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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You might recognise these colossal trees behind me
as giant sequoias or redwoods, native to North America.
But, if I'm not in California, where am I? Find out in just a moment.
On today's show, our house hunters yearn for great views
and wide open spaces.
As far as properties go, we get off to a near perfect start.
I don't think we can get better than this. This is fantastic for us.
And as we get closer to that vision of what they want,
it becomes a bit overwhelming.
Today I'm in Argyll and Bute in Scotland
at Benmore Botanic Garden near Dunoon.
These massive redwoods were planted back in 1863
by an American, Piers Patrick,
who was then the owner of the Benmore estate.
These soaring specimens are thought to be some of the tallest
outside of their native North America.
With an estimated lifespan of around 3,000 years,
let's face it, they're still mere babies.
Now, the climate here on Argyll is relatively mild, yet wet,
and that has helped these beautiful trees thrive -
so much so, that the tallest already measures some 177 feet.
That's the height of 12 double-decker buses.
Argyll and Bute refers to the 23 inhabited islands
in the south-west of the country
and is the second largest region in Scotland after Highland,
covering 9% of the country's landmass.
The largest island in Argyll is Mull,
with its vast mountain range
towering 3,000 feet at its highest point.
Nearly 80% of Argyll and Bute's population
live within half a mile of the coast and the region boasts
some of the most breathtaking waterscapes in Britain.
Separating Bute from Argyll is the Kyles of Bute, a narrow sea strait
flanked by carpets of woodland and outcrops of rock.
Its narrowest point is just a third of a mile across.
The longest sea loch in Scotland can also be found in the region.
With its well-deserved reputation for oysters,
Loch Fyne is 40 miles in length
and deeper than the height of London's Telecom Tower.
Perched above its shore
is the 18th-century neo-Gothic splendour of Inveraray Castle.
With coastal and mountain scenery to rival anywhere in the UK
and rich heritage to discover in its towns and villages,
it's no wonder this magical corner of Scotland
appeals to those seeking the peace and tranquillity of island life.
Across Argyll and Bute, the average price of a detached house here
costs around £233,000.
That's a very generous £50,000 below the national figure -
really good value for money
for those who are truly looking to get away from it all.
So, what's attracting today's buyers to this stunning Scottish scenery?
Let's meet them and find out.
Steve and Rebecca from the market town of Brigg in Lincolnshire
have been married for six years,
after meeting through an online dating agency
and embarking on a whirlwind romance.
On the first date, I think we knew
it was going to be kind of serious and we hit it off very well.
It developed into a full-fledged relationship very quickly
and Rebecca became my soul mate
and I couldn't wait to marry her in the end.
Steve runs a renewable energy business
and Rebecca is a chartered accountant.
They currently live in an open-plan eco-house they developed themselves.
It uses very little energy
and we achieved that by using a solid fuel log burner.
We also have solar PV panels
which provide us with a lot of our electricity.
We also have a solar thermal system
which provides us with domestic hot water.
Really, the combination of all those
enables us to have a virtually cost-free lifestyle here, I suppose.
But while they're quite happy with their current property,
their move to Scotland is driven by a need
for having wide open space around them
to enjoy during their spare time.
The choice of Scotland is just the beautiful scenery,
the quietness and just views and enjoying the walks really.
Between them, Steve and Rebecca have seven children from previous relationships.
With the kids having grown up and left home,
finding the right environment for their two dogs is driving this move.
The aim is to be somewhere
where we can just physically open the front door
and be out there straight onto a beach or straight into the woods.
So, the dogs are changing our lives.
Although Steve is ready to pack up his bags,
Rebecca, who grew up in Brigg,
is a little more cautious about a rural adventure.
I'm ready for, sort of, isolation and if we didn't see anyone
for a couple of days, that really wouldn't faze me at all.
It sounds ideal being isolated and out of the way,
-but the practicalities of it and getting shopping...
-We'll have to see where we end up.
While they won't be giving up their jobs entirely
and will rely on the internet to carry on with their work,
this move is about redressing that all-important work-life balance.
