Castaway turned television presenter Ben Fogle said he was "bitterly disappointed and sad" yesterday after failing to buy the remote Scottish island which catapulted him to fame.
Despite raising nearly £1.5m in the two weeks since it was put on the market, the Countryfile star missed out on acquiring windswept Taransay which was bought in its entirety by an unnamed landowner living on neighbouring Harris. It was up for sale for £2m although the agreed price has not been disclosed.
Mr Fogle, who spent a year taking part in the hit BBC reality show set on the uninhabited Outer Hebridean island in 2000, said it was vital the new laird invested on behalf of local people living in the Western Isles.
He said he was surprised at the speed at which the sale had gone through claiming it was concluded before he had time to put together his consortium which included local community group the West Harris Trust, more than 50 volunteers and potentially The Prince's Trust. "There is a little bit of mystery surrounding it," he said. "It seems strange that no calls were returned in our attempt to say we were interested in buying it," he added.
Mr Fogle has tried and failed on five previous occasions to purchase an island. This time he had planned to turn the remote Atlantic outcrop into a 3,445 acre nature reserve possibly reintroducing ancient species.
"I owe everything to that island. It is where it all began for me and I wanted to give something back specifically to the community," he said.
Earlier this month Mr Fogle said he had been shocked at the "sorry state" of Taransay when he attended a 10th anniversary reunion there along with fellow Castaways. The deer herd needed culling, fences required mending and the wind turbine was not working, he said. John Bound of estate agents CKD Galbraith said there were no plans to change the way it was managed. "The existing owners know the purchaser and all involved are delighted with the outcome, and the island passes into safe hands. There will no doubt be a number of disappointed parties who would have liked to bid but it is fitting that Taransay is now in the new ownership of somebody closely acquainted to the area who will preserve the current management of the island," he said.
Taransay was put up for sale by its owners, Angus and Norman MacKay, two brothers who live on Harris. It was bought by their father in 1967 for £11,000. Although famed for its white powder beach, otters and stunning sunsets, the last family departed in 1974 ending more than 2,000 years of habitation. It has been the site of fierce battles and invasions, including the Massacre of Taransay in 1544.