The UK’s Top Shoots 2014

Now in its third year, The Gentleman’s Journal’s top shoot list is fast becoming the definitive annual ranking of the country’s best shoots for those who know. With over 100 of the UK’s top shots every year casting their vote, it’s the only shoot list which can be called truly democratic. A special mention must go to the following, who have all generously imparted their knowledge and wisdom: William Asprey, Ian Coley, Rob Fenwick, William Tyrwhitt-Drake, Charles Hambro, Simon Ford, Lord Margadale, Simon Rood, Mark Osbourne, Edward Darbishire and Phil Burtt, without whom compiling such a list would not be possible. This year to spice things up further we have added new categories, crowning individual shoots which excel in their field; namely grouse, partridge and pheasant. The main list is in no particular order and represents the best shooting not only in the UK, but in the world. From far and wide, we have included grey partridge shoots and fast grouse lines to pheasant shooting estates who play the Dambusters theme tune on the line. Variety, gentlemen, is the spice of life.


Best Grouse Moors | Muggleswick, East Allenheads and Gunnerside

An Honourable Mention goes to: Bolton Abbey


Best Partridge Shoots | Holkham, Arundel, Linhope and Prescombe

An Honourable Mention goes to: Brixton Deverill 


Best Pheasant Shoots | Castle Hill, Brigands, Garrowby and Dumbleton

An Honourable Mention goes to: Alnwick  


Best Shoot Lunch | Badminton, East Allenheads, Lambton

An Honourable Mention goes to: Petworth Park


Best Hosts 

Simon Ford

The successful Gloucestershire based businessman is delightful company, never takes himself too seriously and is known for cracking open the fizz after the last drive. E.J Churchill’s Rob Fenwick comments “I just can’t remember actually leaving one of his parties”.


Jeremy Herrmann

We are not surprised to see Jeremy on the best host list. It is one thing to own a grouse moor, but quite another thing altogether to own two of the world’s best. East Allenheads has received praise from all sides this year, not just for the shooting but the noteworthy lunch. 


Jamie Lee

Lee runs stand out shoots both at Rushmoor and Guy Richie’s Ashcome. Ashcome is well-known when it comes to entertaining and past guests have credited Jamie with impeccable hosting skills that are reportedly on par with his shooting. Which, given that he is one of the top shots in the country, is quite a compliment.


Most Entertaining Guests

Those individuals who never fail to entertain, have fellow guests in stitches, are courteous, tell the best stories and shoot pretty well too. 

In no particular order: Sir Chris Evans, Guy Rasch, Sir David Tang, Nick Fortesque & James Campbell-Gray (perform best as a pair), Willie Carson and John Ward


Most Enjoyable Overnight Stay 

The general consensus that it would be impossible to pick a winner, so we decided instead to go with Simon Rood’s answer “as long as there’s a good crowd, good food and lots of red wine, it always turns into a cracking night” We concur. Nonetheless, here’s the shortlist.



Abbotsbury, Dorset

This pheasant shoot can easily be ranked as one of the top shoots in the South of England. Its relatively low number of shoot days mean that the condition of the land and the birds is always impeccable. The landscape of Abbotsbury is quite something: you can expect to be met with awesome views down onto the Swannery and the Sun sparkling over the sea. Something not even a record bag can outdo. The skyline here is quite simply exceptional, and the birds are guaranteed to be aiming for the clouds, even with strong coastal winds.


Alnwick, Northumberland

This estate is owned by the Duke and Duchess of the county. The former is a keen shot, averaging over 100 days each year, and is among the elite owners who are committed to encouraging wild game. The main shoot covers 5,000 acres of Hulne Park and is always a quality bag. However, there are a few days a year (four double) that are let to shoot outside the park, where the bag can be astonishingly varied. The team here pride themselves on offering a bespoke service, resulting in many return visitors.

