Take me to the islands where prices have come down
Owning your own private island is the ultimate in getting away from it all. And with some for sale for under €200,000, now might be the time to buy
IF YOU'VE always dreamt of owning your own island, current property prices might just make that dream within reach. The island of Ireland is surrounded by hundreds of islands - from large inhabited islands to tiny uninhabitable ones. Private Irish islands don't come up for sale too often but this year there's a handful on the market, with asking prices much reduced since their peak.
Having your own island is a great way to escape from it all - many have private beaches, caves and coves to explore and some of the larger ones have luxury properties or historic ruins. Islands usually enjoy spectacular sea and coastal views and are great nature reserves.
Island-owning has always been associated with glamour, however prospective owners should be prepared for some basic living and isolation. Not all of the islands have residences, planning permission can be difficult to obtain and many islands are simply used for grazing. Inclement weather could leave an island cut off.
Dominic Daly, a Cork estate agent, has been selling islands for over 40 years and currently has islands on his books in west Cork, the Shannon Estuary and in Donegal.
Daly says that some islands are owned by tradition, by farmers, others have been bought as a luxury item.
"The trend is for international businessmen to buy them. They have the funds," he says. Enquiries are mainly from overseas - he even had an African chief looking at an island a few years ago.
He says that islands take a long time to sell, sometimes years. "It can be quite difficult to get a residence on some of the islands. You have to demonstrate a need for housing in the area and it can often only be a local from the area," he says.
Estate Agent Philip O'Reilly in Ennis, Co Clare, is selling Mutton Island, which has been owned by an investment company for the last seven or eight years and was owned by an American before that.
It has been for sale for three or four years. He has had lot of interest from America and says a lot of Irish people would love to own it, as it's seen as a trophy property in a beautiful part of west Clare.
"Most of the market is overseas. All of the interest would have an Irish connection, either first or second-generation," he says.
"Mutton is close to Lahinch and Doonbeg and would be well known to American tourists. We have a top banker in an Asian bank showing interest at the moment; he is first-generation Irish. An American also has an offer on it."
Philip says that when people are interested in buying an island, they often get put off by planning restrictions. Some of the islands have Special Area of Conservation (SAC) designation which can prevent any development, even building a landing jetty. However, prices have come down a lot and owners are open to offers. he adds.
Estate agent Godfrey Fitzsimons of Southwest properties (www.irishstonehouses.ie) has Mannion's Island on his books. It has had an Irish owner for the last 20 years and is used for grazing; it is not lived on, although the current owner is keen on self-sufficiency, growing his own produce and using wind power. Fitzsimons says it could be difficult to get planning permission unless you design something unusual - he mentions a house with a sloping grass roof which got planning permission in the area recently. He says the island would suit someone involved in boating, or somebody with a yacht.
"We had a Dutch guy who lived on his yacht interested in it. He wanted a base to pull up at." Fitzsimons remembers one island he sold years ago, Horse Island, which has been sold since then. It has been owned by French people, by Germans "and before that a Burmese guy owned it from 1979. It is owned by someone Irish now".
In recent years many island owners would have accessed their islands by helicopter but in these less extravagant times, owners usually travel there in their own boat, which adds to the experience - as long as the weather is good.
Some islands are accessible on foot at low tide so animals can be led out on to them for grazing.
Out to sea: islands for sale
Carbery and Cold Islands, west Cork:On the south side of Dunmanus Bay, Carbery Island covers 34 acres and has a new house, its own water supply, a generator house and a septic tank waste disposal system. Finished in West Cork stone, the house has a livingroom, kitchen/dining area, utility room, mezzanine/gallery and four bedrooms. It is surrounded with a paved stone patio and overlooks a small sandy beach which has a floating landing pontoon.
Price:€1,250,000 or nearest offer
Agent:Dominic J Daly, 021-4277399
Mutton Island, Seafield Harbour, Co Clare:Mutton Island is a mile from Seafield Harbour, just south of Spanish Point. It is 10 miles south of the Cliffs of Moher and 35 miles from Shannon airport or eight minutes by helicopter. It has 185 acres of grassland, a freshwater lake and several wells. The island was inhabited until 1948 and is now owned by an investment company. The old house or tower on it could be restored.
Agent:Philip O'Reilly, 065-6844448
Roeillaun Island, Clew Bay:Roeillaun Island in Clew Bay is a more sheltered island. Roeillaun lies half a mile from Rosturk Castle on the Burishoole coast. The name derives from ruadh-oileán, red island. The island is 22 acres in size and is uninhabited but suitable for grazing.
Price:€260,000, open to offers
Agent:Frank Chambers, 098-41145