Inside Richard Branson’s new Necker Island: Beautiful Caribbean escape restored to its former glory after devastating fire caused by lightning strike (but it will still set you back £40,000 a night)
- Necker Island’s Great House burned down in 2011 after an apparent lightning strike
- But two years later, Sir Richard Branson has announced the extensive restructure is almost finished
- The new Great House boasts a 1,500 square feet master bedroom and eight guests rooms
- Each room comes with a balcony, king-size bed and en-suite bathroom
- The paradise island will be available to rent again from September and guests
By Becky Evans
Set in the Caribbean, Richard Branson’s holiday home Necker Island is a by-word for luxury and has played host to a vast array of A-list celebrities and royalty.
But the 74-acre paradise was severely damaged in a 2011 fire that devastated the island’s Great House.
Two years later, Branson has announced the extensive restructure of the house is almost complete and will soon be available for exclusive hire once again – for a staggering £40,000 per night.
Paradise: Sir Richard Branson has spent two years refurbishing the Great House on Necker Island, in the British Virgin Islands
Stunning: The new master bedroom in the Great House will have unbelievable panoramic views of Necker Island
Luxury: The new Great House was modelled on the original, which burned down in the 2011 fire, and has retained the same Balinese design
Premium: Enjoying the private sandy beaches and gorgeous swimming pool comes at a premium price – a staggering £40,000 per night
Nice if you can get it: For those that can afford to rent the island, guests have the use of Necker’s have the use the swimming pool on the Island¿s Bali Lo, Buah and Kukila
Opulent: As well as sleeping 20 people in the Great House, guests also have access to the beach houses (pictured)
The private island house, which Branson has owned since 1979, boasts eight guest rooms, each with a balcony, king-sized bed and en-suite bathroom.
A 1,500 square feet master suite sits upstairs that has been specifically designed to give panoramic views of the Caribbean, the Atlantic Ocean and neighbouring islands.
The island can be hired exclusively for up to 30 adults but this kind of luxury comes at a price per night that few people earn in a year.
An exclusive week’s rental, that includes six individual Bali Houses dotted around the island and two tennis courts, costs £275,800.
The Great House was gutted by the fire on August 22, 2011, which was believed to have been caused by lightning from Tropical Storm Irene.
Kate Winslet, who has since married Branson’s nephew Ned Rocknroll, was in the house at the time and helped carry the business tycoon’s 90-year-old mother Eve.
He told ITV News shortly after the fire: ‘She [Winslet] said it was like being on a film set where you’re waiting for the word ‘cut’, but it just didn’t come.’
Romantic: For even more privacy, guests can choose to stay in the secluded beach house on the 74-acre island that straddles the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean
Al Fresco: Outside a table is laid big enough to seat all the guests on Necker at the same time
Fireside: Guests can lounge by the sea on the beach in hammocks, ornate sofas or eat and drink on the sand
Leisure: Necker boasts two tennis courts and guests can also exercise in the opulent pool or relax in the outdoor spa
Decadent: As well as chefs on the island providing top quality food, the Great House comes with fully-stocked fridges for midnight feasts
The Virgin boss said guests, including his son Sam and daughter Holly, were woken at about 5am after hearing loud bangs as gas canisters exploded.
He said: ‘It was terrifying for me because my daughter and nephews, nieces, friends were all in the house, so I just ran, naked, towards the house to try to make sure I could get people out.’
The new house, which has followed the original’s Balinese design, is due to reopen on September 2013.
The rest of the island has remained open to visitors since the fire.
New features include an expansive outdoor terrace with hammocks and sofas and a large dining table for guests to eat together al fresco.
There is also a fully-stocked bar for cocktails and a crow’s nest on the roof has amazing views.
Sir Richard Branson said: ‘Necker Island has been my home for more than 30 years and for me it is the most beautiful place in the world.
Phoenix from the ashes: Sir Richard Branson, pictured with his wife Joan, and daughter Holly, said he is ‘thrilled’ with the refurbished house
Devastated: The Great House was totally gutted in the 2011 blaze that is believed to have been caused by a lightning strike
Rescue: Kate Winslet, the wife of Branson’s nephew Ned Rocknroll, is credited with helping to rescue the billionaire’s mother Eve from the blaze
Ablaze: The Great House was gutted by the inferno but all the guests, including Sir Richard Branson’s children, managed to escape
‘The brand new Great House is the heart of the island and I am thrilled with the results so far.
‘The opening of the Great House in September signals a new dawn for Necker which I’m very excited about.’
Branson was only 28 when he bought the island for £180,000 and turned it into the superstar resort.
Necker Island – aptly for the Virgin boss – is located in the British Virgin Islands.
It is a surrounded by turquoise waters, coral reefs and white sandy beaches and as well as celebrity guests is also home to diverse wildlife including flamingos, iguanas, lemurs and giant tortoises.
Powerful friends: Sir Richard Branson has known to have hosted Prince Harry and Tony Blair at Necker Island
Royal draw: Diana, Princess of Wales, is pictured on a deck chair on Necker Island during a holiday in January, 1989
Prince’s favourite: Prince William (centre) and Prince Harry (right) arrives at Necker Island by boat during the 1989 trip
Over the years it has attracted royalty such as Princess Diana, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge, who visited during her split from Prince William, who took advantage of the privacy the island provides.
The list of megastars from Hollywood and the world of sport to have holidayed there is seemingly endless and includes Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro, Oprah Winfrey, the Rolling Stones and the likes of John McEnroe and Novak Djokovic.
More surprisingly, it has also been a haven to some of the biggest names in politics such as Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and Tony Blair.
A HAVEN FOR WILDLIFE… AND THE RICH AND FAMOUS: A HISTORY OF NECKER ISLAND
Sir Richard Branson, pictured with his infant son Sam on Necker Island in 1986, bought it when he was just 28
The 74-acre island of Necker is part of the British Virgin Islands and sits on the boundary of the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean.
It was named after the 17th century Dutch squadron commander Johannes de Neckere but remained uninhabited during the early 20th century.
It was bought by Sir Richard Branson in 1979 after he heard some of the Virgin Islands were being sold.
Branson was just 28 – and only six years after starting the Virgin Group.
He offered a very low bid of £100,000, which was rejected, but eventually secured the paradise island for £180,000.
He was forced to build a resort within five years of taking ownership, otherwise the government said it would be taken back by the state.
According to reporters, Branson spent about £6.5million creating the luxury resort over the next three years.
It has played host to an array of the world’s most powerful, rich and famous.
Princess Diana chose the island for her holiday with Prince William and Prince Harry.
It was also a haven of privacy for the Duchess of Cambridge when she fled Britain during her temporary split from Prince William.
Google founder Larry Page even chose it for his wedding to Lucy Southworth in 2007.
It was also the site of Sir Richard’s daughter Holly Branson’s wedding to shipbroker Fred Andrews just months after devastating fire.
Her wedding was on the same spot as that of Sir Richard and his wife Joan Templeman’s in 1989 when Holly was eight and her brother Sam was four.
In April 2011, Branson offered the island to his close friend Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge for the royal couple honeymoon.