Shooting in Scotland is near and dear to my heart. The first time I shot here was nearly 30 years ago when friends had Garynahine on the Isle of Lewis. One of the joys of shooting in Scotland is that castles, lodges and manses can often be rented to accommodate the team. Some of my choices below are included because of that aspect.
Drumlanrig is part of Queensberry, one of a number of estates owned by Buccleuch Estates. As Roy Green, the sporting manager and former headkeeper, points out: “Where all Buccleuch drives score is that they are based in open countryside with magnificent views over open hills. Our pheasant drives are mainly from woodland coverts specifically planted for shooting some 80 years ago. We do have some amazing drives from the open hill which can make even the best guns tremble when they see birds rising nearly half a mile away and then swinging high over the line.
“Our partridge drives use a mixture of old heather ground and bracken faces. Partridge-shooting here is as near to the grouse moors as you can get without shooting grouse; on the odd occasion we do have grouse going over the guns. Generations of Dukes of Buccleuch have nurtured the estate.”
The estate is large by anyone’s standards at 90,000 acres and headkeeper Rab Clark has been a keeper on the estate for 24 years. There are more than 80 drives and typically five are shot per day with bags of 250 to 400 the norm.
The star pheasant drives are Muckle Wood, Slate Quarry, Dunduff and The Dam. For partridges: Scudlaw, Dalveen, Cample Cleuch and Glenim.
£33 per bird plus VAT. Most shoot days are a mix of pheasants and partridges. Contact the Buccleuch Sporting Office, tel 01848 600415,
email the office.
Thirlestane is a beautiful property and a serious shoot. The headkeeper, Tristan Unthank, is helped by five beatkeepers. (With a name like Unthank, I wonder whether he ever gets untipped.) This is a 10,000-acre shoot with 31 pheasant and 25 partridge drives. Typically, four or five drives are shot per day with bags varying from 150 to 400. The main drives are The Face, Dan’s Drive, Blaeberries and Dead Man’s.
£34 to £38 per bird. Contact Wilson Young, Eskdale Shooting Services, Crab Apple Lodge, Lylestane, Lauder TD2 6QY, tel 01578 750740.
The Dalreoch shoot forms part of Bardrochat estate owned by the Marquess and Marchioness of Douro. It is possible to rent the house that goes with the shoot and hold a private house party over the weekend. While the estate is larger, the shoot covers approximately 3,000 acres of hill ground and woodland and has 15 main drives, a mixture of woodland, glades and “off-hill shooting” in ravines and gullies. Noted drives are Dangart Wood, The Laundry, The Horseshoe and The Quarry. Bags vary from 75 to 400 birds depending on time of year and the guns’ ability.
This is primarily a family shoot but, like Stratfield Saye, a few let days are available This shoot does not have a commercial feel. The house will sleep 18 comfortably and is rented as part of a fully catered package which includes cook and house staff; its wines are outstanding. The estate lies only 45 minutes from Prestwick Airport.
£30 + VAT per bird. House by negotiation. Contact Paul Sedgewick at Stratfield Saye, tel 01256 882694.
The Glenogil shoot, near Kirriemuir, encompasses about a quarter of John Dodd’s 20,000-acre estate. The shoot covers a mixture of rolling countryside and woodland with drives on bracken and rough grasses at the fringes of the grouse moor. The headkeeper, assisted by two low-ground keepers, produces a challenging pheasant- and partridge-shoot. By placing guns strategically in deep glens, superbly high pheasants and very testing partridges are presented. From more than 20 drives, five or six are shot in a typical day. Look out for Auchnacree Drive, Glenley Drive, Mochrie Drive and St Arnold’s. Bags are 250 to 300 in October and November, reduced to about 150 by late January.
£33 + VAT per bird includes a good lunch and drinks. Book Glenogil through CKD Galbraith Sporting, tel 01738 451600,
email the company.
One of Scotland’s finest pheasant-shoots, Tillypronie is owned by the Hon Philip Astor who described it thus. “The shoot is laid out along a series of rolling Donside valleys, some quite steep. We have established a reputation for presenting high-quality birds, but while they are often remarkably challenging, they are shootable. In some drives, like Trancie and Nether Towie, the birds are just very high. At others (and the Bum Stripe is a classic example) many of the birds come off the top and just glide with their wings fixed, often with a curl.”
The estate runs to 15,000 acres of which the Towie shoot takes up about 2,000. Of 20 drives the foremost are The Bum Stripe, Trancie, The Witchie, Mackenzie’s Corner and Nether Towie. While bags tend to run to between 150 and 250 birds depending on the client’s requirement, it is a very full day with typically two or three drives before elevenses then another one or two before lunch and two after lunch.
“Lunch is held in a rather swish bothy converted from the ruins of an old mill steading. There’s a roaring wood-burning stove and sofas and chairs at one end where the guns have drinks before lunch,” says Astor.
£34 per bird + VAT, pheasants only. Contact David Smart at Strutt & Parker, tel 01330 824888.
A Buccleuch estate, Bowhill shows pheasants only. The drives span birds driven from high bracken hill ground to traditional woodland covert shooting. “The Yarrow and Ettrick valleys, where most of the shooting takes place, have been described as one of Scotland best kept secrets, with panoramic scenery and carefully planted woodlands,” says Roy Green.“Black Andrew is probably the best drive in Scotland and birds can be driven off at three different heights. I’ve seen some of the best shots in the country reduced to fits of giggles during this drive.