Contact: Alnwick Estate office // Tel: 01665 510777


Angmering, Sussex

The archetypal model of a shoot that is very well run by the host, Nigel Clutton, who is a master of his land and knows every line like the back of his hand. Which is just as well, considering the crescent shapes and high points reaching above the underlying land. The 6,000 acre shoot was constructed by Nigel and Colin Cowdrey, open steep combes and agricultural land make for the perfect shooting topography. They’ve mastered tea, nibbles and lunch – and an enjoyable assortment of beverages too. We envy Nigel’s knowledge and skills as much as those who get to shoot here.

Contact: Nigel Clutton // Tel: 01903 882220


Arundel, Sussex

This is a shoot sprawled out over two estates in the South Downs National Park. The woodlands here house one of the most ambitious conservation projects we know of, and the Duke of Norfolk and his team have won Purdey awards for their efforts to re-establish a wild grey partridge population. It’s incredibly successful at achieving record bags too.

Contact: Peter Knight, Estate Manager // Tel: 01903 883400


Ashcombe, Wiltshire/Dorset Border

From Ashcombe’s history as a ruin rescued by Cecil Beaton in the ’30s to Guy Ritchie’s Georgian gift, this estate is 1,000 acres of unspoilt undulating terrain. It’s best loved by most for its very, yes, very, challenging partridge and pheasant and its wonderful collection of chalky valleys that are feared by even the boldest of guns. The Museum at Farnham offers rustic but great accommodation and has a gastropub underneath. Lunch during the days is held in the Orangery, a beautiful respite from the winter weather.

Contact Roxtons


Bereleigh, Hampshire

A very well established estate, boasting both mature woods and beautifully crafted newer plating. Bereleigh is spread over the Meon Valley, with some unrivalled vistas. The shoot is run with clockwork like precision and has a very high-end family feel. The Georgian House accommodates most parties, and both owner Bill and his wife Philippa are expert entertainers. The dining hall and billiard room have proven to be especially good fun and the shooting is seriously top draw. Our winning drive is “Mascombe Bottom”, a natural dip in the chalk down and the summer location to the infamous “Lobster Shoot”.

Contact: Bill Tyrwhitt-Drake // Tel: 01730 823486


Belvoir Castle, Rutland

Headkeeper Tim Rolfe and Shoot Captain Phil Burtt are making a bee-line for the title of the best shoot in England. And we’d say they’re not far off. This 16,000 acre state is owned by the Duke of Rutland. For parties who wish to stay in the castle, you can be privy to a private tour, exemplary food and a good night’s sleep before attempting to draw the biggest bag yet.

Contact: Megan Turner // Tel: 01476 871004


Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire

If there were a poster boy for the rare synergy of tradition and quality that is so often associated with Yorkshire shoots, it would be Bolton Abbey. With only a brace of days a week on average throughout the season, the Devonshire family strives to provide the highest quality shoots with a low-key feel. This 30,000 acre estate in Wharfedale is predominantly moorland, providing zipping grouse. The drive of the day is often given to Low Gill, with a remarkably idyllic backdrop of the aqueduct at Howgill, and the youthful conifer plantation provides some late but soaring pheasant. This memorable shoot in White Rose country is made better by the lunch provided by The Devonshire Arms, recent winner of top 100 restaurant in the UK. Oh, and one more thing: the ruins of a 12th century priory in the grounds are always a crowd-pleaser.


Brigands, Snowdonia

Brigands is an immersive experience, as you find yourself surrounded by untouched nature on the border of the Snowdonia National Park. Its valleys (created by what are better described as mountains, not hills) are cunningly covered by harsh crop, creating fast flushes of birds. The scenery is best enjoyed with top-ups of champagne and sloe gin. Luckily, both are routine here. A very fine drive features a waterfall backdrop, and has been crafted by nature as a testing ground, a mix of fast, slow, low, high birds, take your pick.

