This is, of necessity, a very subjective list, and I have not shot on all these shoots, but I have shot on some of them (marked *), and have taken into account the views and opinions of people who know far more about shooting than I ever will, and have been lucky enough to have shot on the shoots which I have not shot on. So, the following list is a collaborative effort, and does not claim to be a definitive list, but rather a personal selection.
Angmering, Sussex* This 6000 acre estate marches with Arundel, and the shoot was improved and enhanced over 25 years by Nigel Clutton and Colin Cowdrey, who both married ‘Norfolk girls’, i.e. the sisters of the Duke. Sadly, Colin died in 2000, but Nigel has continued the good work and Angmering is now bearing the fruits of their labours, and the result is one of the best shoots in the south of England. Guns meet and have tea in a beautiful period barn opposite Nigel’s house. Also, beware the twenty different types of sloe gin and vodka, which appear during the mid-morning break, and his fundraising activities for good causes during lunch and tea; make sure you have plenty of spare cash! But he is a great host.
Nigel Clutton tel; 01903 882220
Arundel, Sussex. This 15,000 acre estate has been the site of an ambitious and innovative wild game conservation project over six years, led and masterminded by the Duke of Norfolk to successfully re-establish substantial wild grey ‘English’ partridge populations on two Arundel Estate farms in the South Downs National Park, which won him the 2010 Gold Shield at the Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation. The Percy boys (Ralph and James) came down from Northumberland recently to join a team of Fitzallan-Howards, and the resulting bag was an astonishing 291 greys, 305 redlegs, 42 pheasant and 3 pigeon! An observer said that the Percy boys were a joy to behold, as they shot with near clinical efficiency, and modest too.
Contact: Peter Knight, Estate Manager Tel: 01903-883400
Ashcombe, Wiltshire* has a glorious Grade II* listed Georgian house, rescued from ruin by Cecil Beaton in the 1930s, and is where he ‘held court’ to a very diverse entourage. Beaton turned Ashcombe into a rural idyll, and through its doors flowed artists, Dukes, aesthetes, exiles, film stars, writers and eccentrics. It is now owned by Guy Richie, as part of his divorce settlement from Madonna, now that’s what I call a Divorce Settlement! The shoot covers 1100 acres of deep chalk valleys, which offer challenging partridge and pheasant, and a very good lunch in the fabulous Orangery. Shooting parties can stay at the nearby gastro pub, The Museum at Farnham.
Goodwood, Sussex* The 12,000 acre Estate used to be divided into several large commercial shoots, but now has been all but taken back in hand, and offers stunning partridge and pheasant shooting in beautiful surroundings. Guns meet, and lunch at the wonderful shooting Pavilion at Carne’s Seat, and can stay at the excellent Goodwood Hotel. This is an estate ‘on the up’, thanks mainly to Lord March’s introduction of the Festival of Speed, and the re-introduction of the Revival Meeting, both of which draw 145,000 visitors, and of course the Glorious Goodwood Horse Racing Meeting at the end of July. The Agent, Alun Rees, and Property Manager, Jaap Roell manage the shoot, with great charm and efficiency
Contact Jaap Roell Tel; 01243 755000
Cocking, Sussex. The Cowdray Estate encompasses 16,500 acres of the west Sussex countryside stretching from the South Downs at Cocking to Midhurst and northwards almost to Haslemere. The estate has an interesting sporting history dating from the 16th century when Queen Elizabeth I bagged a fallow deer. In modern times the sporting tradition has continued with the 2nd and 3rd Viscount playing host to such guests as Winston Churchill, Sir Alec Douglas Hume and The Duke of Edinburgh. Today the estate has a number of tenant shoots including the famous Cocking Shoot renowned for its testing high pheasants and its signature ‘chalk pit’ drive. It is run jointly by Tim Hoare and Michael Pearson, and offers some of the highest birds outside Devon.
Bereleigh, Hampshire* This 2,500 acre estate is set in beautiful chalk downland, with some huge, mature woods, strategically planted to provide wonderful birds, and there has been lots more recent planting to further enhance this glorious shooting estate at the top end of the Meon Valley. It is owned by Bill Tyrwhitt-Drake, and there is a lovely Georgian house surrounded by beautiful farmland, with superb views, where shooting parties can stay, and enjoy all it has to offer, including a wonderful Billiard Room for after dinner entertainment, and the birds are pretty entertaining too, especially over Mascombe Bottom, one of its signature drives.
Contact Bill Tyrwhitt-Drake. Tel; 01730 823486 email@example.com
Matterley, Hampshire. This glorious estate just to the east of Winchester was owned by the late Commander (Henry) Bruce, who was a consummate countryman, and must have planted a million trees in his lifetime in order to create a top quality shoot, which has been inherited by his son Peveril, who has further enhanced and improved the shoot, so that it now ranks amongst the best in the south of England.