I guess what excites us - for me anyway - moving forward,
it's the next stage of our lives.
It's about creating time and space for ourselves
-and what we want to do. I feel...
-It's a more laidback lifestyle.
Yeah, a more laidback lifestyle.
While we're here, I think our work and other scenarios impact,
or we allow it to impact, whereas up there,
it will not be allowed to impact and we become the priority.
Rebecca and Steve will be toing and froing
between Scotland and Lincolnshire in the short term
and don't want to be too remote,
so we're concentrating our property search on the Cowal Peninsula,
which is a two-hour car and ferry journey from Glasgow.
I'm meeting up with them on the banks of the Firth of Clyde
to run over their property requests.
Well, I must say, this must feel worlds away from Lincolnshire,
-Just a tadge, just a tadge.
Bit different but this is why you're here, isn't it?
-Yes, it's so beautiful, isn't it?
-It's absolutely stunning.
What does the house look like in your mind's eye then, Rebecca?
-The house doesn't look like anything really. It's where it is.
It's what's around it, having the views,
having maybe some woodland, having a bit of beach,
having somewhere secure for the dogs, is what we're looking for.
It's us and two dogs that are coming up here
and it's just spending the time outside together.
Now, if you want access to a beach, access to woodland,
doesn't sound like you've got a supermarket
-round the corner, does it?
-That doesn't matter.
-Not at all.
So, describe your idea of isolation, if you like. How far away?
-A room with a big freezer.
-Right. Do you like people?
I think, as we're getting older,
we're beginning to find that we're less willing to accept
other people's lack of social graces,
-if I'm being truthful with you.
So, rather than change the world, you just thought you'd get away from it.
-Absolutely. Run away.
-Good for you.
Now, let's talk about the size of the house itself.
-How many bedrooms do you want?
-Two to three bedrooms.
-Who's coming to visit?
-Just my parents.
-Our ideal would be open-plan, just open-plan living.
Yeah, that's what we like.
But if a house needs some work, cosmetic or otherwise,
-you're prepared to get stuck in?
We'll flatten it and rebuild it, if necessary.
Probably, that would be more attractive to us.
Now, moneywise, what's the budget?
The budget, maximum, is £350,000.
That's, obviously, all-in, completely done,
so if we've got a project,
we obviously have to build that into the figures.
I notice this happy-go-lucky persona, Rebecca,
suddenly change into a steely glaze when you gave me that figure.
-She's an accountant.
-Yeah. So, will you know this place when you see it?
-I think we will.
-I think so, yes.
-Before we even go in.
-It's an instinct, definitely.
Well, let's hope we get that gut feeling in one of the three houses.
-Let's get started.
Armed with a maximum budget of £350,000,
Rebecca and Steve are after a house
with an open-plan layout and three bedrooms.
They don't mind undertaking a project because, for them,
it's all about the location and setting of their new home.
Ideally, they'd like to be close to a beach to walk the dogs
but at the very least,
the property should have an impressive view of its surroundings.
We've scoured the local property market
to secure the best available homes for Rebecca and Steve to mull over,
but I won't be revealing the house price to them
until the end of the tour.
Our Mystery House will challenge them on the kind of space
they want inside, while giving them lots of it on the outside.
Our first house is located on the Cowal Peninsula
in a hamlet called Stratheck.
It's just one of a scattering of settlements
along the eastern banks of Loch Eck,
whose hauntingly beautiful waters are home
to Scotland's rarest freshwater fish, the powan.
The closest amenities are in Dunoon, ten miles away.
The town's favourable location on the edge of the Firth of Clyde
led to its development as a popular Victorian holiday resort
for wealthy Glaswegians
and its centre features a range of shops and cafes.
Our first property is found close to Loch Eck
and enjoys a special view of Beinn Mhor,
the highest hill in the area,
which towers above the loch's western shoreline.
Right then, our first offering for you both.
-It is, isn't it? Very modern.
-Yeah. How old do you think it is?
Well, I KNOW how old it is, thankfully.
This large part was built, initially, around 1849 to 1850.
