Eight Askernish, Isle of South Uist, is offered for sale. Viewing is by appointment only – contact us.
Together with another property – in Eriskay, Eight Askernish is operated by us as a self-catering business. The cottage returns a steady and healthy profit relative to the capital invested and ongoing labour and expenditure required.
We feel that we have achieved what we set out to do. It’s time for others to write a chapter of their own in the history of the cottage, and for us to discover new horizons and challenges, alongside our continuing self-catering business in Eriskay.
Eight Askernish is offered on the basis of a ‘going concern’, to include all assets (physical and intellectual) associated specifically with the property and business. The offer includes furniture, furnishings, appliances, business names, domain names and websites, upcoming bookings and records of past bookings.
The property is registered with the local council Comhairle nan Eilean Siar as a commercial property. Although not a legal requirement when selling a commercial property, we will nonetheless be providing a Home Report, which will become available during August.
Access to the property and a wide range of documentation and information will be made available free of charge to interested parties in order for them to satisfy themselves as to the condition and value of the property, its contents, and the business.
Offers in excess of £150,000 are invited.
The house is occupied by our guests, who must not be disturbed. Viewing is will be on turnaround days (which vary) and by appointment only. To arrange a viewing, contact us.
Expressions of interest should in the first instance be emailed to us
For location, visit Eight Askernish on Google Maps.
The Building :
Eight Askernish is one of very few of this type of cottage – dating from the early 20thC – that retain the original exterior appearance – albeit, for this cottage, with the addition of a window for the bathroom.
The chimney at the south gable is in service – for the solid fuel stove in the living room, and is in good condition. The chimney at the north end is redundant, but has been retained to preserve the integrity of the architecture.
All the external walls of the cottage are constructed of solid in-situ concrete, harled and painted to provide a durable and weather proof coating. An inner wall of timber framing (incorporating high-efficiency insulation) maintains a clear gap, ensuring an effective barrier between the indoor and outdoor environments.
Windows and exterior doors are uPVC with double-glazed sealed units, in a style that takes its cue from the original wooden windows that were removed in 2006.
The roof comprises a waterproof membrane and high quality natural slates, finished with black clay ridge tiles.
Gable walls are capped with ‘skews’ of in-situ concrete – a tried-and-tested traditional detail for buildings throughout the islands.
Since completion of the reconstruction work in Spring 2006, the cottage has benefitted from a programme of planned maintenance (during the winter and early spring), and prompt response to any urgent problems that arise throughout the year.
The internal layout of the cottage is still largely as it would have been when newly built, a century ago. When we rebuilt the house in early 2006, we made small changes to the position of internal partitions that resulted in a layout that is not only more efficient and convenient, but takes full advantage of the views from every window.
Heating, Hot Water, Ventilation :
The house is equipped with a whole-house ventilation and heat recovery system, supplying fresh air to bedrooms and the living room, and extracting stale air from the kitchen and the bathroom.
Fixed heating is generally with Dimplex combined storage/convector heaters. The storage elements (if switched on) are energized only at night and mid-afternoon, and use electricity at the low rate. The convector elements use low-rate electricity at any time of day or night.
Hot water is from a 180 litre copper cylinder – with 3kW immersion heater – and fed from a vented header tank, both being installed in the roof void. The immersion heater uses only low-rate electricity.
Floors and Floor-coverings :
The floor has been completely rebuilt to include damp proof membrane, concrete sub-floor, insulation, and is finished with high density tongue-and-groove flooring sheets. The floors to kitchen and bathroom are tiled. The rest of the house was re-carpeted throughout in 2018, with a quality underlay and wool-rich carpet.
Sound Insulation :
All internal partition walls are fitted with effective sound insulation.
Back Door (In practice the principal door), with glazed upper panel, and adjacent outside light, leads to –
Kitchen : Approx 2.48m x 5.10m
This is a good sized kitchen accommodating a comprehensive suite of fitted units and appliances, and plentiful worktop space for much more than just cooking.
White worktops are over brown carcasses with green doors, with a peninsular-style breakfast bar for four, including four wooden bar stools.
Zanussi hob and oven are built-in, with extractor fan over. Under-counter Beko washing machine, Indesit tumble dryer and fridge. Microwave, toaster, kettle and other small appliances, utensils ,etc.
