Where should you go to nab a Macnab? These estates offer you the best chances of success
Hoping to bag a Macnab this year? The Field’s Macnab Challenge, in association with BASC and Blaser, is the ultimate test of sporting prowess. Maximise your chances of success by taking Mungo Ingleby’s advice on some of the best Macnab estates.
BEST MACNAB ESTATES
I would wager that a significant proportion of The Field’s readership would be able to name the constituent parts of the Macnab Challenge. Most, I suspect, would have given passing thought to completing said challenge but few will have progressed further. One reason for this is that the number of Macnabs completed each year is low. It is generally a difficult challenge to complete, but therein lies its appeal. Conditions on the day, wind and water, are in the lap of the gods and often unhelpful. It is nothing short of miraculous if one of the three species concerned does not deviate from its usual pattern of behaviour.
However, one element within your control is the location. What are you actually looking for? A family holiday from which a Macnab opportunity may emerge? A more serious enterprise? A single day in the diary booked well in advance? The longer you can devote to the enterprise the greater your chances of success will be. The following options are by no means exhaustive but should provide food for thought.
Gannochy, year on year, delivers more Macnabs than any other estate in Scotland. In some years its total is close to that of all other estates combined. Principally, this is due to the fact that Gannochy’s fishing, stalking and grouse are all of a high standard. There are no chinks, barring a prolonged dry spell, in its sporting armour. If conditions are good, Gannochy’s enthusiastic and skilful team approach the day with confidence and confidence breeds success. The estate caters for eight guests, either sharing in Auchmull Sporting Lodge or in individual rooms spread over the Lodge and two cottages, which more than match the quality of sport on offer. It is a special package for a small team looking for the best. Vacancies are rare.
A stunning sporting estate covering 20,000 acres of Sutherland. The lodge offers luxury perfectly in keeping with its surroundings and sleeps up to 14; the principal pursuits are fishing and stalking. The estate has two fishing beats: the home beat is Glencalvie, which fishes two rods; and just downriver Gruinards fishes an additional four. With water, a pre-breakfast fish should be a given. In more challenging conditions there are more than enough nooks and crannies to explore and waylay a taker. Glencalvie can put out two rifles and has superb stalking ground. Sutherland makes you walk for your grouse and they are all the more satisfying for it. It is, however, informed walking, the estate knowing their haunts, making Macnabs very achievable.
Weekly lets from £7,500. Tel 01463 224343; www.glencalvieestate.co.uk
Although it is located just an hour from Aberdeen airport, the estate can deliver a quintessential Scottish experience for parties of up to 20. Glenmuick is let by the week and the house and beautiful gardens sit in 14,000 acres at the heart of Royal Deeside. With the River Dee and its tributary, the Muick, on the doorstep, a grouse moor that is on an upward trajectory and delivers both driven and walked-up sport, and the ability to put out two stalking parties every day, there is a good chance of a Macnab in the right conditions and a wonderful week’s sport whatever the weather.
Weekly lets start at £10,200 inc VAT for Glenmuick House. Sport is additional and agreed with the estate prior to the commencement of any let.
Tel 01335 350279; www.glenmuick.com
The scene of The Field’s Macnab attempt in 2016. The team was unsuccessful but the estate has a significant rollcall of past glories. Unusually, the salmon will likely be caught from a loch rather than a river and with six river/loch systems to choose from, estate pointers to close on the wild island grouse and a healthy red deer population, there is every chance of success. There is no better place to celebrate than in the Castle’s dining room and Amhuinnsuidhe is a destination that every sportsman should visit at least once. The Castle is available on an exclusive-use basis or there are occasional weeks during which individuals can book rooms and enjoy the sport, including “single day” Macnab attempts.
Single occupancy room accommodation from £285 per night; £1,500 for a Macnab attempt, which includes one stag. Further attempts are charged at an additional £400 per stag. Tel 01859 560200; www.amhuinnsuidhe.com
This is a classic example of an estate that can produce a “Macnab” over the course of a sporting week. It is not something that the estate will target on a specific date in the diary but rather something that will reward longstanding weekly tenants. Such tenants (and, indeed, the same could be said for all attempts) benefit from being able to play the conditions as they find them. With the pressure off, Macnabs tend to evolve and even surprise and can be all the more memorable for it. Morsgail is a compact lodge sleeping 10 across five en-suite bedrooms. It is true wilderness and a location that really does recharge, revive and feed the soul.
Weekly lets from £4,450 for 10 guests.
Tel 01859 560200; www.morsgail.co.uk
A compact and easily accessible Perthshire estate that, in the right conditions, offers a really hot chance for a Macnab. The estate has a short stretch of the River Garry with three main pools. In the autumn, when the water is fining down after a spate, these are a real banker. The Garry drops quickly so if it is too high in the morning it will fish in the afternoon. Urrard’s grouse are left largely undisturbed. It is only during Macnab attempts that they are pursued. As the season progresses, Urrard starts to hold a surprising number of stags for its size. The ingredients are all there. If the attempt is booked well in advance be open to hedging your bets and taking fishing on the Lower Tay. Should the Garry be dead low this will add another string to the bow of the attempt.
The cost is £2,000 per attempt, accommodation can be arranged.
Tel 01796 470451; www.urrardestate.com
Situated in Glen Lyon, the estate takes in 6,500 acres of steep and varied ground plus several miles of the River Lyon, a tributary of the Tay. The lodge has been refurbished and sleeps up to 15; it is an excellent, central base for a week of mixed sport. The estate takes around 50 stags a year off the hill and puts on a handful of walked-up grouse days. Whilst steep, there is good access to the high ground, which gives you an edge if time is against you. If your party has half an eye on a Macnab, remember that the moment when the river starts to rise for the weekly “freshet” (when the hydro creates an artificial spate) is a superb moment to catch a fish.
Weekly lets cost from £4,250.
Tel 020 7193 1466; southchesthill.com
At the southern end of Loch Maree, the estate covers 35,000 acres of spectacular, wild scenery. The lodge is a traditional building that sleeps up to 18. In respect of the stalking, Lochrosque, Cabuie and Nest of Fannich have some of the most challenging grounds in Scotland. It is an estate with a loyal following. With any luck you could waylay the grouse on the long pull back from the hill. If not, there are more miles to cover. The fish can be caught from Loch Maree or, in the latter months of the season, the Kinlochewe, Bruachaig or A’Ghairbhe rivers. In total, there are 11 miles of river with a number of holding pools but rain, as in all upper catchments, will greatly aid your chances.
Weekly lets cost from £5,000.
Tel 01738 451600; www.sportinglets.co.uk
MULTIPLE LOCATIONS: ABERDEENSHIRE, ANGUS AND PERTHSHIRE
In an ideal world, all sport will be sourced from the same estate. There is an emotional buy-in from the estate and those who work there and it is impossible not to get caught up in the endeavour. There are, however, many more estates with two rather than all three of the ingredients. With an early start and the rifle zeroed the night before, it is possible to engage more than one estate in the enterprise. Deer and grouse are often happy bedfellows but a quick 45 minutes in the car might also put you in striking range of a salmon. In these circumstances, if you have not taken the beat for a week, please take all available rods on the day in question. It will significantly increase your odds if there is no-one else fishing and it will give you peace of mind that you are not interfering with the sport of others.
The cost can vary but is likely to be more than a Macnab attempted in one place.