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Bear Grylls Bought a Rat-Infested Island, Says It Was One of His Best Decisions to Date

Bear Grylls and his family split their time living in London and on a private island off the coast of North Wales. He and his wife Shara bought the island many years ago when they were first married. They spent many summers there with their three sons, and Bear recently posted photos and a video on social media, saying that buying the island was the best thing he ever did.

“It became – and still is – our one uninterrupted period where we are all together with few

guests and few distractions, beautifully separated from the mainland by two miles of wild, tidal sea. We all love it,” wrote Bear in his 2021 autobiography Never Give Up.

While owning a private island sounds like the ultimate in glamor, the reality can be quite different. Some islands don’t have power or water supplies, and you need to be prepared to do boat crossings, sometimes in rough weather. However, when you get there, there are many options for outdoor adventures.

Could you live on a small offshore island? Here are some of the things that came in useful for Bear and his family.

Some Island Experience

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Image by Martin Harvey

Bear Grylls has always had a connection to islands. He spent his childhood on the Isle of Wight in Britain, where he had many adventures with his family, horseback riding on the beach, sailing, and climbing the hills and cliffs with his father, so he was used to island life and knew what it’s like doing sea crossings by boat or ferry.

Before he married his wife Shara, Bear once house-sat on a 20-acre island in Poole Harbour for the winter. He says he loved living there, chopping logs, keeping an eye on the place, and, as he says it, “living like a king.”

A Torch and a Crowbar

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Image by Yiming Chen

Buying and owning a private island is not as glamorous as it sounds. Bear tells the story of how when he first spotted that the island was for sale, he and Shara were 26 years old, had been married one year, and were living on a houseboat, trying to make ends meet. The idea of buying a private island seemed “crazy and fanciful,” he says.

Bear says that when they went to see the 20-acre island, it was a gray winter day and it was raining, which it does frequently in North Wales. They were told to bring a torch and crowbar to gain access to the boarded-up old lighthouse keeper’s cottage on the top of the island.

Bear says the locals probably thought he was crazy “buying a rock out in the sea that has no power or mains water, that is infested with rats and is regularly smashed by winter storms.”

But after negotiating the price down (it cost £95,000 or about USD $115,500), they managed to buy it by pooling their resources.

Patience and Hard Work

When they first visited the island, Bear and Shara found that the house on the island was caved in, with no roof, earth floors, and lots of rubble and junk. There was no power or water. They knew that renovating the house would take a lot of time and money.

Bear wrote about how they had no money to do anything with the island at first, and they used to go over to it on an old jet ski and camp in tents with no power or water. They put up a wind turbine and then small solar panels, and then they started to work on the house. He says the project took about seven years—and that one of the first big tasks was to get rid of all the rats.

A Boat to Get Supplies

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Image by Pgiam

Bear’s island is two miles out to sea, and he says even buying food is hard work.

“Even getting a few supplies involves going down the hill, swimming or rowing out to the RIB, then the rough, wet, two-mile journey across to the mainland, anchor down, row the dinghy ashore, hike to the shops, carry the supplies back to the shore, row out, back into the RIB, back over, and reverse the process . . . but now uphill.”

Sound like your idea of fun?

A Spirit of Adventure

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Image by Francesco Riccardo Iacomino

In good weather, island life can be idyllic. When Bear is on the island in summer, he loves to go cold-water swimming in the sea, climbing, caving, coasteering, and kayaking with his family. He has a pull-up bar suspended over a cave for working out, and he has also had some paramotoring adventures there.

“I have had some epic powered paraglider flights taking off from the cliffs on the

island. These have included a few very close calls, such as engines failing over the sea. Or the time the exhaust broke from its mount and smashed into the props as I skimmed over the lighthouse. It was the luckiest and best-timed emergency landing I’ve ever had,” he wrote in Never Give Up.

If you’re an avid outdoors-person and willing to put in a lot of work—and you happen to have the money—buying a private island might be for you. For Bear and his family, it has become a retreat they can call their very own.

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  1. Several years ago I lived in the bush on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada & I loved loved it!! It was a lot of work; but, soo very worth it.
    If I had the money, was 20 or 30 years younger & didn’t have the health issues older age have brought me😥; I would DEFINITELY love to be living island life again. Unfortunately, I just don’t know if I could do it again now.

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