Argyll & Bute Escape to the Country


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Argyll & Bute

Property series. Jonnie Irwin heads to the Scottish region of Argyll and Bute with a couple who have £350,000 to find a country home in a fantastic setting.


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Transcript


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You might recognise these colossal trees behind me

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as giant sequoias or redwoods, native to North America.

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But, if I'm not in California, where am I? Find out in just a moment.

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On today's show, our house hunters yearn for great views

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and wide open spaces.

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As far as properties go, we get off to a near perfect start.

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I don't think we can get better than this. This is fantastic for us.

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And as we get closer to that vision of what they want,

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it becomes a bit overwhelming.

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-Oh...

-Oh, wow.

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SHE SOBS

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Today I'm in Argyll and Bute in Scotland

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at Benmore Botanic Garden near Dunoon.

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These massive redwoods were planted back in 1863

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by an American, Piers Patrick,

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who was then the owner of the Benmore estate.

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These soaring specimens are thought to be some of the tallest

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outside of their native North America.

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With an estimated lifespan of around 3,000 years,

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let's face it, they're still mere babies.

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Now, the climate here on Argyll is relatively mild, yet wet,

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and that has helped these beautiful trees thrive -

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so much so, that the tallest already measures some 177 feet.

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That's the height of 12 double-decker buses.

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Argyll and Bute refers to the 23 inhabited islands

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in the south-west of the country

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and is the second largest region in Scotland after Highland,

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covering 9% of the country's landmass.

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The largest island in Argyll is Mull,

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with its vast mountain range

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towering 3,000 feet at its highest point.

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Nearly 80% of Argyll and Bute's population

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live within half a mile of the coast and the region boasts

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some of the most breathtaking waterscapes in Britain.

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Separating Bute from Argyll is the Kyles of Bute, a narrow sea strait

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flanked by carpets of woodland and outcrops of rock.

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Its narrowest point is just a third of a mile across.

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The longest sea loch in Scotland can also be found in the region.

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With its well-deserved reputation for oysters,

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Loch Fyne is 40 miles in length

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and deeper than the height of London's Telecom Tower.

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Perched above its shore

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is the 18th-century neo-Gothic splendour of Inveraray Castle.

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With coastal and mountain scenery to rival anywhere in the UK

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and rich heritage to discover in its towns and villages,

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it's no wonder this magical corner of Scotland

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appeals to those seeking the peace and tranquillity of island life.

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Across Argyll and Bute, the average price of a detached house here

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costs around £233,000.

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That's a very generous £50,000 below the national figure -

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really good value for money

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for those who are truly looking to get away from it all.

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So, what's attracting today's buyers to this stunning Scottish scenery?

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Let's meet them and find out.

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Steve and Rebecca from the market town of Brigg in Lincolnshire

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have been married for six years,

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after meeting through an online dating agency

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and embarking on a whirlwind romance.

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On the first date, I think we knew

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it was going to be kind of serious and we hit it off very well.

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It developed into a full-fledged relationship very quickly

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and Rebecca became my soul mate

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and I couldn't wait to marry her in the end.

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Steve runs a renewable energy business

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and Rebecca is a chartered accountant.

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They currently live in an open-plan eco-house they developed themselves.

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It uses very little energy

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and we achieved that by using a solid fuel log burner.

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We also have solar PV panels

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which provide us with a lot of our electricity.

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We also have a solar thermal system

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which provides us with domestic hot water.

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Really, the combination of all those

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enables us to have a virtually cost-free lifestyle here, I suppose.

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But while they're quite happy with their current property,

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their move to Scotland is driven by a need

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for having wide open space around them

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to enjoy during their spare time.

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The choice of Scotland is just the beautiful scenery,

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the quietness and just views and enjoying the walks really.

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Between them, Steve and Rebecca have seven children from previous relationships.

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With the kids having grown up and left home,

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finding the right environment for their two dogs is driving this move.

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The aim is to be somewhere

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where we can just physically open the front door

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and be out there straight onto a beach or straight into the woods.

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So, the dogs are changing our lives.

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Although Steve is ready to pack up his bags,

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Rebecca, who grew up in Brigg,

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is a little more cautious about a rural adventure.

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I'm ready for, sort of, isolation and if we didn't see anyone

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for a couple of days, that really wouldn't faze me at all.

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It sounds ideal being isolated and out of the way,

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-but the practicalities of it and getting shopping...

-Mmm.

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-We'll have to see where we end up.

-Yeah.

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While they won't be giving up their jobs entirely

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and will rely on the internet to carry on with their work,

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this move is about redressing that all-important work-life balance.

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I guess what excites us - for me anyway - moving forward,

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it's the next stage of our lives.

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It's about creating time and space for ourselves

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-and what we want to do. I feel...

-It's a more laidback lifestyle.

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Yeah, a more laidback lifestyle.

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While we're here, I think our work and other scenarios impact,

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or we allow it to impact, whereas up there,

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it will not be allowed to impact and we become the priority.

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Rebecca and Steve will be toing and froing

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between Scotland and Lincolnshire in the short term

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and don't want to be too remote,

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so we're concentrating our property search on the Cowal Peninsula,

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which is a two-hour car and ferry journey from Glasgow.

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I'm meeting up with them on the banks of the Firth of Clyde

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to run over their property requests.

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Well, I must say, this must feel worlds away from Lincolnshire,

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-mustn't it?

-Just a tadge, just a tadge.

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Bit different but this is why you're here, isn't it?

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-Yes, it's so beautiful, isn't it?

-It's absolutely stunning.

-Yeah.

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What does the house look like in your mind's eye then, Rebecca?

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-The house doesn't look like anything really. It's where it is.

-OK.

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It's what's around it, having the views,

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having maybe some woodland, having a bit of beach,

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having somewhere secure for the dogs, is what we're looking for.

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It's us and two dogs that are coming up here

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and it's just spending the time outside together.

