With the UK hunting season well and truly upon us, Gentleman’s Journal is, of course, on hand to let you in on the best spots to take your shooting gear this year. And, no matter whether you’re on the hunt for pheasant, grouse, or something a little wilder — we have whittled down our definitive list of the country’s finest destinations for the original socially distanced sport, with the help of our esteemed judging panel of hot shots, house guests and hosts.
Along with their destination highlights, our esteemed judges (special thanks must go to the Duke of Northumberland, Simon Rood, Sir Edward Dashwood, Charles Hambro, Jason Abbott, and Rob Fenwick for their insight) have also added in recommendations of the cards, characters and cordial hosts that give the season its particular colour…
Best for pheasant and partridge...
Few are lucky enough to shoot the grey partridges at Arundel, yet those who do marvel at the Duke of Norfolk’s successful efforts at restoring the wild grey partridge population to the South Downs. This is easily one of the best shoots in the UK.
The high pheasants at Brigands can humble even the finest of shots as they soar over the deep valleys in Snowdonia (one drive is even named Humble Pie to help warn overconfident guests).
Count Konrad Goess-Saurau has worked to turn Temple from a farm lacking any wildlife into an award-winning estate that is teeming with birds and beasts. The early-season partridges found here are the best sport on the Marlborough Downs.
Best for grouse...
Wemmergill, Co Durham
With shooting records that date back to 1872, Wemmergill is one of the most prolific and well managed grouse moors in Britain. Owned by Michael Cannon, the estate continues to push the boundaries with modern-day moor management.
East Allenheads, Northumberland
The perfect example of how conservation and shooting are integral to each other, East Allenheads thrives as one of the best grouse moors in the country. The grouse here do not flutter about so guests need to be quick on their toes.
Favoured by the Duke of Northumberland, this Highland estate is a mecca for shooting enthusiasts. With drives set over five corries, each over 3,000 feet, Phoines is one of the most spectacular and challenging spots to shoot grouse.
Best for wild shooting...
Islay Estate, Islay
Islay Estate has everything one needs for a serious sporting trip. There are woodcock, snipe, and geese that can be walked up or found on driven days with pheasant and partridge. Once the shooting is over, guests can also take up a rod or go stalking on the hills.
Orkney Islands, Orkney
The Orkney Islands are annually flooded with migratory greylag geese and one result of this is that shots can experience unparalleled flighting with astonishing views. Watching a wild goose come in while you are hidden on a beach facing a stormy Atlantic is truly unique.
Slebech Estate, Pembrokeshire
The best wild shooting you can find in the south of the UK, Slebech Estate has woodcock, snipe, and teal in abundance. The woodcock keeper John Webb and his team of beaters are masters at finding woodcock in the thickest of cover.
Best for beginners...
The Holland & Holland Shooting Ground is the finest shooting retreat to be found within the M25. Set in 130 acres of open countryside, Holland & Holland has been providing world-class tuition on these hallowed grounds since 1932 — and recent renovations have locked, loaded and led them to the cutting edge of shooting tutelage.
Most enjoyable overnight stay...
It has proven impossible to single a particular establishment out, such is the quality of hospitality on show up and down the country – just remember to check lockdown restrictions before you travel.
A scattering of honourable mentions go to Bereleigh under the brilliant William and Philippa Tyrwhitt-Drake, Ugbrooke Park under the erstwhile and charming butler Alex, and Linhope, where host Lord James Percy “understands the attention to detail superbly well”, according to Jason Abbott.
Sir Edward Dashwood, meanwhile, singles out an overseas experience: ”My most enjoyable overnight stay was in Iceland — when we got snowed in shooting ptarmigan in the mountains!”
And, even though the facilities are second-to-none — with new layouts including wild-flower meadows and a cosy bothy to relax in between stands — the main reason to visit Holland & Holland’s refurbished facility is the tuition services. As well as lessons, the shooting ground is also the perfect place for gun-fittings and a range of additional courses to improve performance in the field.
Best place for a shoot lunch...
A mouthwatering list of suggestions here, but a handful were worthy of particular mention. “Any lunch produced by Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes (she used to be the hostess at Knarsdale and previously at Maristow) or the picnic lunch of woodcock breast cooked on a stove in a railway hut at Slebech Estate” might just take the biscuit, writes Sir Edward Dashwood.
Simon Rood remembers a particular meal on the coldest day of the year at Sandringham: “The Duke of Edinburgh joined us for the most special lunch. So good and warming!” Jason Abbott, meanwhile, gives the nod to West Wycombe and its “delicious lunch in a lovely converted barn.”