-Oh, wow, right.
With a slightly more modern extension.
Now, it was converted by the current owner. Well, they started in 2004.
-And finished in around 2008.
That looks just like Lincoln here, doesn't it?
-Wow, yes, beautiful location.
-Yeah, without a doubt. Fabulous.
Excellent. Let's get inside.
Built with thick stone walls, inside, the construction bones
are timber-framed with hefty insulation
to satisfy energy-conscious Steve.
At the moment, there's oil-fired heating,
but he could easily install a more environmentally-friendly,
cost-effective system such as a biomass boiler, if he wishes.
So, the first house - first impressions.
-Wow, very shocked.
The size, the height of the ceilings, the openness. Beautiful.
-Now, come in round to the kitchen area. Is it your taste?
-Very much our layout, isn't it?
-Yes, wouldn't need to change it at all.
-I like it very much.
-This is the heart of the home though, isn't it?
Yeah, I love the light flooding through the windows.
Let's go and have a look at the living room.
This is, by no means, a vast living space,
but I thought the open-plan nature of the kitchen would hit the mark
and I'm confident the next room will also appeal to their taste.
-What I love about this house is what you see is what you get.
-This is the main part of the barn.
-It's lovely, isn't it?
-Absolutely gorgeous, isn't it?
Perfect little layout, isn't it?
Yeah, got the log burner. I don't think we can get better than this.
-This is fantastic for us.
-Yeah, interesting. Very interesting.
-All right. Well, so far, so good. Let's have a look upstairs.
Upstairs, off a central landing, are three bedrooms.
At one end of the house there's a generous double
and next to that, a smaller double, as well as a three-piece bathroom,
all in the eaves and with skylight windows.
At the opposite end of the property
is the bedroom I've earmarked for our buyers.
Now, your master, I think, is very impressive.
Wow, yes, good size, excellent.
I've always had a bit of an issue with vaulted ceilings,
but I've got to say, I think they've done it really well
cos it doesn't impose on the main living area, does it, too badly?
-There's plenty of room there for us.
-Imagine lying in that bed.
-Looking at those views.
-It would be amazing, wouldn't it?
Now, en suite, as you'd expect from a master bedroom
-of any modern conversion.
Let's go back outside but also on our way out there,
start thinking about price.
-Can I just squeeze through there? Thanks.
So, the house gets the thumbs up
and since the outside space takes full advantage of those views,
both Steve and Rebecca should be equally impressed
with the land that comes with the property.
It extends to the front and side
and consists of a manageable lawn space, bordered by a low stone wall
and beyond it, a stunning backdrop of the hills behind.
But there's also an option to purchase more land, up to two acres,
which lies fallow at the moment.
Now, back in the beautiful outdoors.
-Yes, absolutely stunning.
Your first attempt at guessing prices up here.
Who wants to go first?
Hmm, shall I make a stab? Go on, then. It is a guess.
-I'm going to go 300.
-I'm going to go slightly over.
I shall go for £315,000.
Well done! This house is on the market for offers around £315,000.
-Very good. No, it's a good price.
Well, hopefully, this is something to really have a good think about.
Why don't you go back into the house now, have a scoot around on your own,
have a look around some of the bedrooms you haven't yet seen
-and I'll meet you when you're done.
-See you in a mo.
Well, they said up to £350,000 for a house with nothing to do to it.
This house has nothing to do to it and they've got loads of change
so, hopefully, worthy of serious consideration.
Under budget by £35,000,
our first house is a converted stone barn which has been remodelled
in the last ten years to give it a cosy, but modern, feel inside.
An open-plan kitchen leads onto a stone-tiled living room
and upstairs, there are three bedrooms.
With vistas of the highest hill in the vicinity,
the property is situated close to the banks of a popular loch.
I really love property one.
I love the space downstairs, I love the location
and yes, there is a chance I could live in this house, yes.
The water view is the dream.
In the checklist of all the important things we wanted,
the water view was up there at number one.
But the views from this property into the mountains and the woodlands
is absolutely superb
and it, maybe, could be a compromise that we could make.