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Now, if you want access to a beach, access to woodland,

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doesn't sound like you've got a supermarket

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-round the corner, does it?

-That doesn't matter.

-No.

-No.

-Not at all.

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So, describe your idea of isolation, if you like. How far away?

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-A room with a big freezer.

-Right. Do you like people?

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I think, as we're getting older,

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we're beginning to find that we're less willing to accept

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other people's lack of social graces,

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-if I'm being truthful with you.

-Right, OK.

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So, rather than change the world, you just thought you'd get away from it.

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-Absolutely. Run away.

-Exactly.

-Good for you.

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Now, let's talk about the size of the house itself.

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-How many bedrooms do you want?

-Two to three bedrooms.

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-Who's coming to visit?

-Just my parents.

-Hopefully no-one.

-No-one.

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THEY LAUGH

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-OK...

-Our ideal would be open-plan, just open-plan living.

-Yes.

-Really?

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Yeah, that's what we like.

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But if a house needs some work, cosmetic or otherwise,

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-you're prepared to get stuck in?

-Yeah.

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We'll flatten it and rebuild it, if necessary.

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Probably, that would be more attractive to us.

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Now, moneywise, what's the budget?

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The budget, maximum, is £350,000.

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That's, obviously, all-in, completely done,

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so if we've got a project,

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we obviously have to build that into the figures.

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I notice this happy-go-lucky persona, Rebecca,

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suddenly change into a steely glaze when you gave me that figure.

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-She's an accountant.

-Yeah. So, will you know this place when you see it?

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-I think we will.

-I think so, yes.

-Before we even go in.

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-It's an instinct, definitely.

-Right, OK.

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Well, let's hope we get that gut feeling in one of the three houses.

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-Let's get started.

-Thank you.

-OK.

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Armed with a maximum budget of £350,000,

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Rebecca and Steve are after a house

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with an open-plan layout and three bedrooms.

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They don't mind undertaking a project because, for them,

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it's all about the location and setting of their new home.

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Ideally, they'd like to be close to a beach to walk the dogs

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but at the very least,

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the property should have an impressive view of its surroundings.

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We've scoured the local property market

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to secure the best available homes for Rebecca and Steve to mull over,

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but I won't be revealing the house price to them

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until the end of the tour.

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Our Mystery House will challenge them on the kind of space

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they want inside, while giving them lots of it on the outside.

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Our first house is located on the Cowal Peninsula

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in a hamlet called Stratheck.

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It's just one of a scattering of settlements

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along the eastern banks of Loch Eck,

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whose hauntingly beautiful waters are home

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to Scotland's rarest freshwater fish, the powan.

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The closest amenities are in Dunoon, ten miles away.

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The town's favourable location on the edge of the Firth of Clyde

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led to its development as a popular Victorian holiday resort

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for wealthy Glaswegians

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and its centre features a range of shops and cafes.

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Our first property is found close to Loch Eck

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and enjoys a special view of Beinn Mhor,

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the highest hill in the area,

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which towers above the loch's western shoreline.

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Right then, our first offering for you both.

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Fantastic-looking property.

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-It is, isn't it? Very modern.

-Yeah. How old do you think it is?

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Well, I KNOW how old it is, thankfully.

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This large part was built, initially, around 1849 to 1850.

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-Right.

-Oh, wow, right.

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With a slightly more modern extension.

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Now, it was converted by the current owner. Well, they started in 2004.

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-OK.

-And finished in around 2008.

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-Right.

-Right.

-Now, positioning.

-Mmm.

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That looks just like Lincoln here, doesn't it?

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-Wow, yes, beautiful location.

-Yeah, without a doubt. Fabulous.

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Excellent. Let's get inside.

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Built with thick stone walls, inside, the construction bones

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are timber-framed with hefty insulation

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to satisfy energy-conscious Steve.

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At the moment, there's oil-fired heating,

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but he could easily install a more environmentally-friendly,

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cost-effective system such as a biomass boiler, if he wishes.

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So, the first house - first impressions.

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-It's beautiful.

-Beautiful.

-Yeah.

-Wow, very shocked.

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The size, the height of the ceilings, the openness. Beautiful.

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-Now, come in round to the kitchen area. Is it your taste?

-Yes.

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-Very much our layout, isn't it?

-Yes, wouldn't need to change it at all.

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-I like it very much.

-This is the heart of the home though, isn't it?

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Yeah, I love the light flooding through the windows.

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Let's go and have a look at the living room.

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This is, by no means, a vast living space,

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but I thought the open-plan nature of the kitchen would hit the mark

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and I'm confident the next room will also appeal to their taste.

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-Wow.

-What I love about this house is what you see is what you get.

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-Yes.

-Fantastic.

-This is the main part of the barn.

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-It's lovely, isn't it?

-Absolutely gorgeous, isn't it?

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Perfect little layout, isn't it?

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Yeah, got the log burner. I don't think we can get better than this.

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-This is fantastic for us.

-Mmm.

-Yeah, interesting. Very interesting.

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-All right. Well, so far, so good. Let's have a look upstairs.

-OK.

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Upstairs, off a central landing, are three bedrooms.

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At one end of the house there's a generous double

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and next to that, a smaller double, as well as a three-piece bathroom,

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all in the eaves and with skylight windows.

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At the opposite end of the property

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is the bedroom I've earmarked for our buyers.

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Now, your master, I think, is very impressive.

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Wow, yes, good size, excellent.

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I've always had a bit of an issue with vaulted ceilings,

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but I've got to say, I think they've done it really well

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cos it doesn't impose on the main living area, does it, too badly?

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-There's plenty of room there for us.

-Yeah, yeah.

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-Imagine lying in that bed.

-Looking at those views.

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-It would be amazing, wouldn't it?

-Yeah.

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Now, en suite, as you'd expect from a master bedroom

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-of any modern conversion.

-Yeah.

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Let's go back outside but also on our way out there,

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start thinking about price.

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-OK.

-Can I just squeeze through there? Thanks.

