Nora Johnson – The smallest timeshare

Imagine owning a holiday home, but only for half the year, with someone else taking over the rest! Sounds strange, right? Well, that’s the peculiar reality of Pheasant Island, a minuscule piece of land sandwiched between Spain and France that switches countries every six months. It’s the tiniest patch of jointly ruled land on the planet! 

It lies 20m from the French bank and 10m from the Spanish bank of the River Bidasoa, between the towns of Hendaye and Irun. Forget sun loungers and beach umbrellas, this 6,800-square-metre isle boasts zero residents and a whole lot of history. Both countries lay claim to it, thanks to the Treaty of the Pyrenees that ended the Franco-Spanish war.

And here’s the twist: despite the name, no pheasants call this place home. So, just think of it as the ultimate timeshare. From February to July, Spain holds the reins, followed by France for the remaining six months. And if you’re planning to visit, the island throws open its doors (well, gate) just twice a year – during the official handover ceremonies in February and August.

Each changeover comes with a touch of light-hearted rivalry. The Spanish mayor jokingly grumbles about clearing the undergrowth in summer while the French enjoy leisurely lawn-mowing duties in winter – although erosion means the island is slowly shrinking anyway…

Nora Johnson’s 12 critically acclaimed psychological suspense crime thrillers, including the latest ‘The Couple across the Street’ (, all available online at Amazon etc. Profits to Cudeca cancer charity.     


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Written by

Nora Johnson

Novelist Nora Johnson offers insights on everything from current affairs to life in Spain, with humour and a keen eye for detail.