While most millionaire landowners enjoy the luxury of being helicoptered or chauffeured to their country pile, there is one laird of the Hebrides who prefers to get on his bike.

Roc Sandford regularly travels to and from his London home to spend one- third of the year living off-grid on the remote isle of Gometra.

The environmental campaigner, who has not flown or owned a car for over a decade, even ditched his island quad bike – as an unnecessary luxury– two years ago.

Choosing to make the long journey north by public transport, and cycling wherever possible, he stores his bike at Ulva Ferry, on Mull, before catching a ferry to the neighbouring isle of Ulva.

The hardy father of four then tackles the final eight miles of rough track to Gometra on foot – via a bridge which connects the island to Ulva at low tide.
And the aim, he says, is to make it “a pleasure to use ever less fossil fuels”.

The 61-year-old, who is calling for the introduction of a carbon tax so
that polluters pay for their pollution, said: “I bicycle most places if I can
and otherwise use trains and buses. 

“I have not flown for over 10 years and I have no car in Gometra, or London.”

For more than 25 years now Mr Sandford who, with help from a neighbouring family, farms a flock of 350 sheep on Gometra, has lived off-grid whenever he is on the car-free island, which has no ferry service.

To say Gometra – which Mr Sandford bought to expand his farming acreage, after selling two smaller farms he inherited – is lacking in mod cons is an understatement.

But the island owner, a paper millionaire who could easily pay for a jetset lifestyle if he sold his properties, loves the more basic existence that Gometra offers.

He said: “Gometra is a beautiful lump of rock, covered in heather, sat in the sea. 

“We have no mains electricity, no utility bills, no washing machine – I just have my feet and a bucket.”

Mr Sandford added: “We have to make everything ourselves on Gometra, but that is quite fun and stimulating, it’s nicer than the on-grid version, there is a satisfaction about it.”

He believes a greener lifestyle is as feasible for town and city dwellers as it is for his own family and the other two households who live on Gometra, where one boat a week brings the mail and supplies to the island.

Mr Sandford said: “You can have a solar panel, even in a city, then, even in a power cut, you have lights.

“People can think about the food they eat and how they do their washing, cut down on the amount of meat they eat, wear wool clothes, not cotton clothes, then you don’t have to heat your house as much.” 

The single parent, who retains a base in London as a court order stipulates that his children must attend school on the mainland, said: “I’m trying to import my Scottish off-grid experience to London, where it has much more of an impact because so many more of us live in cities.”

He added: “I have no car and no telly in either place. In both Scotland and London I have solar panels.

“In London, I also use renewable-only electricity from the grid. In Scotland I do without hot water. 

“In London I have a bath every week or so using gas, and use gas for cooking.  

“I use wood for heating in London, and if it’s really cold, or someone is ill,  I’ll also use some gas for heating in London.  

“This is carbon offset ‘green’ gas – but I’m sceptical about that.

“Nobody is perfect, but if we can just all make an effort ... I think, what I’m trying to do, is to make it a pleasure to use ever less fossil fuels.” 

He added: “I think there is a lot wrong with our mainstream life, we are programmed to think we want it, but it’s actually not very nice.

“The air is polluted and it is noisy and people are unhappy because they are being put in difficult positions by our mainstream society and it’s very tempting to go away from that and find a less damaging way of life.

“Pollution is theft. I think this is the root of the whole problem we are facing – that polluters are not paying the cost of their pollution.”

Mr Sandford lost 17 ewes-in-lamb in exceptional wintry conditions on Gometra last March, which he blames on climate change. 

He said: “If we do not take urgent action, it may well kill everything we love.”