The slight downside for me would be
the sloping ceilings in the bathrooms.
Being quite a tall guy,
shaving and showering could be a little bit of a challenge
without bopping my head.
But this property was certainly far better
than we, certainly I, had hoped.
So, is this a house with a view
-that's worthy of consideration, do you think?
-We think so, yes.
-Without a doubt.
-Something to beat.
-Come with me.
The abundance of crystal-clear fresh water in the region's lochs
make Argyll and Bute a suitable spot
to produce one of Scotland's most famous national brands,
single malt whisky.
Whereas blended whiskies are a combination of different brands,
single malts originate from an individual distillery
and one of the oldest can be found in the town of Oban.
Since Steve and Rebecca are keen to embrace the heritage
of their new homeland, we sent them to sample this distilled delicacy.
They're meeting operations manager Ronnie Whiteford.
-Good morning, Rebecca, Steve.
-Welcome to Oban Distillery.
-How long has the distillery been here?
The distillery itself's been here since 1794.
For the first year, it was actually a brewery.
-It was changed to a distillery in 1794.
-Why did it change?
I think it was just the demand for whisky
was starting to take off at that point
and they seen an opportunity.
It's all local products that we use, which is the malted barley,
the good, clean water that we have here in the town
and yeast, which is a living organism.
If we come this way, we'll show you
-what goes on in the process.
There are three simple stages in making a classic single malt.
First, releasing the sugars from the barley,
which is done by malting, drying and mashing the barley
with fresh water from a nearby loch to produce a sugary liquid.
Then it's fermented by adding yeast
to create alcohol naturally before the final stage -
distilling the liquid to increase its alcohol content.
This is the stillhouse and this is where all the magic occurs.
As you'll see, we only have two very small stills.
We have a wash still and we have a spirit still.
So, once we've gathered the sugary liquid - we call it wash -
we're going to put it into a wash still.
The basic distillation process is alcohol will boil at 78 degrees,
water will boil at 100 degrees.
So, what we're going to do is heat up the still
to approximately 90, 95 degrees, and we will be boiling off the alcohol
and we'll leave behind any residues.
After the first run, we're sitting with alcohol about 26%,
and after the second run in our spirit still,
the alcohol will increase to 70%.
So, what happens after that?
After that, it's taken away and it's put into barrels,
where it will mature for, in our case for Oban 14, it's 14 years old.
In order to be classed as a single malt,
by law, all Scottish varieties must be matured in oak casks
for at least three years.
At most distilleries, the ageing process is longer,
as this is when whisky takes on its distinctive taste,
as well as allowing evaporation
of some of the alcohol through the cask.
With a production run of 850,000 litres of whisky a year,
Steve and Rebecca don't have to wait 14 years to sample the product.
So, here we are, where you'll get your first taste of our Oban whisky.
This is a valinch and I'm going to use that
to draw a sample out of the cask.
I would always advocate, when you're tasting a nice malt whisky...
..that you taste it straight to begin with.
If you take a small sip, hold it in your mouth
and really let the flavours work in your mouth before you swallow it.
-Very good. Definitely get the smokiness and the fruit.
It's clear Steve and Rebecca have got a taste for Scotland,
but we need to find a property to whet their appetite,
so it's back to the house-hunt.
For our second offering,
we're heading to the southern tip of the Cowal Peninsula.
Nearby Tighnabruaich overlooks the Kyles of Bute,
a narrow stretch of water separating Bute from Argyll
and is arguably, one of the most beautiful villages in the region.
Its Gaelic name, meaning "the house on the hill", is appropriate,
as many of the properties rising above the shoreline,
including some of the fine Victorian villas,
have commanding views over the water.
As well as numerous hotels and guesthouses,
the village is home to a collection of cafes and an art gallery.
House two is six miles from here,
situated in a secluded spot at the end of a long drive
which opens out onto stunning views
over the Firth of Clyde towards the Isle of Arran.
Now then, I'm keen on hearing your first impressions for the house,
but the reason we're here is this.
I wanted to keep this a surprise.
