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NC500 hotspot Badentarbet Estate in Achiltibuie worth £2.7m ‘gifted’ by Tanera millionaire to Coigach community


By Iona M.J. MacDonald

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Achnahaird Beach, in Badentarbet Estate, near Achiltibuie. Picture: Strutt and Parker.
Achnahaird Beach, in Badentarbet Estate, near Achiltibuie. Picture: Strutt and Parker.

A millionaire has donated funds for a rural Highland community to purchase the £2.7m Badentarbet Estate, providing it with the opportunity to achieve its “number one priority” to build affordable housing and increase the school roll from eight pupils.

In June, estate agents Strutt and Parker listed the 8887-acre Badentarbet Estate in Coigach, for £2,750,000. The estate covers multiple common grazing areas, the renowned Achnahaird Beach and even four of the Summer Isles — a group of around thirty islands renowned for their beauty, and located across from Achiltibuie on the Coigach mainland.

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After hearing about the estate listing, the Coigach Community Development Company (CCDC) began to look into a community buyout — however considering that none of the last four community buyout applications in the last five years have been successful, it was deemed to be a “longshot”.

But then, a “massive surprise” came emerged.

“Just over two weeks ago in mid-June, we received an offer from Ian Wace, which was a proposal to gift CCDC the funding to purchase Badentarbet Estate,” said Laura Hamlet, chief executive of CCDC.

Financer Ian Wace is renowned locally as the millionaire who bought Tanera Mòr back in 2017 — the largest of Achiltibuie’s Summer Isles. His venture on the Wester Ross island has sustained over 150 local jobs.

Millionaire Ian Wace, at a pledging event in London, 2011. Picture: Wikimedia Commons, Ben Fisher/GAVI Alliance.
Millionaire Ian Wace, at a pledging event in London, 2011. Picture: Wikimedia Commons, Ben Fisher/GAVI Alliance.

Ms Hamlet said: “Within 24 hours we had organised a community meeting, where we put Mr Wace’s proposal to a vote. We were absolutely delighted to have over 100 people in attendance, and get a landslide majority of 91 per cent voting in favour.”

For over a decade, CCDC have been working to acquire land to build more affordable housing upon for young families — so for the development company to be “gifted” the 8000-acre estate, is “really positive”.

“We have first-hand experience of how difficult a community buyout is — we spent 12 years working to acquire the former hydroponicum site,” she said. “We made two different attempts at the community right-to-buy, but with it being incredibly long and complicated…in the end we acquired the site without it.

Laura Hamlet, chief executive of Coigach Community Development Company.
Laura Hamlet, chief executive of Coigach Community Development Company.

“The offer from Mr Wace was so unprecedented, it’s like we are all in shock! We just didn’t expect this to happen, and certainly not so quickly. Now the question is what’s next? What are we going to do with it? The idea of acquiring it was so implausible before, we’ve not really had a chance to think about it.

“But we do know that the absolute no.1 priority for Coigach is houses. Our school roll is down to eight pupils, which is absolutely terrifying. The only way we can increase that school roll is if we can introduce more families into the community — but at the moment there is nowhere for them to live.”

Although Mr Wace is gifting CCDC Badentarbet Estate, he does intend on keeping a small portion of the land for himself. As the current owner of Achnahaird Farm, there is an area of land around it which he is understood to be keeping. Currently three sets of solicitors are working to confirm details about where the boundaries will be between Mr Wace and CCDC.

Badentarbet Estate was last purchased approximately 60 years ago by the Rex family, and as Ms Hamlet explained, a lot has changed since then.

“Over the years there have been portions of the estate sold and re-acquired, so it’s become really complicated — especially without any maps of the land either. Sixty years ago the deed would say things like ‘you own the land from that tree to that rock’!

“So it’s a job to clean up the deed, and make sure everyone is confident about who owns what.

“It’s really exciting for us in Coigach to have the opportunity to develop our land the way we want to, it’s ours forever now.

“With climate change and rising sea levels, we can now plan for the long-term. And on a broader level, it’s great that we are a part of the tide turning for community land ownership.”


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