WHO CAN forget the Scottish Farmer’s ‘Champions of the Decade’ competition last year, when we examined breeds across the board and readers voted for the most impressive livestock in Scotland. When it came to cattle, the top Highlander that came out on top was HM The Queen's bull, Ruaridh 1st of Ubhaidh, a stock bull for her Balmoral fold, which was bred by Roy Abel of Uvie Farm near Newtonmore. This beast was also a Royal Highland Show winner, judged by Angus MacColl of Mull in 2014.

Winning Champions of the Decade wasn’t a mere stroke of luck for breeder Roy Abel. It turns out, remarkably, he also had a second Highlander feature in the final shortlist. A two year old heifer, Eleanor of Ubhaidh, was also in the prestigious top three. Having two out of three animals in the finals really was quite an achievement, especially for a fold of only six breeding females. But, now, there’s an opportunity for somebody else to step into Roy’s shoes and own this champion herd, because this award-winning farmer is moving on and selling his cattle, farm, land and fold name to the right buyer.

“The next chapter of my life beckons but this could be the start of a new story for somebody else,’ says Roy. ‘I’m selling the farm, its 44 acres of land, around fifteen cattle and a handcrafted farm house and additional accommodation that I built by hand. It’s a lifetime’s work but it’s time for something new.”

Uvie Farm offers a mix of potential business opportunities for the right person. The farmhouse, known as the Roundhouse, is unique, idiosyncratic and notably eye-catching with its curves, rounded roof, and floor to ceiling windows that offer exceptional views of the Highland countryside. With three bedrooms, Roy was able to offer accommodation to WWOOF volunteers, but the Roundhouse would clearly make a colourful family home.

A small oak flying walkway connects the Roundhouse to the Crofthouse, a beautifully finished three bedroom (sleeps up to 8) Air BnB property with a fully furnished kitchen and living room. Below the Crofthouse is the ‘Hairy Cow Studio Apartment’, ideal holiday accommodation for solo travellers or a couple, and there is also an actual studio space of 25 square metres with underfloor heating that can be rented out for classes such as yoga, host business meetings in an inspiring setting, or hold events such as ceilidhs, parties or artists’ retreats.

The site also has green credentials. Roy’s ability to craft his own buildings allowed him to focus on renewables.

“There was nothing on the land when I arrived, but there had been years before - the lost township of Ubhaidh. In some sense I was determined to repopulate the land, certainly to make it work again for animals, and people. With my buildings, I took the opportunity to install exceptional insulation, green roof and lime render, a ground sourced heat-pump, and solar electric panels,’ says Roy. ‘As a former joiner I also love working with beautiful Scottish wood and incorporating it into the design — woods such as ash, oak and larch.”

Roy’s roots are in farming. He spent his childhood on a 700 acre farm in Northumberland, heading to marts in Scotland with his father. Meanwhile, Roy’s grandfather acquired 10,000 acres of land in Newtonmore in the 1940s, of which Roy purchased 44 acres in 2000.

“Everything you see I’ve built or created from scratch. But this suited me as I could do things differently, make something special. I initially opted for Highland Cattle simply because I didn’t have the outhouses or barns to shelter them. I needed a breed that could survive and flourish outdoors, 24/7, whilst I built myself a house. I sought the advice of Rich Thomson, one of Scotland’s most respected showmen, and he helped me with my initial purchase of six cows. It all started from there.’

‘I learned my trade,’ continues Roy, ‘and listened to other breeders at the Highland Cattle Society sales in Oban, which were always a key date in my diary. I’m so proud and delighted to have my cattle recognised as Champions of the Decade, and I’ve also had the honour of serving on the council of the Highland Cattle Society as well. My current herd numbers fifteen, and, as well as being exceptionally good stock, they’re also used to having the public around them. We’ve strongly encouraged a good temperament as well as good breeding.”

Roy readily admits to being in complete admiration of the resilience and beauty of these hardy animals. The cattle graze freely in the land surrounding the property so when guests arrive at the Crofthouse or Studio, they immediately get up close and personal with these iconic beasts. Roy has established two ‘Hairy Cow Experiences’, introducing tourists to the Highlanders at close quarters. These sessions are both financially and personally rewarding.

“For many farmers, working with livestock doesn’t bring in money until you sell an animal at market or for slaughter. We all work hard to bring on young stock, but this can take around eighteen months, or longer with native cattle. If you own Highland Cattle you have a few business opportunities at your fingertips, but I generated more income from the tourism and sharing my passion for and knowledge about these animals, than I did from traditional farming. It’s a great way to diversify and add an enjoyable additional income stream.”

Roy currently offers two experiences for his guests. ‘Hug a Hairy’ for couples/honeymooners, and for those seeking a more private booking, then ‘Meet the Hairies’ is aimed at small groups. For prospective buyers, Uvie Farm’s Highland Cattle experiences are already up and running, with the infrastructure in place to welcome guests and a booking system established. In a competitive market of farm tours and rural cottages all fighting to get noticed, the cattle are a clear USP for this Newtonmore farm.

“Pedigree sales to other breeders is another income stream, hence the importance of using good bloodlines and developing a reputation at the shows,’ says Roy. ‘Small can be good because it means your output is limited, leading to competition between buyers: pedigrees mean premiums.”

Ultimately Uvie Farm offers a mix of assets. Award-winning cattle, 44 acres of land, staggering scenery, a family home, two separate properties for rental/tourism, a studio, and Highland Cow experiences all receiving rave reviews on the relevant sites and portals. Additional sale details include hurdles & handling crate, a calf creep, ring feeders, Honda Foreman quad bike with implements, JCB3CX excavator, scaffolding, timber cladding, and a joinery workshop with machines and equipment.

Roy wishes to make the right sale to the right person, passing on his love for the land, this unique breed of cattle, and his way of life. For anyone wishing to find out more, Roy would like to welcome prospective buyers to stay at the Roundhouse to get a sense of Uvie Farm and see if it matches their farming dreams and rural ambitions.

Discover more at myhighlandcroft.co.uk