Choosing to live ‘off ’ the land
Alderney has financial advantages – such as no VAT
Strolling along powder white sand warmed by the evening sun, John Hunt and partner Katie Stewart feel like they’re in paradise. “It’s wonderful seeing an unobstructed horizon,” enthuses John. “Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves to believe we’ve ditched the rat race for this beautiful island.”
John, 45, and Katie, 47, grew tired of endless commuting, clogged roads and the bustle of mainland living. In 2016, they swapped the south-west London suburb of Hampton Hill for Alderney, the northernmost Channel Island. Home is now minutes from the beach, a four-bedroom detached house that cost £511,000. “It has double the floor space compared with the threebedroom bungalow we had on the mainland,” says Katie. “In Hampton Hill, we’d have paid £1.5million.”
Although it often lies in the shadow of bigger brothers Jersey and Guernsey, Alderney has much to offer, including a landscape of pristine golden beaches, rocky headlands and tranquil green spaces sprinkled with wild flowers. It’s the ultimate escape from the stresses of the mainland.
Living on the island, which is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey but is selfgoverned, has financial advantages, too: no capital transfer tax, no VAT, no inheritance tax for domiciled residents, and a 20 per cent top income tax rate (visitalderney.com).
Alderney can be a simpler option for someone looking to buy in the Channel Islands. While Guernsey operates a two-tier housing market (only around 10 per cent of its stock is available to non-islanders and is therefore usually more expensive), and Jersey’s property market is even more complex, there are no barriers to buying property on Alderney – it’s as simple as moving from one UK county to another, with prices similar to England’s south coast.
There are some differences though, warns Andrew Eggleston, the managing director of Alderney estate agent Bell & Co (bellandcoalderney. com). A 10 per cent deposit is put down at exchange, which goes to the seller if the purchaser reneges. “Unlike the mainland, if the vendor pulls out, the deposit is returned, plus a penalty payment of a like sum.”
There are around 1,600 properties on the island; as more than 80 per cent of Alderney is green belt, there are only a finite number of properties and building plots available. Eggleston says he has between 40 and 140 on the market at any one time, with prices starting at £95,000 and ranging from £300,000 to £550,000 for a fourbedroom house with a garden.
“People who move here are those who simply love the place – not because their accountant advises them to do so for monetary gain,” he says. “It’s a classless island. It doesn’t matter what kind of home you’ve got or what car you drive; the one thing bonding us together is that we all enjoy living here.”
Measuring just three miles by one-and-a-half miles, you’re always minutes from the sea and spectacular views. With no ferry service between the island and UK mainland, reaching
Alderney is a 30-minute flight from Southampton. “When we lived in Hampton Hill, I often wasted four hours commuting each day,” says John. “Here, I’m much further away but can catch the early morning flight, jump on a train and reach London by 10.30am.”
John travels to the mainland occasionally to meet clients, but he and Katie run their management consultancy business from home. “Broadband speeds are up to 50mb, fast enough for video conferencing or FaceTime,” says John. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to tear myself away from Alderney; whenever I’m away, I can’t wait to return.”
Crime is virtually non-existent on Alderney and residents leave cars and houses unlocked. “That’s unheard of back on the mainland,” says John. “It’s idyllic here and the cost of living is on a par with the mainland. OK, we might wait a couple of months for the latest films to reach our cinema, but that’s a tiny inconvenience.”
There are countless opportunities to move off the British mainland in search of the island lifestyle. Like Alderney, the Isle of Man is a Crown Dependency; not part of the UK or EU, it is self-governing except for matters relating to foreign affairs and defence.
In the middle of the Irish Sea, 60 miles west of the Lancashire coast, this small island (32 miles by 13) has a population of around 85,000. Like most other islands, the relaxed pace of life, low crime rate and striking scenery attract tourists and those wanting a more peaceful lifestyle. Even the island’s national anthem boasts it is the “Gem of God’s Earth”.
Behind its quiet atmosphere, however, is a vibrant economy rated among the best in the world. Other attractive aspects of living on the Isle of Man include no capital gains tax, no inheritance tax, no stamp duty and low income tax bands. But unlike many so-called tax havens around the world, which make it difficult for anyone other than the super-rich to secure residency status, the Isle of Man welcomes newcomers.
Further up the Scottish coast are the Outer Hebrides; on Lewis and Harris, the most populated of the islands, the average three-bedroom family home sells for £100,000 to £130,000. But it was the peace, more than the prices, that attracted Richard and Jayne Green, 59 and 60, to the Scottish archipelago. In 2012, Richard, a retired systems engineer, and Jayne, an accountant, swapped North Devon for the Outer Hebridean island of Scalpay, and they haven’t looked back.
“We wanted to get away from the fast pace of the mainland and the Hebrides fitted the bill,” says Jayne, who now runs a craft business, Pink Sheep Studio, with her husband. “It had always been a lifelong dream to change our lifestyle and build a new home – we’ve achieved that.”
“Scalpay is remote enough to be private yet still accessible to the mainland,” says Richard. “I flew up to see land we’d been monitoring online and fell in love with it immediately, so I bought it on the spot for £27,000.” The Greens built a two-bedroom detached bungalow for £123,000 and enjoy uninterrupted views across one of myriad lochs peppering this tiny island. They admit island living has some disadvantages but they’re outweighed by numerous benefits. “Yes, costs are a little higher because everything has to be ferried in, there are minimal work opportunities and serious medical care means trips to a city,” says Jayne. “We don’t miss mainland living – we couldn’t cope with the traffic and so many people.”
At the other end of the UK, Jeff and Rachael Knowles, 63 and 45, concur with the Greens. They sold up in Milton Ernest, near Bedford, in March and bought Carnwethers, a guesthouse with self-catering cottages for £900,000 on St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly. “We don’t miss anything other than family,” says Jeff. “As everything comes by boat, you have to plan well ahead in terms of what you need, but the superb beauty of the islands, the peace and quiet and slower pace of life are more important.”
Although this life sounds idyllic, it’s not for everyone, advises Bell & Co’s Eggleston. “Visit your chosen island on several occasions, not just in summer, and see how the island works; perhaps rent somewhere for a few months before making your final decision.”
He is talking from experience, having lived on Alderney for 45 years. Daily frustrations can include waiting longer for deliveries if they miss the weekly cargo boat from Poole, paying more for items in local independent shops, or waking up to fog when you’ve booked a flight back to the UK – on their annual trip to New Zealand, Eggleston and his wife leave Alderney two days in advance to make sure they don’t miss their flight from Heathrow.
“Island life is certainly not for everyone,” he says. “But if you love it, there is no better place to be.”
‘It’s a classless island, it doesn’t matter what car you drive’
Calm: five cottages on the Isle of Skye, above, are £1.25m via Knight Frank; a home in Anglesey, cover, is £1.75m at Jackson-Stops & Staff; a home on the Isle of Arran, main, listed with McEwan Fraser Legal; Katie and John, below, moved to Alderney,...