Escape the city: what you could buy for the price of a north London flat
PUBLISHED: 17:45 29 July 2016 | UPDATED: 12:15 03 August 2016
As summer finally makes its appearance and London descends into a sweaty, squashed hellscape (and that's just the Central Line), it's tempting to dream of packing it all in and retreating to less overcrowded climes.
With August almost upon us we’re about to enter what journalists love to call the ‘silly season’. Brace yourselves for tales of waterskiing budgerigars and other tenuous stories emerging from the dazed hacks at post Brexit news desks.
London house prices have arguably been silly for more than several seasons, but with predictions of a ten percent price drop in property by Christmas (you read it here first) this may be the last opportunity for us to write such a frivolous piece on the disparity between what your money can buy you either side of the M25.
We’ve picked a two bedroom abode in Belsize Park and had a shufti at what that budget could bring you if you tore yourself away from the city.
From a private paradise isle in Tahiti to the wing of a Scottish castle, your beleaguered British Pound can still go pretty far.
Of course, however much we love to look you’ll have a hard chance convincing us that life outside north London is really worth the extra square footage or a sea view. But there’s no harm in a little window shopping now and then, is there?
The north London two bed flat…
This modest two bedroom flat in Belsize Park is far from outrageously priced – by London standards – at £749,950 for 569 sq ft of prime real estate.
According to Rightmove.com the majority of properties sold in the area in the last year were also flats, with an average price of £891,695.
The apartment has been newly refurbished with modern, neutral décor and high specification wooden flooring throughout.
You certainly wouldn’t be slumming it here. The mansion block building provides security along with a stylish setting and the location is second to none with its easy access to the twin jewels of Hampstead and Primrose Hill.
At £1,318 per sq ft of floor space out-of-towners might balk at the estate agent patter describing the home as ‘spacious’, but it seems very reasonable to the prospective London homeowner after years of being indoctrinated by urban legends of garages sold for hundreds of thousands and wheelie bins rented out at a premium.
You could buy…
A 17th century Cornish vicarage, complete with luxury camping business…
This is the only one that’s a smidge over budget at £750,000, but boy does it pack a lot in.
Opposite a 17th century church, this former vicarage has been awarded a Grade II listed status. The house is built of stone, with a traditional Delabole rag slate hung façade.
The current owners have extensively remodelled the period home whist carefully preserving its period features.
Along with the four bedroom family home you get a separate barn conversion, five acres of landscaped formal garden, pasture paddocks, a woodland copse with a stream running through, numerous outbuildings and stunning views of the Cornish countryside.
The property also has a terribly high brow literary connection that even a Highgate resident would struggle to sniff at, the old vicarage being the former home of William Henry Sargeant who courted Emma Gifford before she took Thomas Hardy up on a presumably better offer. The house is even described by Hardy in his poem ‘A Face at the Casement.’
They’re even throwing in an established glamping business in the back garden, so you can truly claim to be escaping the rat race by swapping your tailored suits for wellie boots and help facilitate other burnt out Londoners recuperate in ‘luxury camping pods’ for the weekend.
A Scottish castle with a feline twist…
It wouldn’t be a ridiculous London property price comparison without throwing in a Scottish castle for good measure.
The imposing building comprises of a four bedroom home and an additional self contained wing offering a further two bedrooms.
With offers accepted over £675,000 it’s a princely home that makes a poky London flat look like a pauper’s hovel.
The Category B listed castle dates from circa 1888, the baronial battlements having been built by lawyer and Sheriff Clerk Robert Craig. Originally called Hazelwood, it was later rechristened to reflect the owner’s love of cats, as exemplified by the feline themed sculptures around the exterior.
A curved stone staircase leads to the entrance vestibule with its impressive double storm doors and tiled floor. The south facing family room features an ornate ceiling and views down the Firth of Clyde, whilst the separate drawing room has its own corner turret window and a notable fireplace.
For anyone who harbours romantic notions of a tower bedroom, the second floor features a turret bedroom with rooftop access and beautiful views.
The grounds comprise of two acres of lawn gently sloping down to the Clyde and peppered with mature shrubs and trees.
You don’t even need to live in splendid isolation here. The nearby village of Cardross has a good primary school, a tennis club, village shop, post office, country pub and a particularly fine gold course. Glasgow is only 40 minutes away by rail and the next town along, Helensburgh, has the dual claim of being the birthplace of the inventor of television, and to having a Waitrose.
A private paradise island (twice over)…
If you really, really want to get away from it all then why not consider this terribly reasonably priced private island?
At £333,906 you could by over two for the price of the Belsize Park pad.
If you’re sick of your neighbours basement extensions turning your street in to a building site you’ll relish this unspoilt island that’s completely free on manmade structures.
The island is 18.862 acres, approximately the size of 10 football pitches of coconut groves and white sandy beaches rising from a lagoon of achingly blue water.
You can channel your inner Bear Grylls and construct your own shelter, or simply bask in the tropical sun.
You won’t be completely stranded, of course. The island is an hour from Fakarava airport and 45 minutes from Kauehi, the centre of the Tuamotu archipelago.
The French Polynesians apparently have a local saying ‘aita pea pea’, which we are told roughly translates to mean “no worries.” Alright for those who don’t lie awake at night worrying about rising damp and the cost of renting in London.
Of course, compared to the hustle and bustle of London things might get a bit quiet here, but if you’re tired of London then you must be tired of life and sitting on the seashore talking to a spruced up volleyball is probably all that’s left for you.
An eccentric Irish country house…
Bought as a ruin by its artist-writer owners, this stunning five bedroom country house has been structurally restored and transformed into a lovely rural writers retreat.
Again at just £461,409 it’s under budget again, so you’ll have some cash left over to splurge on Guinness.According to estate agent Callum Bain the house is situated in “one of the best parts of Ireland” (although we suspect he may be biased). The location is certainly stunning enough, with the Blackstairs Mountains and the river Barrow to the south of the property.
The house is utterly private, tucked away down a long drive and surrounded by beautiful gardens. As Callum says, “it’s something a little bit special.”
The changing colours of the grounds will help you get back in touch with nature, with shifts from a carpet of spring bluebells to a riot of summer roses. Autumn brings a bounty of fruit from the apple and pear trees and winter sees the silver birches shine in their bare glory.
The ancient walled garden provides a tranquil oasis with benches arranged around rockeries and cascading plants.
Mount Ullard is thought to have been built in the late 18th century and is a listed property.
The L shaped stone building rises three floors and sits under a stone roof. Original features have been preserved where possible, and the home has been decked out in a tastefully eclectic style.
There’s also a basement level that’s currently un-renovated, should you struggle to leave your London ways behind entirely.
A villa on the White Isle…
Sun, sea and a suspicious lack of stress beckon from this Mediterranean villa.
Ideally located in the midpoint between the party hard crowds of Ibiza and the hilltop oasis of San Jose you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
With it’s covering of beautiful pink flowers and it’s bright blue pool the villa is pretty much picture perfect.
Downstairs you’ll find a fully equipped modern kitchen and living area with access to the terraces, whilst upstairs the master suite enjoys views out over the sea and over to the island of Formentera.
The house is fully outfitted with heating and air conditioning to allow for a comfortable existence all year round, although with temperatures ranging from 26 to 12 degrees throughout the year we suspect that cries of ‘put another jumper on’ will soon transform into ‘fetch me another sangria’.
The package also includes a separate guest house, so you can smugly invite all your London friends to visit whenever you want to rub their noses in it.