That is special, isn't it? Very special.
Oh, dear, what have you done?
-And it would have to be today, wouldn't it?
-What have you done?
-We haven't even seen the house yet.
-Who cares about the house?!
-I actually don't want to go in the house.
-You could get used to this, couldn't you?
-You could, yes.
-I already have!
So, let's talk about the house. Come on.
-Yes, it's sparkling nicely in the sun.
-I know we're quite remote here.
Right up my street.
But you're here to buy a house with a view, not a view with a house.
-This morning, you were the other way round.
-That's changed now, suddenly, hasn't it? I've shown you the view...
-We still have to look around this property. Let's go inside.
The house itself is a traditional stone-built cottage
in need of a little bit of modernisation inside,
so both Steve and Rebecca will need to use their imagination.
-Don't worry about shutting the door.
-There's no-one for miles.
Now, you can see straightaway, ground-floor loo, bear that in mind.
-First reception room...
-There's stuff to be done to this place, Steve.
But bearing in mind you're mad keen on eco-friendly and sustainability,
this is a place where you could put your own stamp on that.
-Very much so.
-Would you like to?
I'd like to see how it flows altogether,
all the rooms first, cos probably, we'd knock walls down and...
-Knock this wall down, it's an open-plan bathroom.
-Not THAT kind of entertaining.
-But guess what, every room in this house faces that way.
Another option with an outstanding outlook is the sunroom,
just off the lounge,
which has a partially-tiled shower room to one side.
Despite Rebecca's emotional reaction outside,
I'm not sure our advocates of open-plan living
are buying into the layout and size of the Victorian farm cottage.
We've got a bit of a dining room, which you think, instantly,
you might knock through this room into the kitchen,
but I want to see what you think first.
Hmm... It needs a new kitchen. It's doable, isn't it?
There's nothing in here that frightens us.
-Well, I've not heard Rebecca say anything for a while.
-It's not to our taste, let's be quite frank.
-I don't like it.
But there's nothing here that's not doable.
So, while Steve seems up for a bit of a project,
I don't think Rebecca can see past the property's current footprint,
despite the overwhelming impression those views made on her.
Upstairs, there are the three bedrooms they asked for,
including a decent size double and a larger bedroom with skylights.
With bathroom facilities back down on the ground floor,
that just leaves the master.
Now then, none of the bedrooms are big
and, really disappointingly, the view's behind there.
-Ah, right, yes.
-Room in a roof.
I feel like you'd be making sweeping changes
to this house, at the very least.
Yeah, we'd need to make it work for us
-and how we want to live, wouldn't we?
-And it just doesn't fit that at the minute, does it?
Well, I'm dying to get back outside and look at that view again.
-How about you?
-But on the way,
you have to start thinking about how much this house is for sale for.
The cottage sits in two and a half acres of fenced-off land,
made up of scrub and grasses and sheltered by conifer trees.
There are also two outbuildings
currently used by a local farmer for storage,
but they could be developed, subject to planning permission.
-So, Rebecca, have a go at pricing this.
-Very difficult one.
-I'm going to go in at 250.
I'll probably go a whisker higher, about 270.
This place is on the market for offers in the region of £290,000.
-Oh, it's put us in a conundrum, hasn't it?
Let's face it, you had tears when we arrived here, when you saw that view.
-What's going through your mind now?
-I'm disappointed by the house.
-It's a project.
-We could stay out here forever.
-YOU need to go back inside the house.
-Have a good look around and I'll catch you in a bit.
Under budget by £60,000,
our second property is a traditional stone-built cottage
with stunning views across the Firth of Clyde.
Sitting at the end of a very long drive,
it offers them the remoteness they wanted.
The three-bedroom house needs remodelling
to make it work for our buyers,
but the price would allow them to put their stamp on it.
Property two's location is simply awesome,
there's no other way to describe it.
The building itself, however, is falling a little bit short,
in terms of meeting our needs, I think.
This is beyond what I imagined I might see.
You can't beat what we've got here.
But the house, unfortunately...
I feel really deflated after going round the house.