“Whitefield has birds coming from at least a mile away from a high plantation, with the average bird curling down to the guns at 50yd to 60yd. Kirshope is a classic pheasant drive with birds being driven away and then curling back over the guns on a river meadow.
“Like the Queensberry estate, Bowhill has been laid out for shooting,” says Green.
This shoot is slightly smaller than Drumlanrig at 60,000 acres. Bigger bags are possible but a typical day is around 200 birds over five drives.
Prices and contact as for Drumlanrig above.
GLENSTRIVEN AND KNOCKDOW ESTATE
At 8,000 acres, the estate offers excellent-quality shooting and accommodation. One has the privilege of using the house for private entertaining. Ian Smith, the headkeeper has served 14 seasons and is assisted by an underkeeper. This is a combination pheasant- and partridge-shoot and bags on two-day weekend shoots are 250 per day. The Birches is a favourite drive as are Low Dearg (fantastic shooting at Inverchaolain Glen), Boyd’s Bank, Ellers Burn and Cappul Pond for partridges and the infamous Rio Grande.
“Our drives take advantage of deep gullies and steep hillsides which means that the birds are consistently high, challenging and extremely fast. Some drives are driven towards the loch offering the chance at high-quality curling birds, while on others crossing shots and snap shooting through mature trees can be expected. Some drives in the Inver-chaolain Glen area are driven out of gorse banks back to home wood and over valleys and open fields. At the Knockdow end of the estate we have classic driven-pheasant drives out of policy woodland situated in rolling countryside,” explains the headkeeper.
“All guests stay in Glenstriven House, which can accommodate up to 20. It is the laird’s house and it is exclusively used by shoot guests for the weekend. Our own pub, the Glenstriven Arms, is solely for the use of our guests.”
£35 +VAT per bird. Contact Victoria Smith, tel 01369 870007,
The Earl of Strathmore’s shoot comprises about 14,000 acres of ground. While many days are run for a private syndicate, a dozen or so driven-pheasant and -partridge days are let. The headkeeper is Ronnie Carr, who has been on the estate for 36 years; three underkeepers assist. The area known as Hunter’s Hill is mixed woodland and it is the location of some of the best drives on the estate. Mature timber and topog-raphy enable spectacular birds to be shown.
Typical bags are 250 to 300 birds although smaller days are available later in the season. Typically, four or five drives are shot depending on bag requirements and weather conditions. Both partridges and pheasants are shot and two consecutive days of shooting can be arranged. The birds are reared from estate stock. Primary drives include Fiary Pans, The Burn and Rochelhill. Lunch is taken in the 16th-century vaulted kitchens of Glamis Castle.
According to John Wood, the factor of the estate, “What makes our shoot so special, I could say, is that the birds are presented in the most natural fashion: no flush nets, no shouting, no swearing at dogs, just a quiet, efficient but relaxed atmosphere. Without exaggeration, many visiting guests compliment our headkeeper by saying he quite simply runs the best pheasant-shoot in Scotland. A guest once said to me, ‘Glamis is the secret jewel in Scotland’s pheasant-shooting crown.’”
£35 + VAT per bird. Contact John M Wood, Strathmore Estates, Glamis, Forfar, Angus DD8 1RJ, tel 01307 840242, fax 01307 840257,
email the estate.
Bowmont is primarily designed around deep valleys on the edge of a grouse moor. They are very secluded and while the right to roam exists in Scotland there are no through roads and relatively little public access.
Leon Flint is the headkeeper here and has five beatkeepers to help him with the 33 pheasant drives and 23 partridge drives spread over 12,000 acres. Drives per day and bag size are the same as at Thirlestane. Drives to look out for are Red Gyle, Sourhope, Dry Slack and Cheviot Burn. Both shoots are renowned for the outstanding quality of their birds and the beautiful scenery over which the shooting takes place. The shoots are professionally run with a thoughtfulness rarely found in commercial shoots; the hospitality is excellent. Edinburgh is the nearest airport.
Prices and contact as for Thirlestane Castle above.
Dryburgh Abbey Hotel, tel 01835 822261, provides first-rate accommodation for this and other shoots in the Borders.
The home of the Earl of Annandale offers excellent pheasant- and partridge-shooting with the bonus of a traditional but luxurious Scottish stone pile. The historic mansion sits amid 500 acres of parkland and the 7,000-acre shoot. Keith Barnett is the headkeeper and has three assistants.
There are 22 drives with four to six shot in a day. Early in the season 400-bird days are possible for pheasants and partridges, tapering to 250 to 300 mid season and 150 to 200 towards the end. The pre-eminent drives include The Glen, Fairy Holm and the Mollins.
According to Robert Rattray of CKD Galbraith, “Many drives take place in deep valley bottoms which lend themselves to exciting shooting. There are also open moorland and new plantations for partridge and woodland blocks with cover crops for pheasant drives. The variety of drives on the estate allows for guns of various abilities and entertaining here is among the best available.”
£31.90 + VAT per bird including lunch and drinks.
Accommodation is available in Raehills House. Booking as for Glenogil above.