English invade Scotland to storm its country houses

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They were known as "white settlers". The minority English incomers who bought property in Scotland in search of an escape from the rat race.

They were known as "white settlers". The minority English incomers who bought property in Scotland in search of an escape from the rat race.

Now the southern settlers are emerging as the most powerful players on the Scottish property market - snapping up almost almost half of country houses for sale last year.

A new breed of long-distance commuter is driving the boom as increasing numbers of professionals choose to spend their weekends north of the border and travel weekly to London and beyond for work.

Thousands of farm properties, former lodges and manor houses have become the des res of families eager to get more for their money and a better quality of life away from the office. Already used to spending hours to commute short distances through London traffic and from outlying communities of the South-east and South-west many have discovered improved air links mean travelling times are almost similar despite the much greater distances.

A review of sales in the past year by the estate agents Knight Frank has shown that almost half of the 5,000 Scottish country houses it sold last year were bought by English buyers.

A further 1,000 homes, ranging in price from £750,000 to £1.5m, have gone to overseas buyers, mainly Russians and Arabs.

"A high percentage of properties sold by Knight Frank in Scotland are to purchasers from outside the area," said the report.

"The top end of the residential market in Scotland sees particularly strong demand from buyers in London and the rest of England who account for more than 40 per cent of sales.

"A trend that has become increasingly noticeable is "weekly boarders". That is characterised by those who work in London throughout the week and who return to their home in Scotland for the weekend."

The most popular properties sought by English buyers are five to six-bedroom farmhouses with land, especially in areas such as Ayrshire, Fife, south-west Scotland, and East Lothian.

As a result of the increasing demand, the average cost of a farmhouse in Scotland has risen from £230,000 to more than £600,000 while the average price of a manor house has doubled to £920,000.

Compared with prices in the south of England, many families are discovering they can get a substantial country house for, in many cases, the price of a two-bedroom London flat.

Iver Salvesen, managing director and father of two: 'We moved north for the quality of life'

After 20 years of living and working in the south-west of England, Iver Salvesen, managing director of a development and construction company, began looking for a better quality of life.

He and his American wife Wendy swapped their share of a Devon mansion for a farmhouse in the Scottish borders, bought for £1.4m, which they share with their son Oscar and daughter Iona.

They now own a 600-acre farm complete with a range of traditional barns and the four-bedroom house less than an hour from Edinburgh and its international airport.

Mr Salvesen's company retains a purpose-built office and workshop at Stidston, near South Brent, Devon, to which he commutes regularly, but he has also opened a branch of his business in Scotland. "There's a lot of people who commute from Edinburgh these days and I still go down to the office for about a week at a time," he said. "I don't think we will move back south now. In terms of what we had down there and what we have now, it is much better."