Buying overseas: Call of the wild

Want wildlife plus a luxury log cabin? Try buying in Canada's Laurentian Mountains, suggests Laura Latham
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The Independent Online

There was a time when the Laurentian Mountains were filled with back-to-basics log cabins. But a different kind of dwelling is springing up among the pine forests and on the shores of the lakes – luxury homes have arrived in this wilderness.

Just an hour's drive north of Montreal, the Laurentian Mountains are set in the kind of wilderness that has disappeared from Europe. The region has thousands of miles of dense forest and lakes, and offers the chance to live out your escapist fantasies without forgoing the mod cons. These homes are in developments near Mont Tremblant, a once-fashionable leisure and ski resort now getting a second life as a year-round destination.

"This area is traditionally an outdoor playground for people from Montreal and Ottawa," says John Prior of the local agency Undiscovered Properties. "It has a nice combination of French Canadian culture and the space you can't find in Europe any more."

Prior is marketing La Grande Forêt and Eagles Ridge, two wilderness developments near the main resort. Both offer high-spec properties in spectacular settings, yet the homes are handy for all the services you might need.

La Grand Forêt was bought in the 1930s by the Molson family, of Molson beer fame, as somewhere to escape the heat of Montreal in summer. The estate overlooks the stunning Lac Tremblant. In an attempt to keep it unspoilt, the 265-acre site will have just 72 homes. "Eighty per cent of the woodland will be untouched and 20 acres are set aside as a nature reserve," Prior says.

The homes, on three acres, have three to five bedrooms. They're designed in traditional style, with wooden frames and big picture-windows. Prices start at £403,000. "If these properties were in the Alps, they'd cost four times as much," Prior says.

If you have less cash you can still escape to Eagles Ridge, a 2,000-acre estate with five lakes and a bordering national park. Prices start at £250,000 for a three-bedroom home on 1.5 acres. The lower prices partly reflect the fact that Eagles Ridge is a 15-minute drive from the main resort. You can hike all day without seeing a soul, sail from your private jetty or ski across country – and the bright lights of Mont Tremblant are just down the road. "It feels like the last frontier," Prior says, "but there's plenty going on and a lovely community."

Many developments here aim to generate community spirit rather than a resort atmosphere. You'll feel as though you're in an established residential area. Fraternité-sur-Lac, on Lac Superieur, was designed with this idea in mind. The eco-friendly homes have large terraces, and there's a sailing club and spa. Prices start at £254,000, through Pure International. The company is also selling on nearby Lac Desmarais. Building plots on and around the lake start at £167,000 for 1.5 acres, and the developer will construct a house to suit your budget.

"Mont Tremblant is increasingly popular with UK buyers," says Sean Collins of Pure. "The lifestyle and range of activities are a draw. It's also one of the most accessible areas of Canada."

It's also possible to buy existing houses in the area, many with water frontage. Local agencies such as Mont Tremblant Real Estate have a selection with prices starting from about £130,000 for a decent, three-bedroom cottage. They may be less stylish, but with all that beauty you won't spend much time indoors.

Undiscovered Properties: 0870 7347 968; Pure International: 020-3031 2860; Mont Tremblant Real Estate: 00 1 (888) 925-9324; w

Buyers' guide

*There are regular flights on a number of airlines from the UK to Montreal. Flight times are about six hours.

*British passport holders can live in Canada for up to six months of the year; to stay longer you will need to apply for a residency visa.

*Properties around Mont Tremblant have been appreciating at 10-15 per cent a year, although some headline developments have seen jumps of up to 25 per cent.

*Property owners are subject to annual taxes that vary depending on the location of the home, and which may change each year. They can amount to about 2.5 per cent of the property value.