Highlands ready to greet first Chinese 'laird'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 May, 2012, 12:00am


It's more than 9,000 kilometres from Shanghai to Scotland, but the Highlands could soon welcome their first Chinese 'laird', the term for a member of the landowning nobility.

Wealthy mainland investors are said to be scouring the property market to find a historic castle or stately home to add to their portfolios.

Leading property agents are reporting a rise in interest from rich mainland and Taiwanese buyers, who want to be close to some of the world's greatest golf courses, the stunning lochs and mountains ... and the whisky.

The 15th century Dornoch Castle Hotel was recently advertised for sale in Hong Kong and the mainland, after it had been on the market for seven months without any offers.

The lack of response was blamed by the hotel's co-owner on Britain's double-dip recession.

Now it appears the GBP2.5 million (HK$31.3 million) price tag on the 25-bedroom, three-star hotel is proving attractive to foreign buyers.

'The home market is quite difficult at the moment, and we expected that,' said co-owner Colin Thompson. 'It is difficult for people to get funding.'

Ran Morgan, head of Scotland residential property at Knight Frank, the agents selling the property, said there had been an increase in interest from China in recent months.

'It's a slowly evolving phenomenon,' he said. 'This year so far I've been out showing properties to Chinese, Taiwanese and Saudis. It's something that we've seen growing for a while.'

Jamie Macnab, of estate agent Savills, said it had also seen increased interest from China in Scottish rural properties.

'It's a market we expect to grow. We're constantly looking at how to attract Asian money and we are confident that it will come. We had one young Chinese man who came into the Edinburgh office recently, hired a cab and then went to view eight properties in Fife because of the golfing interest.

'Golf is a key reason why the Chinese want to buy property here.'

Close to Dornoch Castle Hotel is Royal Dornoch, the third-oldest golf course in the world. Buying a home nearby gives residents the right to play the course ranked the 13th greatest on the planet.

And it's not as if 'foreigners' would feel out of place.

One-third of homes in the town are owned by Americans. Other homeowners in the area include Australians and Canadians.

One issue that could put off potential buyers is the current lack of direct flights between China and Scotland. But that situation will not be allowed to continue for long, according to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

During his week-long visit to China in December he said talks would be held to resolve that problem - which means that a Chinese 'laird' could find him- or herself only a 12-hour flight away from their Scottish country pile.

Eugene Henderson


The number of golf courses in Scotland, where the game was actually banned by King James II in an Act of Parliament in 1457