put up for sale with an asking price of over 2 million.

The identity of the new owner is as yet unknown although the selling agents said the buyer had connections to the area.

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Fogle said yesterday he had raised more 1 million and had been working with community landowners the West Harris Trust investigating a community purchase.

He said: "I am bitterly disappointed and sad. I had raised over a million pounds in just two weeks in the hope of buying the island for the local community.

"I had been working with the West Harris Trust and we all share the disappointment. I am sure the new owner will put the investment that Taransay requires into ensuring this beautiful island remains a jewel in the Western Isles crown and I'd like to wish them success as the new custodian."

In January 2010 the trust bought the 16,246-acre Borve, Luskentyre and Scarisatavore crofting estates from the Scottish Government.

It plans to build new affordable housing, create jobs and develop renewables and tourism to help reverse chronic depopulation on the island.

Neil Campbell, the trust secretary, said: "We look forward to working with the new owner of Taransay. We are disappointed, but that's life."

The sale price is unknown.

John Bound of selling agents CKD Galbraith said the buyer's family already own property on Harris and have a long association with Taransay.

There are no plans to change the existing regime or management of the island which was sold by brothers Norman and Angus Mackay.

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Mr Bound said: "Given its exceptional beauty and outstanding setting, it was no surprise that Taransay attracted so much interest and that it has been sold in less than two weeks.

"The existing owners know the purchaser and all involved are delighted with the outcome and the island passes into safe hands."

He added: "There will no doubt be a number of disappointed parties who would have liked to bid but it is fitting that Taransay is now in the new ownership of somebody closely acquainted to the area who will preserve the current management of the island."

Taransay, which is made up of two islands connected together by a peninsula of sand, covers 3,445 acres.

The original buildings on the island were renovated for the TV series and since 2002 they have been used as self-catering holiday cottages.

The traditional farmhouse has also been recently refurbished and the old school chalet has been upgraded, while the bothy offers more basic accommodation.

The island also offers trout and sea fishing as well as sustainable deer stalking and a farm with around 680 breeding ewes.

Last week, Fogle said it had always been his dream to buy Taransay, where he spent a year as part of the TV show, and turn it into a nature reserve.

He said: "Taransay needs an owner who will love and care for her like a child. I think I know just the person. I'll be talking to my bank manager later."

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