It’s not sensible to turn up on a shooting day and continually miss, better to practise on simulated clay days. Mary Skipwith rounds up the best simulated shooting days available for an exciting summer of sport
New to simulated shooting and want to give it a go? Or perhaps you are looking for a different place that offers something out of the ordinary? Below you will find a wide variety of the country’s best simulated shooting days so you can pick one or all and experience them yourself this summer.
THE BEST SIMULATED SHOOTING DAYS
Whether you’re a keen Shot looking to keep your eye in, a novice wanting to develop confidence or someone simply wanting an exhilarating day out with friends, simulated days are the answer. The clue is in the name; clays are presented to simulate the varied flight or running of different quarry species (unlike in clay shooting, where the patterns are more consistent and repetitive). The quality of these days has soared as high as the stratospheric clays shown and some can emulate top-class driven shooting. With growing demand for challenging targets, spectacular locations and gourmet food to enjoy with friends at a fraction of the cost of a driven day, we have put together a guide to some of the best simulated days available. The only downside is that with so many suppliers of high-calibre days around the UK, there’s really no excuse for missing a bird any more.
BANDIRRAN ESTATE, PERTHSHIRE
Take a stunning Scottish estate’s varied and challenging terrain. Mix in the expertise of clay and game aficionado Bill Black of Hunting Scotland. Offer the option of wallet- sympathetic, half-day shoots. Chuck in the appeal of manual traps that allow alteration midstream to throw Guns off their stride. Add a database of loyal Shots and Bandirran has concocted a winning formula. The day is perfectly pitched for three to four teams of four, rendering it ideal for a syndicate to enjoy a pre-season warm-up.
Price per Gun: £185 plus VAT (based on 16 Guns); 01821 640234; sporting@ culfargie-estates.co.uk; bandirran.co.uk
BERELEIGH ESTATE, HAMPSHIRE
Edward Tyrwhitt-Drake, supported by the family in-house team, runs the year-round simulated days with the same pizzazz as the renowned game days. Five challenging drives are on offer within the 2,500 acres, where the private Georgian country house presides over some of Hampshire’s finest unspoiled downland. Such surroundings can at least be an excuse for distraction when the supersonic clays whizz over unbroken. It’s a day not to be missed, if for no other reason than to experience Bill Tyrwhitt-Drake manning the barbecue.
Price per Gun: £250 plus VAT (minimum of 12 Guns); 01730 823486; email@example.com; Bereleighsporting.co.uk
BOUGHTON ESTATE, NORTHAMPTONSHIRE
The magnificence of Boughton House, one of the seats of the Duke of Buccleuch, is as certain to drop jaws as the duck drive over the exquisite garden ponds. Host George Whittaker, former huntsman of the Woodland Pytchley, now puts his hunting horn to use to signal the start and end of each challenging drive. With a whopping 6,000 clays thrown a day, Whittaker’s environmental conscience ensures eco-friendly ones are used and all cartridges are recycled. Regardless of how their aim has been, Guns are guaranteed to return home satisfied from the picnic lunch of locally sourced delights and the post-shoot roast beef and all the trimmings.
Price per Gun: £200 plus VAT; 07917 435021; firstname.lastname@example.org; boughtonhouse.co.uk
DAVID BEARDSMORE, SHROPSHIRE
Former world champion and England shooting team captain David Beardsmore offers simulated game days “without the feathers and at a fraction of the cost” in spectacular scenery on the Davenport Estate. Alongside grouse, pheasant, partridge and duck drives, there is the opportunity to topple bolting rabbits. According to Beardsmore, there are two drives “not for the faint-hearted”: a crossing pigeon drive, where Guns are stretched to their limits by a sequence of dastardly crossers ranging from 10 to 60 yards, and Red Rock – the favourite of many Guns – a 50-yard, blinkand- it’s-gone pheasant drive.
Price per Gun: from £195; 07841 046606; email@example.com
DOVEY VALLEY, POWYS
Following its stint outside the family on lease, the shooting ground established by Richard Jones’s grandfather in the heart of Wales came back into family ownership in 2019. Jones and his partner Nia’s main vision was to replicate a spectacular game shoot in terms of both hospitality and targets. Take a look at the stunning film on the website and you’ll see they’ve achieved that goal. Guns never see a clay trap and no two targets are the same. With sumptuous silver and gold hospitality packages already on offer, a platinum one is in the pipeline where a chef will be out in the field whipping up mouth-watering replenishment throughout the day.
