Scotland saw a rise in the number of hill farms marketed during 2022, according to research from land and property specialist, Strutt & Parker.

Analysis of the data from the past 12 months showed that a total of 24 hill farms came to the open market in Scotland in 2022, compared with 11 in 2021 and nine in 2020.

Farm agent for the company in Scotland, Diane Fleming, said: “Hill farms accounted for 27% of the farms on sale in 2022, when they usually make up between 10-20% of farms.

“This signals that some farmers have been tempted to take advantage of the premium prices that have been on offer from forestry and natural capital buyers.”

Strutt & Parker research shows that the value of land suitable for afforestation peaked during the first half of 2022 and reached in excess of £8,000/ac in some instances.

However, the company said that prices cooled in the second half of the year, which may be attributed to the change in the rules on how carbon credits can be attributed to commercial plantations.

“Farms on the whole sold well, and with a record-breaking price well in excess of £20,000/ac paid for some arable land on the east coast,” Fleming said.

“The average value of prime arable land on the east coast was £9,500/ac, much in line with 2021, but varied widely according to location, from an average of £4,500/ac in the Highlands to £16,000/ac in the Lothians.

“Meanwhile, the average price paid for grass leys increased from £3,500/ac in 2021 to £4,000/ac in 2022.”

A total of 41,600ac were launched to the open market in 2022, which is 30% above the five-year average.

“While there is lot of talk about forestry and ESG (environmental, social and governance) buyers, it is worth noting the main buyers were farmers looking to expand their businesses or invest rollover proceeds from development land,” Fleming said.

“This is despite all the commotion faced by agricultural businesses over the past 12 months, including rising input prices, escalating interest rates and uncertainty over agri-policy reform.

“However, during 2022 there was an increase in activity from non-farming investors who perceived land as a safer asset class compared to many other investment options.

“Based on our experience of the new year so far, we are expecting a strong supply of land to hit the market but for demand to continue to outweigh supply and values to hold.”