Contact Philip Wolstenholme of the Bettws Hall Shooting Group:


Caerhays, Cornwall

This flourishing rural community, on the south Cornwall coast, has shooting firmly rooted at its heart. The estate of Caerhays Castle is run by the infamous Charles Williams. The shoot is among 120 acres with drives in a variety of locations – some with spectacular sea views, others on the edge of the exotic woodland created by Williams himself. William’s wife led the conversion of the old rectory into luxury accommodation complete with personal chef: “The Vean”, as it known, sleeps 8. This shoot runs 80 days a year, rearing the traditional Kansas pheasant. The most talked-about drive boasts views of the castle, designed by Nash in 1807, a stunning listed building flanked by deep valleys.


Castle Hill, Devon

The shoot is rated among the best, not only against others in Exmoor but nationally. It’s too often said that each shoot has the highest bird, but there’s no argument when it comes to Castle Hill. The expertise of its Headkeeper Brian Mitchell is fundamental to rearing sky-high pheasants. We spoke to a few shots who have yet to find faster examples. There’s some stunning salmon and trout fishing here too, as well as an impressive house. Its an all-in-one and one for the bucket list.


Chargot, Devon

Talk about tailor-made topography. Chargot, on the edge of Exmoor, was made for partridge and pheasant shooting. We can’t prepare you for the extensive number of bottomless valleys that hit you here, nothing will, but ask around and you’ll hear some incredible stories. The day’s shooting starts in the shoot lodge, at the centre of the estate. There’s a choice of five accommodations: we suggest the Tarr Farm Inn, the perfectionist’s pub.

Contact Philip Wolstenholme of the Bettws Hall Shooting Group:


Drumlanrig on the Queensbury Estate

This belongs to the Duke of Buccleuch, and offers huge variety of shooting in magnificent scenery, with 25 drives covering 15,000 acres. Pheasant days range from double gun driven days to waked-up shooting with dogs or hawks. The recent addition of partridges is now very highly rated by people in the know. There’s also 25,000 acres of heather moorland for first class grouse. An estate which has it all.

Buccleuch Sporting Office // Tel: 01848 600415


Dumbleton, Gloucestershire

On our list for the second year running, Dumbleton, whilst not a commercial shoot, has certainly gained a reputation as one of the best pheasant shoots in the country. And those who know it, keep it quiet to ensure it remains this way. The estate has been owned by banking family the Hambros for over 50 years. With its deep valleys it makes for some of the most unforgiving drives known to man (or at least Englishmen). One renowned shot said he ranked it on par with Castle Hill for this specific reason. If you’re lucky enough to shoot here, the drive after lunch is the one to watch out for, called “The Warren”, it’s a beautiful long and deep valley which produces some seriously high birds and requires an expert’s eye. No doubt it’s saved for last for this very reason and if shot well, there is no better way to finish a day. A real gem, only experienced by a fortunate few, who are now all committed fans.


East Allenheads, Northumberland

If we had to pick one shoot that got a unanimous committee vote this year, East Allenheads would be it. Some even say it’s now on par with Muggleswick for continuing to have record years, either way, this is one of the best grouse moors in the country. Praise must go to the remarkable team of Herrmann and Colmer, as well as award-winning gamekeeper Alan Edwards, whose management has brought enormous bags coupled with conservation grades. Guests have the choice to stay nearby in Langley Castle or at Slaley Hall – either will be more than satisfactory, as will the lunches.


Encombe, Dorset

A shooting estate perched right on the sea, so it would be silly to mention the obvious. The views are mesmerising. As is the Georgian house built by John Pitt in 1734: his famous open-plan layout is now home to James and Arabella Gaggero. Encombe is not as well known as it should be, and if there’s one drive worth visiting, it’s in the “Golden Bowl” a quintessential English valley, secluded amidst established woodland. A naturally brilliant shooting experience and one that seems to be getting quite the reputation.