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So, the house gets the thumbs up

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and since the outside space takes full advantage of those views,

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both Steve and Rebecca should be equally impressed

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with the land that comes with the property.

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It extends to the front and side

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and consists of a manageable lawn space, bordered by a low stone wall

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and beyond it, a stunning backdrop of the hills behind.

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But there's also an option to purchase more land, up to two acres,

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which lies fallow at the moment.

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Now, back in the beautiful outdoors.

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-Yes, absolutely stunning.

-So...

-Mmm.

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Your first attempt at guessing prices up here.

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Who wants to go first?

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Hmm, shall I make a stab? Go on, then. It is a guess.

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-I'm going to go 300.

-£300,000?

-Yeah.

-I'm going to go slightly over.

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I shall go for £315,000.

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Well done! This house is on the market for offers around £315,000.

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-That's good.

-Outstanding.

-Yeah.

-Very good. No, it's a good price.

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Well, hopefully, this is something to really have a good think about.

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Why don't you go back into the house now, have a scoot around on your own,

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have a look around some of the bedrooms you haven't yet seen

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-and I'll meet you when you're done.

-OK.

-Thank you.

-See you in a mo.

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Well, they said up to £350,000 for a house with nothing to do to it.

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This house has nothing to do to it and they've got loads of change

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so, hopefully, worthy of serious consideration.

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Under budget by £35,000,

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our first house is a converted stone barn which has been remodelled

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in the last ten years to give it a cosy, but modern, feel inside.

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An open-plan kitchen leads onto a stone-tiled living room

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and upstairs, there are three bedrooms.

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With vistas of the highest hill in the vicinity,

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the property is situated close to the banks of a popular loch.

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I really love property one.

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I love the space downstairs, I love the location

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and yes, there is a chance I could live in this house, yes.

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The water view is the dream.

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In the checklist of all the important things we wanted,

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the water view was up there at number one.

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But the views from this property into the mountains and the woodlands

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is absolutely superb

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and it, maybe, could be a compromise that we could make.

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The slight downside for me would be

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the sloping ceilings in the bathrooms.

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Being quite a tall guy,

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shaving and showering could be a little bit of a challenge

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without bopping my head.

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But this property was certainly far better

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than we, certainly I, had hoped.

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So, is this a house with a view

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-that's worthy of consideration, do you think?

-We think so, yes.

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-Without a doubt.

-Something to beat.

-Yes.

-Yeah.

-Come with me.

-Thank you.

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The abundance of crystal-clear fresh water in the region's lochs

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make Argyll and Bute a suitable spot

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to produce one of Scotland's most famous national brands,

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single malt whisky.

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Whereas blended whiskies are a combination of different brands,

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single malts originate from an individual distillery

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and one of the oldest can be found in the town of Oban.

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Since Steve and Rebecca are keen to embrace the heritage

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of their new homeland, we sent them to sample this distilled delicacy.

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They're meeting operations manager Ronnie Whiteford.

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-Hello.

-Good morning, Rebecca, Steve.

-Hi, Ronnie.

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-Welcome to Oban Distillery.

-How long has the distillery been here?

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The distillery itself's been here since 1794.

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For the first year, it was actually a brewery.

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-It was changed to a distillery in 1794.

-Why did it change?

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I think it was just the demand for whisky

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was starting to take off at that point

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and they seen an opportunity.

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It's all local products that we use, which is the malted barley,

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the good, clean water that we have here in the town

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and yeast, which is a living organism.

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If we come this way, we'll show you

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-what goes on in the process.

-Thank you.

0:17:450:17:47

There are three simple stages in making a classic single malt.

0:17:490:17:53

First, releasing the sugars from the barley,

0:17:530:17:56

which is done by malting, drying and mashing the barley

0:17:560:17:59

with fresh water from a nearby loch to produce a sugary liquid.

0:17:590:18:03

Then it's fermented by adding yeast

0:18:030:18:05

to create alcohol naturally before the final stage -

0:18:050:18:08

distilling the liquid to increase its alcohol content.

0:18:080:18:12

This is the stillhouse and this is where all the magic occurs.

0:18:120:18:16

As you'll see, we only have two very small stills.

0:18:160:18:19

We have a wash still and we have a spirit still.

0:18:190:18:22

So, once we've gathered the sugary liquid - we call it wash -

0:18:220:18:26

we're going to put it into a wash still.

0:18:260:18:29

The basic distillation process is alcohol will boil at 78 degrees,

0:18:290:18:34

water will boil at 100 degrees.

0:18:340:18:36

So, what we're going to do is heat up the still

0:18:360:18:38

to approximately 90, 95 degrees, and we will be boiling off the alcohol

0:18:380:18:44

and we'll leave behind any residues.

0:18:440:18:47

After the first run, we're sitting with alcohol about 26%,

0:18:470:18:52

and after the second run in our spirit still,

0:18:520:18:54

the alcohol will increase to 70%.

0:18:540:18:57

So, what happens after that?

0:18:570:18:59

After that, it's taken away and it's put into barrels,

0:18:590:19:03

where it will mature for, in our case for Oban 14, it's 14 years old.

0:19:030:19:07

In order to be classed as a single malt,

0:19:090:19:11

by law, all Scottish varieties must be matured in oak casks

0:19:110:19:14

for at least three years.

0:19:140:19:16

At most distilleries, the ageing process is longer,

0:19:160:19:20

as this is when whisky takes on its distinctive taste,

0:19:200:19:23

as well as allowing evaporation

0:19:230:19:25

of some of the alcohol through the cask.

0:19:250:19:27

With a production run of 850,000 litres of whisky a year,

0:19:270:19:32

Steve and Rebecca don't have to wait 14 years to sample the product.

0:19:320:19:36

So, here we are, where you'll get your first taste of our Oban whisky.

0:19:380:19:43

This is a valinch and I'm going to use that

0:19:430:19:45

to draw a sample out of the cask.