I'm disappointed cos I really can't see
how we can make it work, as it is, for ourselves.
In a rather shameful way, I think for us,
we would end up so extensively refurbishing it,
it would be as beneficial for us
to start with a clean canvas to make it a home of our dreams.
The question is, ultimately, do we want to do it?
-Make the most of this. I think it's one of a kind, isn't it?
-It is, yes.
-You've seen all you need to see?
-I think so.
-OK, let's go and get a drink.
It's the second day of our property search in Argyll and Bute
with Steve and Rebecca from the town of Brigg in Lincolnshire.
They have a budget of £350,000 to spend on a Scottish retreat.
Coming up, there's the Mystery House,
which will test their resolve for a project.
Give that a knock. HOLLOW KNOCKING
-That's a start.
-There you go.
And I get a chance to sample a natural home-grown delicacy
-after a little hesitation.
-You can munch on that.
-Take a piece of that and try it.
No, it's lovely, honestly. Perfectly fine.
Well, Rebecca and Steve have certainly shown me
they're able to think laterally to make a property right for them.
But the Mystery House - well, it's going to be one of those projects.
The house itself can be configured exactly the way they want it,
but I think they'll need to remove a few internal walls.
And it also gives them the opportunity
to have fantastic water views.
They'll just need to remove a few trees.
This property is all about Steve and Rebecca using their imagination.
Let's see how we go.
What would you love to see now? But knowing there might be challenges.
-I would love to see property number one...
-Don't say it!
-..in the location looking out on the water.
-Get out! Out!
I made a solemn promise to the estate agent
that when they say, "I'd like to pick up property number one
"and put it in two", I would throw my tea over you!
-Everybody says that - "Just move that property."
For our Mystery Property,
we're travelling back towards Dunoon to the coastal hamlet of Kilmun.
The neighbouring village of Strone is the place for provisions
with amenities including a post office and a hotel.
The Mystery House is found in the smaller settlement of Kilmun
on the edge of Holy Loch, an inlet along the Firth of Clyde,
providing natural shelter to yachts and boats.
Set within a private woodland clearing,
it occupies an elevated, yet secluded, position
on the edge of the loch. With our Mystery Property,
we're throwing down the gauntlet of knocking down more walls,
so I'm keen to see if Steve and Rebecca are up for the challenge.
-Here we come. Here's the Mystery House.
-Wow, it looks very big.
-It does, doesn't it?
-First impression is very large.
Now, top of your shopping list was what?
-Now, you can see behind us, beautiful Holy Loch, right?
Within the month, they are going to get someone to fell those trees.
You will have amazing views, with all these conifers gone.
-Good spot. Very good spot.
-We'll go in through the back door
-cos that's the door they use every day, so follow me.
Dating back to the late Victorian era,
the property has been added to in recent years.
The original part of the house
consists of a number of individual rooms,
so Steve and Rebecca will need to use their imagination here.
To the left, a newer extension has a more open-plan feel
and to the right, another extension features an office space
and upstairs bedroom, connected by a first-floor footbridge.
But we're starting off our tour in the older part.
Now then, a very different prospect we have here.
Yeah, it's a nice size.
For me it's a bit too busy and we do like open space.
Um... That's my first reaction, but it's been done well.
The floors are good for the dogs, that's very dog-friendly.
But you also have the opportunity of having a separate dining room,
another living room as well as a fantastic room through here,
-so let me show you that.
This room used to be a conservatory until about four years ago,
when they completely redid it and made it a proper room.
Yeah, this is nice. This is more us, isn't it?
-This has been done very well.
-The light coming through.
-It's really nice.
-This is a homemaker, isn't it?
Keep it as a living room or do you want to see more living spaces
before you make that decision?
-Yeah, let's see some more.
-OK, follow me.
The rest of the ground floor features a dining room with bay window,
a contemporary fully-tiled shower room
and, in the extended part of the property, a modern home office.
This, the owners use this as their snug. What do you think?
-It's a fair-sized room
and it's the one that's going to have those fantastic views.
-I'm just wondering what we could actually remodel.