Faccombe, Hampshire

This is undoubtedly one of the closest quality shoots to London and, given that proximity, the privacy of the estate is remarkable. The house is set behind a high wall in a secluded location for those wanting to seek some time out from the City. The rugged landscape of undulating hills is ideal for both pheasant and partridge shooting. The estate used to be owned by the late Brigadier Tim Landon, who took an interest in green energy: the 650 acre estate runs off wind turbines. However, this does not disturb the beauty of the area, nor the well-kept drives.


Fonthill, Wiltshire 

A civilised shoot owned by the charming Lord Margadale and a wonderful example of Capability Brown landscaping. The distant views here really are works of art, but you can also experience some of the trickiest pheasant, and flutters of partridge, within the 10,000 acres of this sporting estate. The hospitality is rated second to none: lunch is in the Gamekeeper’s Cottage and partiers stay in nearby accommodation at Howard’s House Hotel. A beautifully classic English shoot – they even pluck your pheasants for you.

Tel: 01747 820246 // E-mail:


Garrowby, Yorkshire

This estate, located in the midst of Yorkshire’s glacial terrain, plays on its natural valleys with a mixture of woody slopes and open land of cover crop. In fact, the estate includes the top point in the Yorkshire Wolds. This extreme range forms a challenging day’s shot, even for the locals who were bred into the elite of high pheasant experts. If you find yourself alongside them, be sure to watch and learn, and consider yourself extremely lucky. The 13,500-acre estate is owned by Lord Halifax and rarely opens a day for let. When they do, it’s a golden game ticket.


Gunnerside, North Yorkshire

Another of Yorkshire’s great grouse moors. This isolated shoot is a haven for throwing yourself into the sport and really is a pinnacle of grouse shooting, extending to over 30,000 acres. Be prepared for exhaustingly breathtaking landscapes and drives that will have you digging deep. The ultimate combination of fast, low birds and high, slow drives.


Holkham, Norfolk

300 years of Earls of Leicester, all of whom have added to the planting here, means you can be among some of the oldest woodland in England. There’s also a lake, otherwise known as a sanctuary, that isnit shot but is admired by all. The 10,000 acres of land here on the North Norfolk coast is spoiling; it was a favourite shoot of King Edward VII, a real gentleman. For a break in a Palladian mansion, a memorable day’s shooting and perhaps a stroll on the never-ending beach, or some owl spotting, this is the place.

Tel: 01328 710227 //


Linhope, Cheviot Hills

A shoot that has had some thoughtful investment. Located near Alnwick, owner James Percy has given this estate much precious time, putting it firmly on the map for partridge shooting. More recently, James has seen a huge increase in the number of grouse, and, to the admiration of many, he continues to be one of the country’s best shots, especially with this bird. If you’re lucky enough to shoot here, and even more privileged to be rewarded with his advice, listen carefully.


Matterley, Hampshire

Set in some wonderful Hampshire valley’s, Matterley returns to our list this year and quite rightly so. It’s a fantastic pheasant shoot with some pretty good partridge too. The estate includes the impressive Cheesefoot Head, with its huge Punchbowl that produces some challenging birds. On the other side of the estate, in an area known as Hampage, there is some great woodland which produces some evasive woodcock. The estate is owned by Peveril Bruce, who inherited it from the late Commander (Henry) Bruce, however we now hear that Peveril’s son Otto has expertly taken over as shoot captain. The final player in this family affair is Minna who puts on a great lunch. Lastly, but by no means least, there is the Head Keeper Matt Silk, whose hard work during the year ensures this shoot continues to go from strength to strength. Simon Rood is a big fan, as am I, as it is hard to find a better shoot this close to London.

Contact: // Tel: 01256 896 444


Molland, Devon 

Molland is synonymous with high-flying birds on Exmoor. Split into two beats, West and East, you will be inundated with birds purely due to the abundance of drives. This estate is part of Bettws Hall owned by Mrs Throckmorton. Molland and totals 5,000 acres, it features a handful of drives rated in the top ten and “Inkwell” is known for its especially exhilarating pheasant drives. Watch out for the stag and red deer though, they run wild here.

