Ian McLean and Robbie Pancic had aspirations to start a horticultural business on the Isle of Skye, and good fortune lead them to find a secluded spot on croft land overlooking Loch Dunvegan. A site of such natural beauty required a home which would be sympathetic to this, and the finished design is just that.

With a low lying roof and use of natural materials, they have created a self built home which is light and stylish on the inside, but blends into the landscape. For them, it is the ideal place to work, relax and start a new life.

Project Notes

  • Name: Ian McLean and Robbie Pancic
  • Build cost: £260,000 (£2,364/m²)
  • Build time: 11 months
  • Region: Isle of Skye

The Site

Finding the idyllic spot for their new home took determination. Robbie and Ian wanted somewhere rural, close to the sea, and with an uninterrupted view. Not wanting to compromise, they looked at more than 100 plots and renovation opportunities before finding the perfect place.

They had fallen in love with the Isle of Skye while holidaying there, and began their search in early 2011. They wanted enough land to start a horticultural business or market garden, and to build a holiday let alongside to supplement their income. When they drove past the open croft land in Galtrigill one day, they knew they’d found their site.

They asked their solicitor to make enquiries about the land and found that the owner was living in the croft house, but was interested in selling off part of his 15-acre estate. Under the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010, they were allowed to buy and develop the land, as long as they made a contribution to the rural life — their market garden plan fulfilled this requirement.

The Brief

Before they had even confirmed they could buy the site, they had found an architect. They were drawn towards Dualchas Architects, having seen their modern designs around the island. Dualchas were adept at creating contemporary homes using traditional materials and this was exactly what they were after.

Ian and Robbie were also keen to build a sea-facing house with a wall of glass to capture the stunning views which had been the clincher in their hunt. However, with the stormy weather, the house would need to be engineered in steel to house the super low-E insulated glass, to make it weatherproof. High, narrow windows on the back of the house bring more light into the middle of the building.

The Design

The low-lying home is almost hidden in the rural landscape, merely offering a suggestion of roof line to passersby. The flat roof, simple elevations, grey stone and larch cladding create a subtle arrangement and the eye is instead drawn to the views of Loch Dunvegan beyond.

Inside, the home has a quasi-Scandinavian style which is becoming ever popular in contemporary Hebridean homes. There is an open-plan kitchen, diner and living room and a separate utility room. The other half of the home has two bedrooms and a large bathroom in it.


The design had been mastered to convince the planners. Although the top of the croft was inside the Settlement Development Area, Ian and Robbie’s preferred location was just outside. A pre-planning meeting was arranged on site and Dualchas were able to highlight an area where the gradient falls and the house could be built into a natural overhang.

The single storey and flat roof satisfied the planners as the house would not obstruct the views from the road and their planning application was accepted in November 2011. Permission was also approved for the holiday home, as the local authority were happy to encourage tourism.

The Build

Work got underway in summer 2012. Unfortunately tenders came back 50–100 percent more expensive than expected, jeopardising their budget. To resolve the issue, they took out one of the bedrooms and reduced the size of the other rooms. This brought the estimates down, but still some £70,000 above what they’d hoped for their self build.

They chose a builder who the architects knew, and were impressed by their work ethic and ‘can-do’ attitude. However, a further financial hit came when the groundworkers hit extremely hard rock while digging the foundations. This added four weeks and £10,000 to the build.

However, once the structure was up, things improved and by the end of 2012 building work had started on the holiday house too. This has a mono-pitched roof and corrugated aluminium facade to mimic the old agricultural buildings dotted around Skye.

The house was completed in 11 months and Ian and Robbie moved into their new home in June 2013. Despite some frustrations – and feeling they could have benefitted from an impartial project manager to understand the conversations between architect and builder – they are delighted with how the house has turned out. They are also pleased they invested in their floor-to-ceiling windows and can enjoy the views and make the most of their perfect location.

Our Sponsors