Plentiful electrical sockets, including USB outlets, above the worktop and at low level.
Heating is with a Dimplex CXL18 combined storage/convector heater. Additional heating – for an instant warm-up – is with a Dimplex 2.4kW plinth fan heater (low-rate electricity).
Two 3-spot LED spot lights providing good illumination throughout the room.
Wall-mounted fire extinguisher and blanket.
A double wall cupboard by the back door houses the electrical consumer unit, meters etc.
Control switch for domestic hot water cylinder immersion heater.
The water shut-off valve is under the kitchen sink.
Two windows facing west, one (above sink/drainer) facing south
Glazed pine door leading to –
Living Room: Approx 4.33m x 3.78m (excluding alcove)
A well-proportioned double-aspect room, with a strong focus provided by the solid fuel stove.
The room is currently laid out with a Laura Asheley two-seater settee on one side, facing two armchairs (matching the settee) on the other side, with occasional table in between, aligned with the stove. The TV (and associated equipment) is on a dedicated unit to one side of the fireplace.
(The room may work well with a different layout, with more contemporary corner-style seating aligned with the TV along a diagonal across the room.)
A Dovre 5kW solid-fuel stove, together with the aluminium chimney liner, is suitable for slow-burning low-temperature fuels such as good quality natural logs, or the ‘eco-logs’ that are made from pressed wood waste. The quarry tile hearth extends from the back of the fire recess into the room itself, and generously to either side, providing safe space for fuel in baskets and the such like.
To the right of the stove is an alcove that’s fitted out with shelves, above one of which is a double socket, and DAB-FM antenna socket.
To the left of the stove is a window in a deep recess, looking out across open, unspoiled croft land, and to the distant hills of the island of Barra, to the south. Below this window is the television and associated equipment. Behind the TV is a double socket with integral spike-filter and a duplex TV / DAB-FM antenna socket.
A pair of windows (a feature that’s distinctive to this type of cottage) offers views to the high hills of the eastern side of the island.
Windows are fitted with good quality wooden curtain poles and Laura Ashley curtains.
There are two other double sockets, both low level and conveniently positioned.
Heating is with a Dimplex CXL24 combined storage/convector heater.
Lighting is by pendant light from the centre of the ceiling, with two-way switches at each internal door, with one standard and two table lamps for ambience.
Glazed pine door leading to –
Hall: Approx 4.65m x 1.13m
The hall is aligned along the front elevation of the house, with the front door (half-glazed uPVC) at mid-length. There is an external light adjacent to the front door.
Three further pine doors lead to the two bedrooms and the bathroom.
Background heating is with a Dimplex XL12 storage heater.
Lighting is by a domed ceiling light, operated by two-way switches, one at each end of the hall.
A row of coat hooks is fitted to the external wall, with a double low-level socket below.
Mounted above the bathroom door is the IDU and wireless router for the hebrides.net internet system.
An insulated PVC hatch with pull-down loft ladder gives access to a partially boarded roof void (with hot water cylinder, TV/FM/DAB atennae and amplifiers, and the whole-house ventilation and heat recovery unit. A small velux roof window provides natural light and some ventilation to the roof void. [There’s also some spare floor tiles, including sufficient of the bathroom tiles should it be desire to remove the bath and install a walk-in shower.]
Double Bedroom: Approx 3.09m x 3.34m
Situated at the back of the house, between the sitting room and the bathroom, and thus having three internal walls (including the hall), the double bedroom requires only a relatively small heater.
A single window faces west, looking out across the approach to the back door to the trees and shrubs of the garden, and beyond across croft land with scattered houses.
The window is fitted with a good quality wooden curtain pole and curtains with tie-backs.
The room is well-proportioned, providing easy access around the bed and to window and furniture.
This bedroom is furnished with a good quality pine furniture of a well-respected make, all to the same range and thus co-ordinated. Furniture is comprised of a standard double bed with mattress, two bed-side cabinets, a chest of drawers, and a wheel-back chair.
A row of coat hooks mounted on the wall behind the opened door, and on the back of the door, provides for clothing on coat hangers.
Heating is with a Dimplex CXL12 combined storage/convector heater.
Illumination is from a pendant light with lamp shade, and two bedside lamps.
Electrical sockets are provided at either side of the bed, by the door and beside the chest of drawers.