Contact Philip Wolstenholme of the Bettws Hall Shooting Group:


Muggleswick, Co. Durham

This is the property of Jeremy Herrmann, who is an inspiration to most countrymen. The shoot is famed for its red grouse, abundant on this magical moor. We spoke to a few people who frequent this shoot and they all spoke warmly of the owner. It’s also worth mentioning that if you’re a keen fly fishermen you’ll be right at home here.


Prescombe, Wiltshire

This is a shoot run with a joie de vivre that knows well the power of fine wines. Stephen Thomas is the man responsible for both. With over 40 years of experience, and having learnt from his father at a young age, he has made a true success of the shoot. Situated between Salisbury and Shaftesbury, expect outstanding views over 30 varying drives. The 3,000 acres of land may not be as extensive as others, but for the partridges it’s easily one of the best. Fantastic woodland too, with first class beating.



Salperton, Gloucestershire 

A new addition to the list this year and a renowned partridge shoot. The estate has impressive and secluded valleys with the drives being well known in shooting circles, favourites include Big 60 and Great Hill. The birds fly high and fast off the steep banks offering some great, if challenging, shooting, it’s not one for the faint-hearted. With regards to hospitality, the estate provides the complete package, serving lunch in a particularly notable converted shoot lodge. This is a first class shoot that deserves its hard won place on this list.

Contact Ian Coley // Tel: 01242 870391 // E-mail:


Stowell Park, Gloucestershire

An incredibly private estate, with a total of 6,000 acres dedicated to both agriculture and sporting activities. The house and land have been owned by the Vestey family since 1921. Its glorious setting in the Cotswold hills means the acres are a perfect combination of arable land, grassland and woodland. And if you’re expecting deep valleys, you won’t be disappointed: some of the highest birds and the quickest drives can be found here. A shoot regarded highly among those who have a plethora of knowledge.


The Lakes, Exmoor 

One of four additions to the list, The Lakes is owned by clothing tycoon Richard Caring and is one of only two shoots on our list which is not commercial (the other being Dumbleton, Gloucestershire). For those of you who aren’t familiar with Richard Caring, he was once reported to supply 70% of all clothing sold on the high street and today he is the proud owner of some of London’s most prestigious restaurants. He is not a man who likes to do things by halves and The Lakes is no exception. Firstly, there is the shoot lodge called Pixton which has been opulently renovated. Secondly, there is the food which, given that your host owns the likes of Scott’s, turns out to be more sophisticated than a slab of cottage pie. Think grilled seafood, fillet steak and even sushi. And lastly, but certainly not least, there is the shooting, which has been described as some of the most challenging in the country and higher even than Devon. The last drive, from which the shoot takes its namesake, sees guns shoot from pontoons with birds coming extremely fast over the tops of the trees. Rumour (soon to be legend) has it, that Caring has installed speakers at the end of the pontoons, from which he blasts the ‘Dambuster’s March’ while you empty your barrels. Need we say anymore.


Wraccleford, Dorset 

Set in the unspoilt deep chalk valleys of Dorset, this estate has been a destination shoot for those seeking the thrill of high partridge and pheasant. Owned by the Pope brewing family for generations and now run by Oliver Pope, the shoot has developed hand in hand with conservation over the past century, and it offers beautiful views over Hardy country towards the sea at Lulworth Cove. Shooting parties can stay in the main house where the hospitality and catering is said to be of a very high standard. This is a great shoot in a relaxed environment, but one that is said to have a long waiting list.


EDITOR’S NOTE: The Gentleman’s Journal would like to acknowledge the hard work of gamekeepers and estate staff at each and every one of these shooting estates. Without their dedication our rich shooting heritage would surely be lost and as such it would be amiss for them not to be on this list.


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