The King John Inn at Tollard Royal in Dorset is one of the growing numbers of gastro, or bistro pubs with enough rooms to accommodate a shooting party, and good enough food and wines to make a team of guns and guests want to have dinner and stay there on the night before a shoot. The King John Inn is just one of many such pubs.
Tollard Royal is a charming village with a 14th Century Church in the middle of what must surely be one of the largest concentrations of good shoots in a small area anywhere in the south of England.
Other ‘gastro’ pubs and notable establishments along the Dorset Wiltshire border include the Beckford Arms, near Tisbury, the Lamb Inn at Hindon, Howard’s House Hotel at Teffont Evias, and the Museum at Farnham. All these pubs have created comfortable and stylish accommodation and provide superb food and friendly service for frequent shooting parties during the season.
For instance the King John Inn at Tollard Royal has no fewer than 70 shooting parties per season thus providing a very welcome and substantial contribution to its turnover and profits.
Assuming an average spend of £200 per head, for dinner, bed and breakfast with an average of 10 guests per party, this creates income of £2000 per shooting party, which multiplied by 70 shooting parties per annum generates a staggering £140,000 of income that otherwise would not exist.
It is therefore easy to understand why an increasing number of local Pubs are ‘raising their game’ and improving and upgrading their facilities to attract this lucrative market, creating a welcome source of income for the trades people engaged in these ‘up-grades’.
A Report on the economic, environmental and social contribution of shooting sports to the UK by Public and Corporate Economic Consultants (PACEC) identified the following:
- 480,000 people shoot live quarry in the UK
- shooting supports the equivalent of 70,000 full time jobs
- Shooters spend £2 billion each year on goods and services
- Shooting is worth £1.6 billion to the UK economy
- Shooting is involved in the management of two-thirds of the rural land area
- Two million hectares are actively managed for conservation as a result of shooting
- Shooting providers spend £250 million a year on conservation
- Shooters spend 2.7 million work days on conservation.
Historically the larger and longer established shoots are on estates that often had houses designed, or extended, to accommodate the large shooting parties of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and in some cases these are reserved for the exclusive use of their owners and their guests.
However, roving syndicates are more likely to stay in the local pub or small hotel where they receive a warm welcome and good service, and this all adds to the camaraderie of dinner the night before a shoot and at breakfast the next morning, and the anticipation of a great day ahead.
As far as the owners of these shoots are concerned the visiting guns provide much needed income for the estate but also for the teams of loaders and beaters who are crucial to a successful days shooting.
There are few things more appealing to a sociable soul than the shared experience of a friendly shoot in beautiful countryside on a beautiful day, but the first impression of the pub or hotel where you have arrived after a long journey is dictated by the warmth of the welcome you receive.
When we arrived at the King John Inn, it was nearing the end of its Sunday Lunch session, and the place was crowded with tables demanding their bills, but the efficient staff, led by Paolo Corgiolu, ably supported by Kate took good care of us, and made us very welcome, despite the other pressures on them. They quickly found us a table for a late lunch, and we ordered two ‘starters’ from the main menu, chosen since we were saving our appetites for supper,. Two glasses of wine appeared without delay and we could begin to relax and take in our surroundings.
The simple wooden tables in the dining and bar area
The place had a good ‘vibe’ or dare I say, ‘trendy’ feel similar to that found in London. I struck up a conversation with a couple on an adjoining table by admiring their Cocker Spaniel and I asked if he shot with it, only to discover that he had a gun on an Army Shoot at the Central Ammunition Depot at Bramley, near the Duke of Wellintgon’s home at Stratfield Saye which my late father ran for several years in the late fifties, and on which I know another current member, namely Andrew Speed. ‘Speedy’ to his friends, was the Adjutant at Sandhurst, and is now living in a ‘grace and favour’ house in Horse Guard’s Parade from whence he organises all the ceremonial events, including the Trooping of the Colour at Her Majesty’s Birthday parade.
This is proof, if it were needed, of the small world the shooting fraternity inhabit!
Anyway, after our modest but excellent lunch, we retired to our very spacious double room with a King-size bed and a beautiful marble floored ‘en-suite’ bathroom with free standing roll top tub and separate shower with enormous rose. This is the largest of the eight bedrooms available at The King John Inn, five of which are in the main building and three others in a converted barn opposite. All are beautifully decorated with antique pieces mixed with modern touches to create rooms in which you just want to linger.
The King’s Room Suite
All of the rooms are dog friendly at a modest extra charge of £15.00