Qatar royal family ‘behind’ £7m buyout of private Scottish island
A Highland hideaway – situated on a private island in the River Beauly in Inverness-shire – has been snapped up for £7million by the Qatari royal family, it has been claimed.
The 545-acre Eilean Aigas Estate comes with it a massive luxury mansion, is described as one of the best country homes to be built in Scotland for more than a century.
The property, which is steeped in history, was sold by Canadian telecoms tycoon Brendan Clouston last September to a “mystery buyer”.
But speculation has been rife that the island has been purchased by a member of the Qatari royal family, registering it with a Jersey-based offshore company called Goldenrod Limited.
Steve Byford, of Kilmorack Community Council, said: “I believe one of the Qatari royal family has bought it. I think the community would welcome them to the area and hopefully they will get involved within the community.”
Another local, who asked not to be named, said he too had been told the new owner was Qatari royalty.
The tiny island was bought in 2003 by Mr Cloustan for £3million. Eilean Aigas only comprises of 60 acres, with the tycoon later purchasing further farmland and woodland on the mainland, ensuring the island enjoys privacy and security and remained hidden from the outside world.
Mr Clouston embarked on a six-year project to build a new home, with half a dozen magnificent reception rooms and eight bedroom suites.
The original 1839 house was renovated and a new gate lodge and estate office with staff accommodation was built and there is also a farmhouse with development potential.
Mr Clouston played a leading role in the campaign against Scottish and Southern Energy’s controversial Beauly-Denny overhead line which passes close to the 546-acre estate but in 2012, when the fight was lost, he put Eilean Aigas on the market with an asking price of £15 million. Three years later, and languishing unsold, he slashed it to £3 million.
But before the property went under the hammer, it was sold last year – reportedly for £7million.
The Qatari royal family is understood to be behind the purchase of another Highland property last year, the 10,000-acre Cluny Estate, near Laggan.
Again the price was £7,3million and was purchased by a Jersey-based company.
For centuries, until 1995, the island was owned by the Frasers of Lovat and has played host to many famous names over the years.
In 1839 Lord Lovat built a house on the island for the Sobieski Stuart brothers, antiquarians who claimed to be direct descendants of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. At one time it was the summer ¬retreat of the Conservative statesman and prime minister Sir Robert Peel, and was rented by Sir Compton Mackenzie, who wrote Whisky Galore in the 1930s.
Lady Antonia Fraser is said to have worked on some of her books in a summer house on the island.
About the Emir
Agent for the sale, Savills, has refused to comment, stating they are bound by confidentiality clauses.
Land researcher and campaigner Andy Wightman, author of Who Owns Scotland, said the Qatar royal family appeared to be buying more property in the United Kingdom.
“My real concern is that tax havens are being used increasingly and about 750,000 acres in Scotland – an area larger than Ayrshire – are owned by companies registered in secrecy jurisdictions, which means the public has no means of finding out who owns the land,” he said.
Sir John Lister-Kaye, owner of the nearby Aigas Field Centre, hopes the new owners will see themselves as guardians of what is an important area for wildlife, including nesting ospreys.
Eilean Aigas takes its name from the private, wooded island in the River Beauly on which it has been built.
The Qatari royal family is made up of the Al Thanis, an Arab tribe who settled in Qatar around the 1740s. The current head is the eighth Emir of Qatar. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. He seized power from his father in a peaceful transfer of reign in June 2013.
He was educated in Britain and attended Sandhurst, the British military academy.
The family has ruled Qatar for more than 150 years and thanks to oil and gas, the once-poor Gulf state, which is home to around 1.9 million people, has become one of the richest countries in the world.
Over the past 10 years it has been buying up areas and key buildings in the United Kingdom and today it owns the department store Harrods, 95 per cent of the Shard and the Olympic Village in London. It is also a major investor in the London Stock Exchange, Sainsbury’s and Barclays.