Available to hire, these fine sporting homes from home offer exceptional accommodation, top-notch hospitality and plenty of hot water, says Gabriel Stone


From the Isle of Mull to Cornwall, Gabriel Stone rounds up some of the best country houses to hire, with top sport on hand or within easy reach — and no luxury spared.

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At last. After months of diary thrashing – or perhaps just one recklessly decisive dinner – it’s confirmed. You and your closest friends are off for a long overdue, seriously sporting weekend. Inevitably you’re tailed by assorted spouses, children and dogs, all displaying wildly varying degrees of enthusiasm. So where to go? Hotels strip away stress, but also intimacy. No one’s brave enough to suggest self-catering after the last debacle, and that friend with a large, impeccably positioned gent’s res seems selfishly reluctant to make the same mistake twice. If only there was a fully staffed home large enough to fit everyone exclusively and comfortably – no pokey attic rooms – complete with top-notch hospitality, hot water galore and sporting thrills coupled with alternative amusement for those whose idea of a good time inexplicably doesn’t involve windswept moorland. Is it too much to ask?

Gordon Robinson from the Royal Berkshire Shooting School regularly accompanies clients to exactly this sort of house and is clear about the standards required. “Most places charge a lot of money, so guests really need to feel looked after,” he says. “As they drive under the arch, there should be someone there to meet them.” Above all, Robinson advises hosts to cultivate “an ability to avoid the word ‘no’ – try to make it work”. In short, he concludes: “Treat the paying parties the same as you would family friends.” Here are 12 places that do just that.


Deep in Daphne du Maurier country, overlooking the glorious gardens of Caerhays Castle and not far from Porthluney beach lies The Vean. This luxuriously restored Georgian house sleeps 16 and is an ideal base for Caerhays shooting parties, who come to enjoy high Cornish pheasants against the exotic backdrop of the estate’s famous rhododendron, magnolia and camellia collection. Owner Charles Williams hosts the days, with wife Lizzie working her labrador team behind the line. Anyone seeking an additional botanical fix should immerse themselves in the Eden Project and Lost Gardens of Heligan, both close at hand.

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The Grade I listed home of Lord Ivar Mountbatten and James Coyle sits in 100 acres of deer park, with ornamental lake and glorious Culm Valley views. Contemplate the estate’s red and fallow deer herds from the window of one of Bridwell’s 10 spacious double bedrooms, which include several interconnected family suites, ideal for small children. Mountbatten family memorabilia, intimately entangled with a host of European royalty, lines the shelves to satisfy the keenest history buffs. Dinner, hosted by Lord Ivar if you wish, comes courtesy of Gidleigh Park-trained chef Sam Brook. For those craving a crack at Exmoor pheasants, Bridwell has long-standing relationships with several local shoots, including North Molton, Castle Hill and Cruwys Morchard.



Inspired by years of staying in wonderful Scottish lodges, the Barnes family completely renovated their traditional Devon courtyard farm with serious sporting house parties in mind. Comfort is king here: from beds that satisfy the fussiest sleeper to a heady promise of enough hot water for all baths in the 10 en suite bedrooms to run simultaneously. Guests rave about the food and drink and, unlike more corporate venues, there’s no need to turn the music off at 1am. As well as its own shoot, Loyton manages an enviable clutch of big Devon names, including Challacombe, Molland, Combe Sydenham, Miltons and Haddeo. Don’t forget that restorative coffee before heading out.

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Welcome to ‘the most luxurious dog house in the world’. The hunting-mad Dukes of Richmond installed central heating in their kennels a full century before extending the same comfort to Goodwood House. Hound Lodge’s 10 bedrooms are named after members of the ‘Glorious Twenty-Three’ pack responsible for the 57-mile “greatest chase that ever was” of 1738. Browse diary accounts of the 7th Duke’s hunting adventures on display in the Boot Room loo, then hurl yourself into this 12,000-acre estate’s unrivalled entertainment. Sussex pheasants and partridges compete for attention with Goodwood’s own motor circuit, flying school, racecourse and two golf courses. Alternatively, rebel against all sporting endeavour with a leisurely breakfast and newspaper delivered to your bed. Stir yourself for a guided tour of Goodwood House, soaking up works by Van Dyck, Canaletto, Reynolds and Stubbs before a slap-up afternoon tea in the ballroom.



Nestled against the Malvern Hills just outside Ledbury, this Regency meets Gothic Revival castle is brimming with atmosphere: think four-poster beds, free-standing baths and roaring open fires, but with welcome modern touches, such as high-speed Wi-Fi and a charging point for electric vehicles. Eastnor is the home of James Hervey-Bathurst, and the shoot here is also a welcoming family affair. Anyone keen to immerse themselves in Herefordshire a bit longer can take additional days at other nearby estates, including Stoke Edith and Perrystone. There’s plenty of adventure for non-Guns too, with an exhaustive array of outdoor obstacle courses for children and the Land Rover Experience for grown-ups.

