The island is also a place Lambert Simnel, the young son of an Oxford merchant, landed in June 1487 with an army of mercenaries and was declared the rightful heir to the throne of England. He marched to London, was quickly defeated by Henry VII, and wounded a kitchen servant.
The custom “King of Piel” was probably invented in the early 19th century in reference to Simnel’s declaration of doom, Douglas said. “It’s kind of like looking back at the good old days, and recreating some kind of elaborate ritual,” he says. “It’s a bit weird.”
In the fall and winter, history and picnic buffs leave the island for birds, seals and two full-time residents in one of the private cottages. “It’s a very quiet place,” Mr. Murphy said. “If you don’t have any customers, you have to be Robinson Crusoe and enjoy the comforts you have in mind.”
Mr Callister said several parts of a homeowner’s contract would be negotiated with the council, including wages and whether homeowners would have to live on Piel year-round.
“It’s an opportunity for people who are really open-minded, love that style of business, love the outside, love history,” said Mr. Callister. “At the end of the day, when we’ve all aged a bit, you think, ‘I wish I had made it.’ Don’t pass up that opportunity.”
Mr. Murphy said the job requires someone who, at the very least, doesn’t mind a lot of alone time. He describes winters as “really very harsh,” with storms that bring wind and heavy rain. “You’re mostly stuck on the island alone.”
And once you’re there, you only have so many ways to leave. At low tide, you can walk – carefully, if you know your way – across two miles of sand. But when the tide turns, the only means of transport is a small ferry that Mr. Murphy describes as “a rowing boat with a small engine in the back.”