0:19:450:19:47

I would always advocate, when you're tasting a nice malt whisky...

0:19:470:19:52

..that you taste it straight to begin with.

0:19:530:19:56

If you take a small sip, hold it in your mouth

0:19:560:20:00

and really let the flavours work in your mouth before you swallow it.

0:20:000:20:04

-Very nice.

-Very good. Definitely get the smokiness and the fruit.

0:20:120:20:16

-Very good.

-Nice.

0:20:160:20:19

It's clear Steve and Rebecca have got a taste for Scotland,

0:20:190:20:22

but we need to find a property to whet their appetite,

0:20:220:20:25

so it's back to the house-hunt.

0:20:250:20:27

For our second offering,

0:20:300:20:32

we're heading to the southern tip of the Cowal Peninsula.

0:20:320:20:35

Nearby Tighnabruaich overlooks the Kyles of Bute,

0:20:350:20:38

a narrow stretch of water separating Bute from Argyll

0:20:380:20:41

and is arguably, one of the most beautiful villages in the region.

0:20:410:20:45

Its Gaelic name, meaning "the house on the hill", is appropriate,

0:20:450:20:48

as many of the properties rising above the shoreline,

0:20:480:20:51

including some of the fine Victorian villas,

0:20:510:20:54

have commanding views over the water.

0:20:540:20:56

As well as numerous hotels and guesthouses,

0:20:560:20:59

the village is home to a collection of cafes and an art gallery.

0:20:590:21:02

House two is six miles from here,

0:21:020:21:04

situated in a secluded spot at the end of a long drive

0:21:040:21:08

which opens out onto stunning views

0:21:080:21:11

over the Firth of Clyde towards the Isle of Arran.

0:21:110:21:13

Now then, I'm keen on hearing your first impressions for the house,

0:21:150:21:19

but the reason we're here is this.

0:21:190:21:23

-Oh...

-Oh, wow.

0:21:230:21:25

REBECCA SOBS

0:21:270:21:30

I wanted to keep this a surprise.

0:21:340:21:36

That is special, isn't it? Very special.

0:21:360:21:38

Oh, dear, what have you done?

0:21:400:21:42

-And it would have to be today, wouldn't it?

-What have you done?

0:21:420:21:45

-We haven't even seen the house yet.

-Who cares about the house?!

0:21:450:21:48

-Well, exactly.

-I actually don't want to go in the house.

-That's right.

0:21:480:21:52

-You could get used to this, couldn't you?

-You could, yes.

-I already have!

0:21:520:21:56

So, let's talk about the house. Come on.

0:21:560:21:58

-Yes, it's sparkling nicely in the sun.

-I know we're quite remote here.

0:21:580:22:03

Right up my street.

0:22:030:22:05

But you're here to buy a house with a view, not a view with a house.

0:22:060:22:09

-This morning, you were the other way round.

-Yeah.

0:22:090:22:12

-That's changed now, suddenly, hasn't it? I've shown you the view...

-Yes.

0:22:120:22:15

-We still have to look around this property. Let's go inside.

-Right.

0:22:150:22:19

The house itself is a traditional stone-built cottage

0:22:210:22:24

in need of a little bit of modernisation inside,

0:22:240:22:26

so both Steve and Rebecca will need to use their imagination.

0:22:260:22:30

-Don't worry about shutting the door.

-OK.

-There's no-one for miles.

0:22:300:22:33

Now, you can see straightaway, ground-floor loo, bear that in mind.

0:22:330:22:38

-OK.

-First reception room...

0:22:380:22:41

-There's stuff to be done to this place, Steve.

-Yes.

0:22:410:22:45

But bearing in mind you're mad keen on eco-friendly and sustainability,

0:22:460:22:50

this is a place where you could put your own stamp on that.

0:22:500:22:53

-Very much so.

-Would you like to?

0:22:530:22:56

I'd like to see how it flows altogether,

0:22:560:22:58

all the rooms first, cos probably, we'd knock walls down and...

0:22:580:23:02

-Remodel.

-Knock this wall down, it's an open-plan bathroom.

0:23:020:23:06

THEY LAUGH

0:23:060:23:08

-Hmm...

-Not THAT kind of entertaining.

0:23:080:23:11

-But guess what, every room in this house faces that way.

-Yes.

0:23:120:23:17

Another option with an outstanding outlook is the sunroom,

0:23:170:23:20

just off the lounge,

0:23:200:23:23

which has a partially-tiled shower room to one side.

0:23:230:23:26

Despite Rebecca's emotional reaction outside,

0:23:260:23:28

I'm not sure our advocates of open-plan living

0:23:280:23:31

are buying into the layout and size of the Victorian farm cottage.

0:23:310:23:35

We've got a bit of a dining room, which you think, instantly,

0:23:350:23:38

you might knock through this room into the kitchen,

0:23:380:23:41

but I want to see what you think first.

0:23:410:23:44

Hmm... It needs a new kitchen. It's doable, isn't it?

0:23:450:23:50

There's nothing in here that frightens us.

0:23:500:23:52

-Well, I've not heard Rebecca say anything for a while.

-No.

0:23:520:23:56

-It's not to our taste, let's be quite frank.

-I don't like it.

0:23:560:23:59

But there's nothing here that's not doable.

0:23:590:24:03

So, while Steve seems up for a bit of a project,

0:24:030:24:06

I don't think Rebecca can see past the property's current footprint,

0:24:060:24:09

despite the overwhelming impression those views made on her.

0:24:090:24:13

Upstairs, there are the three bedrooms they asked for,

0:24:130:24:16

including a decent size double and a larger bedroom with skylights.

0:24:160:24:20

With bathroom facilities back down on the ground floor,

0:24:200:24:23

that just leaves the master.

0:24:230:24:25

Now then, none of the bedrooms are big

0:24:250:24:28

and, really disappointingly, the view's behind there.

0:24:280:24:33

-Yes!

-Ah, right, yes.

0:24:330:24:35

-Room in a roof.