-Give it a tap.
Give that a knock. HOLLOW KNOCKING
-That's a start.
-There you go.
So, if the walls aren't load-bearing,
Steve and Rebecca could make alterations
to the ground-floor layout.
Upstairs, there are four bedrooms
and they include a double size room at the front of the house
and a smaller single at the back.
One of the other doubles is being used as an office
and there's a further study area just off the landing.
Finally, making up the first floor,
there's a three-piece family bathroom,
featuring a corner bath and the main bedroom of this property.
This is over the top of that office area
-we saw as we first walked up.
What's going through your minds? This is your third and final property.
My initial impression is that it's, perhaps, too big for what we want.
-It's kind of wasted on us really.
-It's a fantastic property.
There is a responsibility of this property.
-You've got, not only a big house, but you've got grounds as well.
Let's discuss that. Also, start getting your mind around
-how much this place might be.
Most of the garden is to the rear
and is mainly grassed with feature paths,
landscaped walkways and assorted shrubs and bushes.
The back of the sloping plot is bordered by neighbouring woodland,
providing a high degree of privacy and the opportunity to explore.
-The dogs would love it.
-The dogs would love it.
-Absolutely adore it.
Not just here. There is a woodland walk right at the end of your garden.
-You can just walk for seven miles.
-OK, time to guess the price. Who's going first?
I'd probably go about 350, I think.
I think it's more than that. I think it's blown our budget.
I think it's about 380.
Well, very good guesses because the owner is asking
-for offers in excess of £345,000.
-That is good value.
-That's good value.
-Well, they are expecting to get above that 345.
-I'm not surprised.
-Be it 350 or 370-odd.
You'll never know until you get into a negotiation process,
but I know they want in excess of that figure.
-It's certainly worth that.
-Definitely worth that, yes.
-Go and have a wander. I'll catch you later.
Under budget by a whisker,
our extensive Mystery House dates back to the Victorian era,
with more of an individual room layout,
rather than the open-plan proportions they wanted.
There are three separate reception areas and four bedrooms.
Although this challenges them with an internal building project,
the stunning location is everything they've asked for.
Location with the sea and the woodlands behind it,
it's just outstanding. For me, it's a bit too busy internally.
We generally prefer to have more open space.
It's a fantastic house.
It's perhaps not for us because it's TOO big for us.
It needs a family in this house. But it's absolutely stunning.
Rebecca and I would never use this property to its full potential.
-You didn't get lost in that massive garden then?
-We had a good wander.
-Lovely, isn't it?
-Very big, yes.
Well, that's all three properties.
Let's find somewhere for you guys to have a bit of a chinwag
-and think things through, shall we?
The rocky shoreline and crystal-clear waters make the Western Isles
a fertile breeding ground for seaweed.
The edible algae has been harvested here for centuries.
Initially consumed by coastal dwellers,
by the 17th century, it was big business.
As well as eating it, locals used seaweed to fertilise the land
and burned kelp to produce potash, a raw material in glass-making.
By the early 20th century,
the Scottish industry had all but disappeared.
Now, though, it's undergoing a bit of a revival.
To help me untangle the story of this underwater vegetation,
I've come to meet former milk truck driver,
turned seaweed farmer, Iain McKellar.
-I've come prepared for work.
Now, seaweed. What's our big obsession with the stuff?
Well, apparently it's the healthiest substance on the planet.
-On the planet.
-On the planet.
You'll not get anything healthier than seaweed.
Why is it so good for you?
Because of the nutrients and the mineral content.
It has everything, where you need your five a day.
When you've got your seaweed,
you've got all your nutrients, your minerals.
Every trace element your body needs is all in the one place.
Listen, mate, why aren't we ALL down here getting this stuff then?
-Ah, it's an acquired taste.
Well, looking around, Iain, this stuff here,
I suppose there's lots of different types and varieties.
There's hundred of types, hundreds of different species of seaweed.
-Right. What's this?
That's probably the most common one you'll see.
That's the one you'll find in supplements
when you go to your store and you get a little capsule.