Price per Gun: from £195; 01650 511252; firstname.lastname@example.org; doveyvalley.com
FONTHILL ESTATE, WILTSHIRE
It’s no wonder that Lord Margadale and his son Declan Morrison are avid sportsmen who enjoy simulated clay shooting, game shooting and stalking. Since their garden consists of 9,000 acres of enviably varying topography, it would be churlish not to be. With such an expanse to work with, headkeeper Mick Lewis impact of any inclement weather by choosing between 10 drives across the estate. For the competitive types, Lewis loves nothing better than pitching teams against each other in a flush drive and counting the missed clays. Declan’s Argentinian wife rustles up empanadas for elevenses and chef Caroline Wilson creates barbecue lunches from produce so local it either originated from the estate or within clayflinging distance.
Price per Gun: £300 plus VAT (team of 12); 01747 820246; email@example.com; fonthill.co.uk
HAYDON FARM, WILTSHIRE
Testimonials littered with superlatives declare Haydon Farm a firm favourite, with guests claiming it is the highlight of their off-season. No wonder, as Chris and Sally Prendergast are natural, attentive hosts skilled at producing an experience rivalling the variety and exhilaration of a game day. Exploding multi-coloured targets add flair, and whether it’s realistic grouse or stellar, curling partridge, the quality of the clays is on a par with its formal shoot. Such elite sport is backed up with exquisite hospitality and the fact that many syndicate guests return under their own steam speaks volumes.
Price per Gun: £295 plus VAT; 01985 841445; firstname.lastname@example.org; haydonfarm.com
While the renowned shooting school is nestled in rolling Warwickshire countryside, Honesberie offers simulated days on a number of sites ranging from Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire, catering for Guns’ topographical preferences. Hosted by owner and founder Nick Hollick or grounds manager Thomas Howe, such a hands-on approach from the big guns themselves means feedback goes to the top and anything less than perfect can be tweaked instantaneously. Guests can even request whisky and cigar tasting, hosted by world-renowned spirit judge can minimise theTobias Gorn, after the meal or on-site after the shooting has ended.
Price per Gun: from £300 dependent on venue; 01327 262922; sam. email@example.com; honesberieshooting.co.uk
RAISTHORPE FLYERS, YORKSHIRE
One would forgive the Raisthorpe Flyers team of David Medforth and his sons Oliver and Edward if they decided to rest on their laurels. Their ambitious set-up already boasts such attributes as eight drystone grouse butts with customised clay traps and ‘The Nest’ – a safari-like tent perched halfway up a valley in the heart of the estate where guests soak up the convivial atmosphere as well as the G&Ts at elevenses. Yet the passion to evolve further has resulted in the introduction of GnatShootUK – a remote-controlled aerial target drone. Anyone capable of hitting the explosives on its underside as it zips overhead at 100mph is rewarded with theatrical pyrotechnics and, one hopes, a round of applause.
Price per Gun: £430 plus VAT (including cartridges); 01377 288295; firstname.lastname@example.org; raisthorpeflyers.com
REALLY WILD CLAY COMPANY, HOME COUNTIES
Boasting a stable of five magnificent estates, the Royal Berkshire Shooting School’s (RBSS) Really Wild Clay Company truly can offer something for everyone. Fans of Downton Abbey can shoot within the grounds of Highclere Castle; epicures can enjoy the famous partridge crostini at elevenses; and Guns wishing to improve their technique can garner tips from expert RBSS team members, one of whom has clocked up 40 years of instruction (and patience). With bespoke packages available, fast and furious shooting over a lake, out of a grouse butt or in the shadow of a stately home can all be enjoyed.
Price per Gun: £250 for roving days; 01491 672900; email@example.com; rbss.co.uk
SIX MILE BOTTOM SHOOT, CAMBRIDGESHIRE
The intricacy of the trap machinery alone gives an insight into the incredible precision of a day at Six Mile Bottom with Richard and Jackie Clarke. One can only imagine what Heath Robinson would have made of it; an articulated flatbed trailer custom-built with scissor lifts holds six Promatic traps on platforms with a further trap on each end which extend when the platforms are raised. Each of the eight traps can be adjusted independently while also programmed to follow the sequence set on each drive. With such focus on detail matched in their hospitality, seemingly the only thing the Clarkes haven’t thrown at this phenomenal set-up is the kitchen sink.