-Yeah.

-Sloping ceilings.

0:24:350:24:39

I feel like you'd be making sweeping changes

0:24:390:24:42

to this house, at the very least.

0:24:420:24:45

Yeah, we'd need to make it work for us

0:24:450:24:47

-and how we want to live, wouldn't we?

-Yeah.

0:24:470:24:49

-And it just doesn't fit that at the minute, does it?

-No.

0:24:490:24:52

Well, I'm dying to get back outside and look at that view again.

0:24:520:24:55

-How about you?

-Outstanding.

-But on the way,

0:24:550:24:57

you have to start thinking about how much this house is for sale for.

0:24:570:25:00

-OK.

-Right.

-Not easy.

0:25:000:25:02

The cottage sits in two and a half acres of fenced-off land,

0:25:040:25:07

made up of scrub and grasses and sheltered by conifer trees.

0:25:070:25:10

There are also two outbuildings

0:25:100:25:12

currently used by a local farmer for storage,

0:25:120:25:15

but they could be developed, subject to planning permission.

0:25:150:25:18

-Ah.

-Ah.

0:25:200:25:21

-So, Rebecca, have a go at pricing this.

-Very difficult one.

0:25:230:25:27

-I'm going to go in at 250.

-OK, Steve?

0:25:270:25:31

I'll probably go a whisker higher, about 270.

0:25:310:25:34

This place is on the market for offers in the region of £290,000.

0:25:340:25:39

-Mmm.

-OK.

-Oh, it's put us in a conundrum, hasn't it?

0:25:390:25:42

Let's face it, you had tears when we arrived here, when you saw that view.

0:25:440:25:47

-What's going through your mind now?

-I'm disappointed by the house.

-Yeah?

0:25:470:25:52

-Yeah.

-It's a project.

-It is.

0:25:520:25:54

-We could stay out here forever.

-I

-could.

0:25:560:25:58

-YOU need to go back inside the house.

-OK.

0:25:580:26:00

-Have a good look around and I'll catch you in a bit.

-OK.

-Thank you.

0:26:000:26:04

Under budget by £60,000,

0:26:100:26:12

our second property is a traditional stone-built cottage

0:26:120:26:16

with stunning views across the Firth of Clyde.

0:26:160:26:19

Sitting at the end of a very long drive,

0:26:190:26:21

it offers them the remoteness they wanted.

0:26:210:26:24

The three-bedroom house needs remodelling

0:26:240:26:26

to make it work for our buyers,

0:26:260:26:28

but the price would allow them to put their stamp on it.

0:26:280:26:31

Property two's location is simply awesome,

0:26:310:26:35

there's no other way to describe it.

0:26:350:26:37

The building itself, however, is falling a little bit short,

0:26:370:26:41

in terms of meeting our needs, I think.

0:26:410:26:44

This is beyond what I imagined I might see.

0:26:440:26:47

You can't beat what we've got here.

0:26:470:26:50

But the house, unfortunately...

0:26:500:26:53

I feel really deflated after going round the house.

0:26:530:26:55

I'm disappointed cos I really can't see

0:26:550:26:58

how we can make it work, as it is, for ourselves.

0:26:580:27:02

In a rather shameful way, I think for us,

0:27:020:27:04

we would end up so extensively refurbishing it,

0:27:040:27:08

it would be as beneficial for us

0:27:080:27:10

to start with a clean canvas to make it a home of our dreams.

0:27:100:27:15

The question is, ultimately, do we want to do it?

0:27:150:27:18

-Make the most of this. I think it's one of a kind, isn't it?

-It is, yes.

0:27:180:27:22

-Unique, absolutely.

-You've seen all you need to see?

-I think so.

0:27:220:27:25

-OK, let's go and get a drink.

-Thank you.

0:27:250:27:28

It's the second day of our property search in Argyll and Bute

0:27:380:27:41

with Steve and Rebecca from the town of Brigg in Lincolnshire.

0:27:410:27:45

They have a budget of £350,000 to spend on a Scottish retreat.

0:27:450:27:51

Coming up, there's the Mystery House,

0:27:510:27:53

which will test their resolve for a project.

0:27:530:27:55

Give that a knock. HOLLOW KNOCKING

0:27:550:27:59

-That's a start.

-There you go.

-Yeah.

0:27:590:28:01

And I get a chance to sample a natural home-grown delicacy

0:28:010:28:05

-after a little hesitation.

-You can munch on that.

0:28:050:28:08

-Take a piece of that and try it.

-You're joking!

0:28:080:28:10

No, it's lovely, honestly. Perfectly fine.

0:28:100:28:13

Well, Rebecca and Steve have certainly shown me

0:28:160:28:19

they're able to think laterally to make a property right for them.

0:28:190:28:22

But the Mystery House - well, it's going to be one of those projects.

0:28:220:28:26

The house itself can be configured exactly the way they want it,

0:28:260:28:29

but I think they'll need to remove a few internal walls.

0:28:290:28:33

And it also gives them the opportunity

0:28:330:28:35

to have fantastic water views.

0:28:350:28:37

They'll just need to remove a few trees.

0:28:370:28:39

This property is all about Steve and Rebecca using their imagination.

0:28:390:28:43

Let's see how we go.

0:28:430:28:45

What would you love to see now? But knowing there might be challenges.

0:28:480:28:53

-I would love to see property number one...

-Don't say it!

0:28:530:28:57

-..in the location looking out on the water.

-Get out! Out!

0:28:570:29:03

THEY LAUGH

0:29:030:29:05

I made a solemn promise to the estate agent

0:29:050:29:07

that when they say, "I'd like to pick up property number one

0:29:070:29:10

"and put it in two", I would throw my tea over you!

0:29:100:29:13

-Everybody says that - "Just move that property."

-Yeah.

0:29:130:29:16

-The impossible.

-Yeah, absolutely.

0:29:160:29:19

For our Mystery Property,

0:29:210:29:23

we're travelling back towards Dunoon to the coastal hamlet of Kilmun.

