Drake’s Island for sale for the first time in a generation

A historic fortress island in the heart of Plymouth Sound is to go on sale this autumn, marketed by international property consultancy JLL.

October 14, 2018

Drake’s Island, named after Sir Francis Drake who set sail from the island in 1577 to circumnavigate the globe, has stood untouched for almost 30 years and has planning permission for a luxury hotel and spa complex.

Standing 600 metres off Plymouth’s shore, the historic six acre (2.4 hectare)-island played a crucial role in the defending the maritime city, which began in Tudor times and continued for centuries.

Fending off the French and Spanish in the late 16th century and later protecting Plymouth from Royalist attack during the Civil War, the island has since been a prison, religious centre, refuge and most recently an adventure training facility, which closed in 1989. The island’s Grade II listed buildings, which date back to 1860, are clearly visible from the shore.

JLL is now offering the freehold for sale, with a guide price of £6 million, on behalf of owner Rotolok and is inviting bids from all interested parties.

Aidan McCauley from Rotolok, commented: “My dad, Dan McCauley, bought the island in the 1990s. As the previous chairman of Plymouth Argyle Football Club, he has a close affinity with the city and has long-held a vision to see the island brought back into use. As a family and as a company, we are passionate about seeing his vision turned into a reality and are exploring all options to make this happen.”

John Kinsey, director at JLL in Exeter, said: “Drake’s Island is a remarkable piece of British history and a much-loved landmark that the Plymouth community holds close to its heart. It has long been the owners’ priority to bring the island back into sustainable use for the benefit of visitors, local residents and the wider economy.

“With the added attraction of planning permission for a luxury hotel and spa this is a unique opportunity to lead one of the South West’s most exciting and unusual developments. But of course, that’s only one permitted approach. Now being sold freehold, it means the future is wide open for this historic island.”

In spring 2017, Plymouth City Council granted planning permission to create a luxury hotel complex including the conversion of the existing buildings and the casemated battery along with significant infrastructure works.

There are several buildings on the island, all of which stem back to its historic, military past. These range from the original, Grade II listed Governor’s House, built circa 1830 overlooking the entrance to the island from the pier, and adjoining barracks facing west, to the casemates and battery which housed major armaments to protect the city against attack from the sea.

In addition, an extensive underground tunnel network runs through the east of the island, along with remains of Tudor fortifications and traces of the island’s role as a prison during the reign of Charles II.

The island was recently featured on the BBC’s Secret Britain series and in Hidden Britain by Drone with Tony Robinson on Channel 4.

Further information is available from JLL’s Exeter office by calling Mike Easton on 01392 429381.