Price per Gun: £200 including VAT; 01638 570046; jackie@sixmilebottom shoot.co.uk; sixmilebottomshoot.co.uk
SWINTON ESTATE, YORKSHIRE
If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. One can assume this is the mantra of the EJ Churchill team, whose wealth of expertise and wherewithal to tailor its days to every group’s requirements results in an outstanding experience at the Swinton Estate. World and European champion Mark Winser claims: “An unrivalled simulated game day delivered by the prestigious EJ Churchill team is an experience not to be missed. With drives on the heather-filled moorland of the spectacular Swinton Estate, we were presented with fantastic sporting targets which truly represented the nature of the game.” Even the hospitality is on another level, offered in a historic deer house surrounded by parkland in which fallow deer can be seen grazing.
Price per Gun: £285 including VAT; 01494 883227; firstname.lastname@example.org; ejchurchill.com
THE PERFECT CLAY, RUTLAND
“It all began 10 years ago with borrowed kit, scruffy friends and a host who didn’t have a clue,” proprietor Patrick Boyle admits. A decade on and he and his team have such a polished appearance and knowledge that they are entirely deserving of the name The Perfect Clay. Teams are made to feel welcome from the moment they step out of their vehicles at the charming Bisbrooke Hall and the relaxed briefing allows a chance to ask questions and settle any nerves. That isn’t the only environment the team works hard for. “We are making a move in the right direction and switching to eco clays this year,” Boyle states. “With 4,000 clays spread over the drives, we have to look after the countryside.”
Price per Gun: £200; 07940 151218; email@example.com; theperfectclay.com
THIMBLEBY ESTATE, YORKSHIRE
Such is the demand for its quality of sport that simulated days run all year round on the breathtaking 3,000-acre Thimbleby Estate, situated on the fringes of the North York Moors. Whether an experienced Shot hankers for a challenge or a novice Gun seeks guidance from an expert, the bespoke and flexible approach ensures clays are pitched perfectly for every level of experience. A fuelling breakfast and rewarding lunch are served in the recently renovated Thimbleby Grange, and with all of the trappings of a traditional day, guests will be forgiven for momentarily forgetting the difference. Not only do they enjoy the thrill from exceptional clays but also from the opportunity to venture into the estate’s hidden corners.
Price per Gun: from £350 plus VAT (including cartridges); 01609 883401; firstname.lastname@example.org; thimblebyshoot.com
WEST LONDON SHOOTING SCHOOL, OXFORDSHIRE
As quintessential an English estate as they come, the Great Tew Estate is renowned just as much for its high-octane Game-Flyer simulated sport in the spring and summer months as it is for its winter game shoot. It may be located just an hour from London, but the clays pinged over the Guns range from mimicking West Country-height pheasants and snappy Norfolk partridges to whirly moorland grouse and testing duck rather than resembling anything that takes off from Heathrow. West London’s most experienced game Shots and instructors, Bernard Moss and Roger Bryan, are on hand to guide and encourage, and the school’s director, Roddy Richmond-Watson, regularly attends to personally host.
Price per Gun: from £255 plus VAT on syndicate days; 020 8845 1377; email@example.com; shootingschool.co.uk
WHATTON HOUSE, LEICESTERSHIRE
A jewel in prime Quorn country, Whatton House is inhabited by the current Lord Crawshaw’s daughter Amanda and her husband Tim. Since it is a private home, it exudes an exclusive yet relaxed feel; no agents are involved and guests are welcomed as friends. An old Army Bedford is employed as a Gun bus, allowing guests to exchange banter between drives, and a leisurely elevenses in the field often rolls on into twelveses. On fine days lunch is served in the private garden, with Charnwood Forest in the distance. An in-house team runs the day, ensuring the calibre of shooting rivals the hospitality.
Price per Gun: from £275 plus VAT (minimum of 12 Guns); 01509 431193; firstname.lastname@example.org; whattonhouse.co.uk