0:29:230:29:27

The neighbouring village of Strone is the place for provisions

0:29:270:29:30

with amenities including a post office and a hotel.

0:29:300:29:34

The Mystery House is found in the smaller settlement of Kilmun

0:29:340:29:38

on the edge of Holy Loch, an inlet along the Firth of Clyde,

0:29:380:29:41

providing natural shelter to yachts and boats.

0:29:410:29:44

Set within a private woodland clearing,

0:29:440:29:47

it occupies an elevated, yet secluded, position

0:29:470:29:50

on the edge of the loch. With our Mystery Property,

0:29:500:29:53

we're throwing down the gauntlet of knocking down more walls,

0:29:530:29:56

so I'm keen to see if Steve and Rebecca are up for the challenge.

0:29:560:29:59

-Here we come. Here's the Mystery House.

-Mmm.

-Wow, it looks very big.

0:30:010:30:07

-It does, doesn't it?

-First impression is very large.

0:30:070:30:10

Now, top of your shopping list was what?

0:30:100:30:14

-Views.

-Views.

0:30:140:30:16

-Now, you can see behind us, beautiful Holy Loch, right?

-Yeah.

0:30:160:30:20

Within the month, they are going to get someone to fell those trees.

0:30:200:30:24

-Oh, wow.

-Oh, right.

0:30:240:30:26

You will have amazing views, with all these conifers gone.

0:30:260:30:30

-Good spot. Very good spot.

-We'll go in through the back door

0:30:300:30:34

-cos that's the door they use every day, so follow me.

-Thank you.

0:30:340:30:37

Dating back to the late Victorian era,

0:30:370:30:40

the property has been added to in recent years.

0:30:400:30:43

The original part of the house

0:30:430:30:44

consists of a number of individual rooms,

0:30:440:30:47

so Steve and Rebecca will need to use their imagination here.

0:30:470:30:50

To the left, a newer extension has a more open-plan feel

0:30:500:30:53

and to the right, another extension features an office space

0:30:530:30:57

and upstairs bedroom, connected by a first-floor footbridge.

0:30:570:31:01

But we're starting off our tour in the older part.

0:31:010:31:04

Now then, a very different prospect we have here.

0:31:070:31:10

Yeah, it's a nice size.

0:31:100:31:12

For me it's a bit too busy and we do like open space.

0:31:120:31:16

Um... That's my first reaction, but it's been done well.

0:31:160:31:19

The floors are good for the dogs, that's very dog-friendly.

0:31:190:31:23

But you also have the opportunity of having a separate dining room,

0:31:230:31:28

another living room as well as a fantastic room through here,

0:31:280:31:32

-so let me show you that.

-OK.

0:31:320:31:34

This room used to be a conservatory until about four years ago,

0:31:380:31:42

when they completely redid it and made it a proper room.

0:31:420:31:45

Yeah, this is nice. This is more us, isn't it?

0:31:450:31:47

-This has been done very well.

-The light coming through.

-Unbelievable.

0:31:470:31:50

-It's really nice.

-This is a homemaker, isn't it?

-Yeah.

0:31:500:31:53

Keep it as a living room or do you want to see more living spaces

0:31:530:31:55

before you make that decision?

0:31:550:31:57

-Yeah, let's see some more.

-Yeah.

-OK, follow me.

0:31:570:32:00

The rest of the ground floor features a dining room with bay window,

0:32:010:32:05

a contemporary fully-tiled shower room

0:32:050:32:08

and, in the extended part of the property, a modern home office.

0:32:080:32:12

This, the owners use this as their snug. What do you think?

0:32:140:32:18

-It's snug.

-It's a fair-sized room

0:32:180:32:21

and it's the one that's going to have those fantastic views.

0:32:210:32:25

-I'm just wondering what we could actually remodel.

-Give it a tap.

0:32:250:32:29

Give that a knock. HOLLOW KNOCKING

0:32:290:32:32

-That's a start.

-There you go.

-Yeah.

0:32:320:32:35

So, if the walls aren't load-bearing,

0:32:350:32:37

Steve and Rebecca could make alterations

0:32:370:32:40

to the ground-floor layout.

0:32:400:32:42

Upstairs, there are four bedrooms

0:32:420:32:43

and they include a double size room at the front of the house

0:32:430:32:47

and a smaller single at the back.

0:32:470:32:49

One of the other doubles is being used as an office

0:32:490:32:52

and there's a further study area just off the landing.

0:32:520:32:56

Finally, making up the first floor,

0:32:560:32:58

there's a three-piece family bathroom,

0:32:580:33:00

featuring a corner bath and the main bedroom of this property.

0:33:000:33:04

This is over the top of that office area

0:33:060:33:09

-we saw as we first walked up.

-Yeah.

0:33:090:33:12

What's going through your minds? This is your third and final property.

0:33:120:33:16

My initial impression is that it's, perhaps, too big for what we want.

0:33:160:33:22

-It's kind of wasted on us really.

-Or need.

0:33:220:33:24

-Or need.

-It's a fantastic property.

0:33:240:33:27

There is a responsibility of this property.

0:33:270:33:31

-You've got, not only a big house, but you've got grounds as well.

-Yes.

-OK.

0:33:310:33:35

Let's discuss that. Also, start getting your mind around

0:33:350:33:38

-how much this place might be.

-Yeah, OK.

-Right.

0:33:380:33:40

Most of the garden is to the rear

0:33:440:33:45

and is mainly grassed with feature paths,

0:33:450:33:48

landscaped walkways and assorted shrubs and bushes.

0:33:480:33:51

The back of the sloping plot is bordered by neighbouring woodland,

0:33:510:33:55

providing a high degree of privacy and the opportunity to explore.

0:33:550:33:59

-The dogs would love it.

-The dogs would love it.

-Absolutely adore it.

0:33:590:34:03

Not just here. There is a woodland walk right at the end of your garden.

