...and the investors' estate

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RESIDENTS OF the remote Knoydart estate in the West Highlands have long nurtured the ambition of buying their land. But they are still a long way off raising enough money to meet the pounds 2.5 million asking price.

Knoydart has changed ownership three times in the past 12 years. Locals put in an unsuccessful bid earlier this year, and the estate passed into the hands of the current landlords, Stephen Hinchliffe and Christopher Harrison, English businessmen. Soon after the buy-out in April, it emerged that the two men have a chequered history. They are being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office and the Department of Trade and Industry because of a string of company failures.

The 70 residents, who passed a vote of no confidence in their landlords after Ian Robertson, the estate manager, was sacked, have launched a public appeal and raised nearly pounds 1m through the fund-raising Knoydart Foundation.

The 16,000-acre estate, which lies on the edge of Loch Nevis, was one of the areas worst hit by the Highland clearances that followed the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Over the years, it has had a series of colourful owners, including Lord Brocket, grandfather of the current peer, who was imprisoned for Nazi sympathies during the Second World War.

He sold out in the 1950s and it passed through several lairds, including Lord Hesketh, the Conservative whip in the House of Lords. In 1983 it was bought by Titaghur, a Dundee jute company, which intended to turn it into an adventure holiday resort.

The estate is now owned by Knoydart Peninsular, in which Mr Harrison and Mr Hinchliffe have controlling stakes. John Turvill, managing director of the company, said recently that it had been vilified because it was headed by Englishmen.

Kathy Marks