Bathroom : Approx 3.08m x 1.23m/1.95m (wider at bath)
The bathroom is a good size and optimally laid out for ease of movement and use.
A dimple-glazed window faces the approach to the back door, and is generous in letting in light to the room, without loss of privacy. A good quality wooden curtain pole, fitted with Laura Ashely machine-washable curtains, ensures privacy when it is dark outside or the ceiling light is on.
The room is equipped with full-size bath , WC, and wash hand basin, all of which – including fittings – are by Roca. Over the shower is a Dimplex 9kW electric shower, with a hinged glass screen over the edge of the bath.
A Dimplex electric tubular towel rail provides for warming towels and drying those that are just damp. The heated towel rail is controlled by electronic run-back timer and power control. An unheated towel rail is fitted to the opposite wall.
In addition to the background ventilation provided by the whole-house ventilation and heat recovery system, the bathroom is equipped with a high-level extractor fan with integral run-down timer and humidistat, to ensure that the bathroom remains free of vapour that otherwise could damage decorative finishes.
Lighting is by a domed ceiling light.
The bathroom is heated by warm air pulled under the door from the hall (or, if open, around the door) by the ventilation system.
Twin Bedroom : Approx 4.34m x 3.36m/2.65m (wider for one half of the length of the room)
Situated at the north end of the house, beyond the shower room, the room is a generous size, currently laid out for two single beds but equally suited to a double bed in two possible configurations.
The room is well-proportioned, providing easy access around the beds and to window and furniture. With the present layout, one of the beds has sufficient space on one side for use with a wheelchair.
A pair of windows face east, looking out across the garden – and beyond to the high hills along the east side of the island.
The pair of windows is fitted with a good quality wooden curtain pole and Laura Ashley curtains with tie-backs.
This bedroom is furnished with a good quality pine furniture of a well-respected make, all to the same range and thus co-ordinated. (The furniture matches that in the double bedroom.) Furniture is comprised of two standard single beds with mattress, the two beds sharing a bed-side cabinet, plus a chest of drawers. There is space for a second bedside cabinet to the same design (of which we have two available for purchase, if required).
Coat hooks mounted on the wall behind the opened door, and on the back of the door, provide for clothing on coat hangers.
Heating is with a Dimplex CXL12 combined storage/convector heater.
Illumination is from a pendant light with lamp shade, and bedside lamp.
An alcove – similar to that in the living room – set into the gable wall is fitted with bookshelves. At the side of one such shelf there is a double power socket.
There are low-level double power sockets positioned conveniently for bedside cabinets and chest of drawers.
The house itself sits at the centre of a plot that amounts to approximately one quarter of an acre, being approximately 26 m x 27m, set back from the public road by a similar amount.
The plot is served by a well-made road of crushed stone three metres or more in width, over which there are rights of access and egress on foot or with a vehicle. A vehicular gate opens outwards, the driveway extending up to house door (the back door, which is the main access), with an extra-wide turning and parking area to one side, by the north gable of the house.
The garden ground has been planted with numerous native and naturalized plants trees and shrubs, which are managed lightly so as to let Nature decide for herself what species are best adapted to the climate, the ground conditions, and the often severe winter storms. We have maintained a balance between the conflicting requirements for privacy and shelter on the one hand, and light and views on the other.
Many returning guests cite the beautiful views framed by the kitchen windows ; especially over the kitchen sink ; and the ability to see from the comfort of the house wildlife in the skies and on the croft land immediately beyond the garden fence. It’s common to see and hear lambs being born, the aerial stunts of lapwings, short-eared owls quartering the ground – even by day, and hen harriers pursuing smaller birds ; and in 2019 guests have reported seeing (and hearing!) a corncrake in the garden itself, on several occasions during their stay. Guests staying in winter have reported seeing – thrown into silhouette by the full moon – the antlers of deer come down from the hills to browse the croft land surrounding the cottage.
Electricity is from the public electricity network, taken from a pole some distance away, by the public road, and connecting with the house by underground cable. The supply is fused at 100A. The property is equipped with off-peak and standard meters, on a Total Heat Total Control (THTC) tariff, which has proved cost-effective for this property.
The water supply is taken from the public distribution main where it crosses the access road mid-way between the public road the property boundary, the pipe serving the cottage being completely renewed in 2006. The supply is metered, the meter being a couple of metres outside the property.