0:34:030:34:07

-You can just walk for seven miles.

-Oh, wow.

0:34:070:34:10

-Yeah.

-OK, time to guess the price. Who's going first?

0:34:100:34:14

-Steve can.

-Tough one.

0:34:160:34:19

I'd probably go about 350, I think.

0:34:190:34:21

I think it's more than that. I think it's blown our budget.

0:34:210:34:24

I think it's about 380.

0:34:240:34:27

Well, very good guesses because the owner is asking

0:34:290:34:33

-for offers in excess of £345,000.

-That is good value.

0:34:330:34:38

-That's good value.

-Well, they are expecting to get above that 345.

0:34:380:34:43

-I'm not surprised.

-Be it 350 or 370-odd.

0:34:430:34:47

You'll never know until you get into a negotiation process,

0:34:470:34:49

but I know they want in excess of that figure.

0:34:490:34:52

-It's certainly worth that.

-Definitely worth that, yes.

0:34:520:34:55

-Go and have a wander. I'll catch you later.

-Thank you.

-Thank you.

0:34:550:34:58

Under budget by a whisker,

0:35:010:35:03

our extensive Mystery House dates back to the Victorian era,

0:35:030:35:06

with more of an individual room layout,

0:35:060:35:09

rather than the open-plan proportions they wanted.

0:35:090:35:12

There are three separate reception areas and four bedrooms.

0:35:120:35:15

Although this challenges them with an internal building project,

0:35:150:35:19

the stunning location is everything they've asked for.

0:35:190:35:23

Location with the sea and the woodlands behind it,

0:35:230:35:26

it's just outstanding. For me, it's a bit too busy internally.

0:35:260:35:32

We generally prefer to have more open space.

0:35:320:35:36

It's a fantastic house.

0:35:360:35:38

It's perhaps not for us because it's TOO big for us.

0:35:380:35:43

It needs a family in this house. But it's absolutely stunning.

0:35:430:35:47

Rebecca and I would never use this property to its full potential.

0:35:470:35:52

-You didn't get lost in that massive garden then?

-We had a good wander.

0:35:540:35:58

-Lovely, isn't it?

-Very big, yes.

-Astonishing.

0:35:580:36:01

Well, that's all three properties.

0:36:010:36:03

Let's find somewhere for you guys to have a bit of a chinwag

0:36:030:36:05

-and think things through, shall we?

-OK.

-Sounds good.

0:36:050:36:08

The rocky shoreline and crystal-clear waters make the Western Isles

0:36:170:36:21

a fertile breeding ground for seaweed.

0:36:210:36:23

The edible algae has been harvested here for centuries.

0:36:230:36:27

Initially consumed by coastal dwellers,

0:36:270:36:30

by the 17th century, it was big business.

0:36:300:36:32

As well as eating it, locals used seaweed to fertilise the land

0:36:320:36:36

and burned kelp to produce potash, a raw material in glass-making.

0:36:360:36:41

By the early 20th century,

0:36:410:36:43

the Scottish industry had all but disappeared.

0:36:430:36:46

Now, though, it's undergoing a bit of a revival.

0:36:460:36:49

To help me untangle the story of this underwater vegetation,

0:36:490:36:52

I've come to meet former milk truck driver,

0:36:520:36:55

turned seaweed farmer, Iain McKellar.

0:36:550:36:58

-Iain.

-Hello!

-I've come prepared for work.

0:36:580:37:02

Now, seaweed. What's our big obsession with the stuff?

0:37:020:37:05

Well, apparently it's the healthiest substance on the planet.

0:37:050:37:09

-On the planet.

-On the planet.

0:37:090:37:10

You'll not get anything healthier than seaweed.

0:37:100:37:12

Why is it so good for you?

0:37:120:37:14

Because of the nutrients and the mineral content.

0:37:140:37:16

It has everything, where you need your five a day.

0:37:160:37:19

When you've got your seaweed,

0:37:190:37:20

you've got all your nutrients, your minerals.

0:37:200:37:22

Every trace element your body needs is all in the one place.

0:37:220:37:26

Listen, mate, why aren't we ALL down here getting this stuff then?

0:37:260:37:29

-Ah, it's an acquired taste.

-Is it?

-Yes!

0:37:290:37:31

Well, looking around, Iain, this stuff here,

0:37:310:37:34

I suppose there's lots of different types and varieties.

0:37:340:37:36

There's hundred of types, hundreds of different species of seaweed.

0:37:360:37:40

-Right. What's this?

-That's bladderwrack.

0:37:400:37:42

That's probably the most common one you'll see.

0:37:420:37:44

That's the one you'll find in supplements

0:37:440:37:46

when you go to your store and you get a little capsule.

0:37:460:37:48

-That's what they use for that.

-OK.

0:37:480:37:50

Seaweed contains a huge range of vitamins, including B12,

0:37:500:37:54

as well as iodine and iron and all British seaweeds are edible.

0:37:540:37:59

However, the seaweed must be grown in a pollution-free environment,

0:37:590:38:02

such as here on the Argyll and Bute coast.

0:38:020:38:05

Well, I'm glad I'm going to put these waders to work.

0:38:050:38:08

Iain harvests all of his seaweed from a two-mile stretch of shoreline

0:38:080:38:12

with sustainability always in mind, as he only collects to order

0:38:120:38:17

and carefully cuts it by hand.

0:38:170:38:19

Today, I'm helping him gather the common brown kelp bladderwrack.

0:38:190:38:22

Just cut it an inch or two above the rock and you'll be fine there.

0:38:220:38:26

-Use those scissors there.

-Right, OK.

0:38:260:38:29

You can munch on that. Take a piece of that now and just try it.

0:38:310:38:34

-You're joking!

-No, it's lovely, honestly. Perfectly fine.

0:38:340:38:37

Give it a second.

0:38:420:38:44

It tasted of pretty much absolutely nothing, initially,

0:38:440:38:47

-and then suddenly, just the taste of the sea almost. It just...