-That's what they use for that.
Seaweed contains a huge range of vitamins, including B12,
as well as iodine and iron and all British seaweeds are edible.
However, the seaweed must be grown in a pollution-free environment,
such as here on the Argyll and Bute coast.
Well, I'm glad I'm going to put these waders to work.
Iain harvests all of his seaweed from a two-mile stretch of shoreline
with sustainability always in mind, as he only collects to order
and carefully cuts it by hand.
Today, I'm helping him gather the common brown kelp bladderwrack.
Just cut it an inch or two above the rock and you'll be fine there.
-Use those scissors there.
You can munch on that. Take a piece of that now and just try it.
-No, it's lovely, honestly. Perfectly fine.
Give it a second.
It tasted of pretty much absolutely nothing, initially,
-and then suddenly, just the taste of the sea almost. It just...
As well as eating it raw and wet, harvested seaweed can be dried,
giving it a longer shelf life,
for use in soups, sauces and as a garnish.
The whole process is carried out naturally.
-So, here we are. Aladdin's cave.
-This is the drying unit.
-I can see we've got a tarpaulin, blowing away.
But just the elements are running through here, aren't they?
I've just recreated a wind tunnel and that's all there is.
It's just the elements. It's just naturally air, that's all.
There's no artificial heat whatsoever.
Although generally savoury,
different seaweeds have distinctive flavours.
This is sugar kelp which, when dried,
forms a sweet-tasting white powder on its surface.
-You make wine and sherry out of this.
-Why waste that on sherry?
I know, but we'd use that in a stock or, again, as a soup.
This has less of an intense flavour.
Uh-huh. Because it's a kelp, it's higher up on the shoreline,
it spends a lot less time underneath the water, so it's less intense.
Although still a small-scale operation, Iain ships his seaweed
all around the world and his clients include some of Britain's top chefs.
You've seen a market and you're doing it, aren't you?
It's what I have to do. It's great.
I don't have to leave the island now.
-That's the dream.
-Living the dream.
I wish you the best of luck for your business in the future.
-I'll be back up.
-I look forward to it.
Well, we've seen really good reactions
from both Steve and Rebecca at all three properties,
but for me, I think the first house has led from the front.
Let's find out their thoughts.
Let's talk about the houses. Have you got a favourite?
We think property number one is our favourite.
It's a safe option from a travelling up and down
-in the initial next few years.
The garden is fantastic for the dogs, the walks up the mountains,
and it is a lock-up-and-leave property, really,
safe proposition, I think.
But there's more to it than that surely, Steve?
I think for me, about the first house was,
the build quality was good
and being in the renewable industry, and I can certainly modify it
and make it much more energy-efficient
without too much intrusive and remedial work required.
Cos there's not many houses on the market, I think,
that would pass your high standards,
but it was good that this house could get there for you,
-which is a relief.
-It was pretty damn close, without a doubt.
It was easy to work with and I think, more than anything,,
because it was so open, you've got all the options.
You haven't got to knock walls down to make stuff work.
The only minor point,
which is one of the things we'll probably go back and look at,
is how we're going to overcome the sloping ceilings in the bathrooms.
So you're going to go back to the house. As a formal viewing?
-Hopefully, this afternoon.
-That's amazing news! I'm really pleased.
I wish you the best of luck this afternoon
-when you go back for that second viewing.
-Let me know what happens.
If you remember, when I first met Steve and Rebecca,
they said the most important thing for them was to have a house
with sea views or at least views of a loch like this.
So it's quite a turnaround to hear that the one property
out of the three they've gone for has none such views.
But in a way, it has the whole package, doesn't it?
It still had fantastic views of the mountains,
but it was configured in a way they really liked.
There's no real work to be done to the property itself.
So I'm really buoyed to hear they're going back for a second viewing
and I can't wait to find out what happens next. See you next time.
Steve and Rebecca did go back for a second viewing
on the first property we showed them
and they put in an offer which I'm delighted to report was accepted.
They eagerly await the keys to start their new life in Scotland
and we wish them both the very best.
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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.