Eastnor Castle 


Is your party scattered across the country? Then meet bang in the middle at Keythorpe Hall. Set in 20 acres of rolling High Leicestershire countryside near Uppingham, the recently renovated main house has seven bedrooms, and seriously good bathrooms (one comes with a brass tub, double shower and larger-than-life Tudor portrait as a backdrop) with an extra three-bedroom apartment in the east wing that would be perfect for teenagers, babies or a combination of the two. Food is the major draw here. Chefs Peter Johansen and Bent Varming have worked at some of the world’s most creative restaurants, bringing Nordic inspiration to ingredients freshly picked from the large walled garden, restored by the current owners. This is the domain of head gardener Claudio Bincoletto, former forager for the Italian army (clearly marching on rather stylishly filled stomachs). Everything in the kitchen is put to use – they even make their own ‘Marmite’ for breakfast. Bert Blaize is the wine concierge, and don’t miss the cellar – a hidden venue perfect for a tasting or dinner. With plenty of serious shoots nearby and fly-fishing at either Rutland Water or Eyebrook, bring your bag back for the chefs to whip up a treat. Keythorpe also lies in shires hunting heaven; in fact, it was formerly home to Mr Fernie himself.

Keythorpe Hall 


For a house party with serious wow factor, go all out and stay at the Duke of Rutland’s family seat, rising majestically above the Vale of Belvoir. Inside, the 14 bedrooms are fit for royalty – quietly bag one featuring the castle’s exquisite 18th-century Chinese silk wallpaper. Drag yourself away from the Gainsboroughs, Holbeins and Italian sculpture collections to meander through the various formal gardens. The rest of the estate’s 16,000 acres is a sporting Mecca. Phil Burtt and his team have 75 drives at their disposal with topography to suit every taste and confidence level. Head back to the castle for a hot bath, medieval banquet or something in between. If you feel jaded here, there’s really no hope.

Belvoir Castle


Good luck finding a free slot at this soothing antidote to the corporate shooting ‘super lodge’ hotel. Guests tend to return regularly, drawn by the charming, expert hospitality of Lady Linlithgow at the 18th-century family home she has painstakingly restored to glory since inheriting a derelict building in 1987. Elegant candlelit dinner parties here inevitably segue into late-night antics in the billiard room. On the sporting front, Bryngwyn lays on one of the finest simulated game shoots around, with 16 scenic drives, including two lines of grouse butts. For the real McCoy, Lady Linlithgow’s little black book can help arrange days at some of the top Welsh shoots, with Long Mountain, Llanarmon, Three Valleys and the Bettws Hall portfolio all within striking distance.

Bryngwyn Hall


The Wyvills have been here since 1066, upgrading to their current Palladian house in the 18th century. As grouse shooting took off, Constable Burton provided luxurious accommodation to match the quality of sport. That link continues today, with owner D’Arcy Wyvill escorting guests on to the moor, although in more recent times the estate has added its own pheasant shoot too. Family photos provide reminders that this really is a home, albeit a rather stately one. And with many guests returning regularly for 35 years or more, the sense of being firm family friends is real. Aside from its own art and library, Constable Burton is ideally positioned for exploring the historic market towns, abbeys and castles that dot this glorious North Yorkshire countryside.

Constable Burton Hall


This five-star, 21-bedroom hotel is also handily available for exclusive hire, the reception desk swapped for a homely visitor’s book. Meticulous liaison by the team in the weeks leading up to your arrival means there’s no time wasted in diving into the 65 (who’s counting?) activities on offer. On the sporting front, that might involve shooting or stalking at one of the neighbouring estates, casting a fly for salmon on the Stinchar or a guided sea-fishing adventure. The Glenapp boat can take you on an overnight Hebridean Sea Safari, complete with travelling sea eagle, or transport golf nuts to some of the country’s most famous, scenic tees. Back at the castle, dine under the stars in the walled garden’s newly renovated glasshouse. Food miles: negligible.

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Scotland doesn’t have to be about isolated Highland lodges. If you’re not averse to encountering other human beings, and perhaps some gentle retail therapy or cathedral culture, then take over Tay House, a luxurious riverside sporting lodge in the picturesque town of Dunkeld. The team here is happy to help arrange activities, with excellent fishing, shooting and stalking on nearby Murthly Estate, as well as preferential access to Burnmouth salmon fishings on the lower Tay. A gunroom comes as standard, as do roaring open fires and eight en suite bedrooms, with a further two apartments on the top floor.

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Dreaming of the west coast of Scotland? You should be. And Knock House, a classic sporting lodge that sits at the heart of the idyllic 32,000-acre Benmore Estate, is perfectly placed to fulfil most of those fantasies. Let the estate stalkers and gillies whisk you off to the towering mountains, deep glens, white sandy beaches and glittering lochs. Take the kayaks, dinghies or Benmore Lady motor launch on a watery safari to spot otters, minke whales, puffins and golden eagles. Then head back to your comfortable 12-bedroom base for a serious dinner, followed by a choice of two very Scottish extremes: a reflective whisky by the roaring fire or furious reeling in the house’s own ceilidh hall.

Benmore Estate

Prices vary depending on bespoke services.