-Aye.

0:38:470:38:51

As well as eating it raw and wet, harvested seaweed can be dried,

0:38:520:38:56

giving it a longer shelf life,

0:38:560:38:58

for use in soups, sauces and as a garnish.

0:38:580:39:01

The whole process is carried out naturally.

0:39:010:39:04

-So, here we are. Aladdin's cave.

-This is the drying unit.

0:39:050:39:08

-I can see we've got a tarpaulin, blowing away.

-Uh-huh.

0:39:080:39:11

But just the elements are running through here, aren't they?

0:39:110:39:14

I've just recreated a wind tunnel and that's all there is.

0:39:140:39:17

It's just the elements. It's just naturally air, that's all.

0:39:170:39:20

There's no artificial heat whatsoever.

0:39:200:39:22

Although generally savoury,

0:39:220:39:24

different seaweeds have distinctive flavours.

0:39:240:39:27

This is sugar kelp which, when dried,

0:39:270:39:29

forms a sweet-tasting white powder on its surface.

0:39:290:39:32

-You make wine and sherry out of this.

-Why waste that on sherry?

0:39:350:39:39

I know, but we'd use that in a stock or, again, as a soup.

0:39:390:39:42

This has less of an intense flavour.

0:39:420:39:45

Uh-huh. Because it's a kelp, it's higher up on the shoreline,

0:39:450:39:48

it spends a lot less time underneath the water, so it's less intense.

0:39:480:39:52

Although still a small-scale operation, Iain ships his seaweed

0:39:520:39:56

all around the world and his clients include some of Britain's top chefs.

0:39:560:40:00

You've seen a market and you're doing it, aren't you?

0:40:000:40:03

It's what I have to do. It's great.

0:40:030:40:05

I don't have to leave the island now.

0:40:050:40:07

-That's the dream.

-Living the dream.

0:40:070:40:08

I wish you the best of luck for your business in the future.

0:40:080:40:11

-Great stuff.

-I'll be back up.

0:40:110:40:13

-I look forward to it.

-Thanks, Iain.

-See you.

0:40:130:40:15

Well, we've seen really good reactions

0:40:180:40:20

from both Steve and Rebecca at all three properties,

0:40:200:40:23

but for me, I think the first house has led from the front.

0:40:230:40:26

Let's find out their thoughts.

0:40:260:40:28

Let's talk about the houses. Have you got a favourite?

0:40:330:40:36

We think property number one is our favourite.

0:40:380:40:41

It's a safe option from a travelling up and down

0:40:410:40:45

-in the initial next few years.

-Mmm-hmm.

0:40:450:40:48

The garden is fantastic for the dogs, the walks up the mountains,

0:40:480:40:53

and it is a lock-up-and-leave property, really,

0:40:530:40:56

safe proposition, I think.

0:40:560:40:59

But there's more to it than that surely, Steve?

0:40:590:41:01

I think for me, about the first house was,

0:41:010:41:03

the build quality was good

0:41:030:41:05

and being in the renewable industry, and I can certainly modify it

0:41:050:41:08

and make it much more energy-efficient

0:41:080:41:10

without too much intrusive and remedial work required.

0:41:100:41:14

Cos there's not many houses on the market, I think,

0:41:140:41:16

that would pass your high standards,

0:41:160:41:19

but it was good that this house could get there for you,

0:41:190:41:22

-which is a relief.

-It was pretty damn close, without a doubt.

0:41:220:41:26

It was easy to work with and I think, more than anything,,

0:41:260:41:29

because it was so open, you've got all the options.

0:41:290:41:32

You haven't got to knock walls down to make stuff work.

0:41:320:41:34

The only minor point,

0:41:340:41:36

which is one of the things we'll probably go back and look at,

0:41:360:41:38

is how we're going to overcome the sloping ceilings in the bathrooms.

0:41:380:41:42

So you're going to go back to the house. As a formal viewing?

0:41:420:41:45

-Yeah.

-Yes.

-When?

-Today.

-Hopefully, this afternoon.

0:41:450:41:49

-This afternoon?

-Yes.

-Yes.

-That's amazing news! I'm really pleased.

0:41:490:41:53

I wish you the best of luck this afternoon

0:41:530:41:55

-when you go back for that second viewing.

-Thank you.

-Thank you.

0:41:550:41:58

-Let me know what happens.

-Certainly.

-Good luck.

-Thank you.

-Thank you.

0:41:580:42:01

If you remember, when I first met Steve and Rebecca,

0:42:050:42:07

they said the most important thing for them was to have a house

0:42:070:42:11

with sea views or at least views of a loch like this.

0:42:110:42:14

So it's quite a turnaround to hear that the one property

0:42:140:42:17

out of the three they've gone for has none such views.

0:42:170:42:20

But in a way, it has the whole package, doesn't it?

0:42:200:42:23

It still had fantastic views of the mountains,

0:42:230:42:26

but it was configured in a way they really liked.

0:42:260:42:29

There's no real work to be done to the property itself.

0:42:290:42:32

So I'm really buoyed to hear they're going back for a second viewing

0:42:320:42:35

and I can't wait to find out what happens next. See you next time.

0:42:350:42:39

Steve and Rebecca did go back for a second viewing

0:42:400:42:43

on the first property we showed them

0:42:430:42:45

and they put in an offer which I'm delighted to report was accepted.

0:42:450:42:50

They eagerly await the keys to start their new life in Scotland

0:42:500:42:53

and we wish them both the very best.

0:42:530:42:55

If you'd like to escape to the country

0:42:550:42:57

in Scotland, Wales, England or Northern Ireland

0:42:570:43:00

and need our help, please apply online.

0:43:000:43:03

Jonnie Irwin heads to the Scottish region of Argyll and Bute with a couple who have £350,000 to find a country home in a fantastic setting. While there, Jonnie heads for the area's sea loch waters to find out how seaweed harvesting has enjoyed a recent revival.