Sewerage (for both brown and grey waste) drains to a septic tank situated on the adjacent croft, about 15 metres from the property boundary, and from there the residual treated liquid drains to a natural reed bed for further biological purification. The tank is contracted for regular de-sludging (by Scottish Water – every other year).
Eight Askernish is in an area with strong and stable mobile phone service. Data connections are generally 2G, but there are currently plans in progress to upgrade the network to 4G throughout the islands. The cottage is currently connected to the hebrides.net internet service via radio transceiver antenna fixed to the north gable : this service will remain available until BT/OpenReach FTTC services (ie high speed internet on landlines) are brought to the Askernish area.
Surface water run-off from the roof is to PVC gutters and downpipes draining to four rubble-filled soakaways sited close to the boundary fences.
Eight Askernish was the first that we acquired of the two properties where we operate self-catering holiday accommodation.
Back in Spring 2006, when we welcomed our first guests, there were very few other holiday cottages available in Uist, and most of those were very old fashioned very casually managed. Eight Askernish was one of very few that were fitted out, maintained, promoted and managed in a modern, efficient and business-like manner. We were one of the first to promote our property on the internet – and that alone got us off to an astonishingly good start. Although, at that time, we let only on a Saturday to Saturday basis, the first three years saw the cottage occupied an average of 36 weeks a year.
Seeing that success, others decided to join the market and to maintain our leading position we had to continually improve what we do, and adapt to changing needs and tastes of our customers.
We were among the first, in Uist, to adopt on-line booking and payment, to provide WiFi access, and to accept bookings with arrivals any day of the week, and staying any length from 3 days.
Over the years, the islands have featured in TV programmes such as Monty Hall’s Hebridean Adventure, then three seasons of The Island Parish. We came to anticipate that, within half an hour of a programme ending, we would get phone calls enquiring about vacancies, or immediate online bookings. But publicity like that results in an unstable demand, with feast followed always by famine, especially once the limited ferry services were fully booked up (not least on Saturdays). Bookings for Eight Askernish remained very strong even after the financial crisis of 2008, with a high point in 2013 – and then came a sharp fall, with 2015 rentals totalling less than 30 weeks per year for each property.
The past few years, with promotion of the islands at last in the hands of the islanders themselves, through the Visit Hebrides tourism industry association, there’s been steady growth of tourism in all its forms, and at the same time the likes of AirBnB and TripAdvisor have gone from new-starters to world domination! We were among the first handful of Uist self-catering businesses to sign up with AirBnB and TripAdvisor, and it was then that we finally committed to fully flexible rentals, arriving any day of the week and staying 3 nights to 3 weeks. Since then, our business has steadily grown again, now achieving the equivalent of well over 30 weeks a year for each property.
Whilst our Eriskay property has increasingly attracted guests wanting to stay for a full week, or even two or three weeks, many of these returning year after year, Eight Askernish seems to appeal more – and indeed to appeal very strongly – to guests who are touring the islands and want to a self-catering stay at various locations, each for three or four nights only. Whilst this does mean more turnarounds (each of which has to be accounted for in the pricing structure), and thus more work and costs, it does also mean more profit – more income, especially for an owner-operator.
The past few years have seen an increase in low-season bookings, by which we mean whilst the Calmac winter timetable is in operation, ie the last weekend in October to the last weekend in March. Many of these guests cite as reasons for coming to Uist at that time of year, the peace, the light, the wildlife, the drama of winter storms, and indeed everything that Uist is not in summer! This is an area of growth that could significantly add to the profitability of Eight Askernish.
Eight Askernish has performed consistently better than most self-catering properties in Uist, with bookings now generally around 240 nights per year.
Those considering making a formal offer to purchase the property and business will be provided with opportunity to inspect our records and accounts, and thereby satisfy themselves as to the state and potential of the business, and thus inform their decision.
The successful purchaser of the property and business will be provided with all the information and rights required to allow them to continue the business without interruption.
The Back Story :
Eight Askernish is one of many hundreds of similar cottages built in the early 20thC throughout the Highlands and Islands to the same design, or one of a number of variants on it. The designs were those made available to those building their croft house with materials provided free of charge by the government agency of the time – the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food. The crofters had to supply the labour, and materials such as sand and gravel – which were available free of charge from the shore. The exterior walls are all built of in-situ concrete, made with sand and gravel (from the shore), and cement provided free by the government. The formwork was corrugated sheets of galvanized steel – which would then be used for the roof.
This cottage was built in the early years of the twentieth century as the family house for croft number eight in Askernish township. Even as originally built, the cottage would have offered a revolutionary step forward in health and comfort from the dark and smoky thatched houses in which most islanders even then still lived. However, compared with houses being built at around that time in the big towns and cities of the mainland, this type of croft cottage had many shortcomings. By the end of the twentieth century the cottage, with its cold damp walls, uneven floors, draughty windows, and most timber damaged by woodworm or rot – both wet and dry, was no longer fit for purpose.
We bought the property in late 2005, specifically with the intention of developing a holiday accommodation business. Over the following months the house was stripped back to just bare concrete walls ; the primitive floor was dug back down to bedrock ; and only those roof timbers that were still essentially sound were treated in-situ and the rest were replaced. Work was carried out under the oversight of the council’s building control officer, the reconstructed cottage satisfying all the relevant and appropriate building standards of that time.
Window and door lintols and window cills showing significant deterioration were repaired or replaced. A new window opening – with new lintol and cill – was made for the bathroom. External walls were repaired and shallow footings reinforced. Any areas of harling that had ‘bossed’ were broken off and new harling applied.
The remaining old roof timbers – sarking, rafters and ceiling joists least damaged by woodworm or rot – were treated to prevent re-infestation, and additional high-level timber ties were added to prevent the rafters from spreading. New timbers replaced those that had been discarded : over the living room and twin bedroom, all the ceiling joists are replacements – they have a deeper section and higher strength to cope with the long span without intermediate support from internal partitions
Both chimney stacks were fully renovated, with the original chimney pots reset in new in-situ concrete top slabs. The north gable is redundant, so the chimney pot was fitted with a clay ventilation cap which allows just sufficient to keep the chimney dry. The south gable – to be used with a new solid fuel stove, was fitted with stainless steel liner flue pipe, registration plate, liner and cowl. In the fire recess of the south gable, a new ‘constructive hearth’ was formed so that the entire installation for the solid fuel stove would comply fully with building standards.
Across the tops of the gable walls, either side of the chimneys and at each gable of the kitchen, there are ‘skews’ formed with in-situ concrete : it’s a detail (whether as stone slabs or in concrete) that has proved its efficay and value over several centuries, and is characteristic of older houses and agricultural buildings here in the Outher Hebrides. The new skews incorporate a new lead tray or ‘soaker’ under the edge of the tiles. New lead was used where the slope of the roof changes over the kitchen, and in flashing around the chimneys.
The original corrugated steel roof covering had been replaced in the 1970s with asbestos slate tiles. For our 2006 reconstruction we covered the sarking boards with two layers of new roofing felt, and then laid high quality natural slates, each fixed with two heavy duty copper nails. Black clay ridge tiles completed the roof.
New windows in white uPVC, double-glazed, invoke the style of the original windows and doors.
To finish the exterior, the whole of the exterior walls were treated with two coats of microporous masonry paint : white generally, but grey on the concrete skews and window cills – for architectural emphasis.
Inside, the existing rudimentary floor was removed and excavated down to bedrock. After bringing back to level with compacted aggregates, a new floor was constructed with a concrete sub-floor over damp-proof membrane, and then over the concrete, 70mm of solid high-efficiency insulation and topped with heavy duty floor boards, ready for tiling.
Around the inside face of the outside walls, timber framing – infilled with high-performance rigid insulation – was fixed to the edge-timbers of the floor and the ceiling joists above – thus avoiding any contact with the concrete outer walls. (There’s a gap of at least 50mm). That separation, together with vapour barrier membranes, helps protect the timber framing from the effects of condensation on the cold inner surface of the concrete wall.
The new internal layout was then completed in conventional fashion, with timber stud partions, electrics and plumbing. (The Vent-Axia HR204 ventilation system was added a few years later. The system protects the building fabric, decor and furnishings from the effects of humidity, as well as reducing the energy required to heat the property.)
The reconstruction work was completed in the last week of April 2006, and we welcomed our first guests on the 30 April 2006.