It is blessed with some wonderful valleys, and includes the impressive Cheesefoot Head, with its huge Punchbowl, where Eisenhower addressed the Allied troops just before the D-Day landings. The Estate is also large enough to provide top quality shooting throughout the season, with some very challenging drives, and the shoot is now managed with charm and panache, by Peveril’s son, Otto.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 01256-896444
Fonthill, Wiltshire* Fonthill is a stunning estate of over 10,000 acres, near Tisbury in Wilshire owned by the charming Alistair Morrison (Lord Margadale), where you can shoot very challenging pheasant in Capability Brown parkland, with ornamental lakes, and partridges on the outer edges of this great sporting estate. Lunch is taken in an old Gamekeepers Cottage in the middle of the estate, and pheasants come plucked and dressed, ready for the oven! This is one of the most civilised shoots in the south of England, and shooting parties tend to stay at the nearby Howard’s House Hotel, The Lamb Inn or The Angel Inn at nearby Hindon.
Contact: Tel; 01747 820246 email: email@example.com
Wrackleford, Dorset* This 1,700 acre estate is set in the unspoilt deep chalk valleys of Dorset, and has been a destination shoot for those seeking the thrill of high partridges and pheasant for decades. Owned by the Pope brewing dynasty for generations, and now ably run by Oliver Pope, the shoot has developed hand in hand with conservation over the past hundred years. There is an amazing shooting lodge at the apex of the Wessex downs, with panoramic views of Hardy country towards the sea at Lulworth Cove, and a waiting list as long as your arm for shooting which commands premier-cru prices. It is well-known for its friendly atmosphere. Shooting parties can stay in the main house which is delightful as are the hosts.
Encombe, Dorset. This is shooting heaven-on-sea, and the 2,400 acre estate has a wonderful Georgian House right on the coast, and was formerly owned by an American, Charles McVeigh III, who was Chairman of Citigroup’s Corporate Finance and investment banking division, and entertained his clients here in some style. However, the house is now being restored and refurbished by the new owners, James and Arabella Gaggero. His family trading company, the Bland Group, based in Gibraltar sold GB airlines to Easyjet for £103 million, a chunk of which was used to acquire this 2,000 acre estate on the Dorset coast, which was on the market for £18 million. Shooting here is by private invitation only, and such invitations are naturally much sought-after.
Castle Hill, Devon. Serious shots who have been there say this is possibly the greatest high pheasant shoot of all, but, sadly I have never shot there so cannot voice an opinion, but it is run by Caspar-Macdonald-Hall, who is known to be something of an ‘expert’ at high pheasant, and connoisseurs insist it is the ‘crème de la crème’ of high pheasant shoots, with many drives providing birds that are almost impossible to bring down. The combination of the highest pheasants in the steepest of Devon valleys over 9,000 acres makes it hard to beat. I am told that the house is special, too.
Chargot, Devon. In the heart of the West Country, on the edge of Exmoor, the legendary Chargot Shoot is synonymous with the best pheasant and partridge shooting in Britain. Its seemingly bottomless, steep sided valleys and stunning scenery provide the most idyllic shooting country. Seeing really is believing at Chargot as there is valley upon valley of perfect shooting topography which in turn presents quite astounding sporting birds. Tall and testing would be a good way to describe the birds on drives such as Spitfire, Unbelievable, Melanie’s and many many more. To sum up, Chargot rightfully deserves its excellent reputation for high birds in glorious countryside. Add to this a welcoming, warm and spacious shoot lodge, commanding exceptional vies over the valleys below and you have the making of a magical day.
Contact: email: firstname.lastname@example.org tel: 01686 650828
Molland, Devon. Molland is synonymous with high bird shooting in Devon. The estate is owned by Mrs Throckmorton and the shooting is let by Bettws Hall, who also have five shoots in Wales, including Kempton and Brigands. The estate is about 5,000 acres in all and the vast majority of it is used. There are so many valleys on the estate that the number of drives seem endless. However, the estate is essentially split in half, forming two beats: Molland and West Molland.
Belvoir Castle, Rutland*. The family seat of the Duke of Rutland, the impressive Castle stands high on a hill overlooking 2,500 acres of woodland, and offers some of the finest pheasant and partridge shooting in wonderful surroundings, with lunch in the Castle. On the day I was there, the ladies were offered a guided tour of the Castle after lunch, whilst we returned to our labours, and shot a total bag of 372 partridge and 19 pheasants. An unforgettable experience.
Contact: Megan Turner tel; 01476 871004 email: email@example.com
Holkham, Norfolk. This magnificent estate, covering 10,000 acres, on the north Norfolk coast, belongs to the Earl of Leicester, and is famous for its wonderful beach, its Palladian mansion, and its wild English partridge shoot, not to mention its gamekeepers who wear bowler hats. A favourite shoot of King Edward VII who knew a thing or two about great shoots, and one of the main reasons that the Royal family acquired Sandringham, to compete with Holkham and the other big East Anglian shoots.
Contact: Tel: 01328-710227 www.hokham.co.uk
Houghton Hall Norfolk. This 4,000 acre estate and Palladian mansion is the superb setting for Lord Cholmondley’s famous shoot in north Norfolk, specialising in wild partridge in glorious rolling countryside. There is a long tradition of shooting at Houghton, with records and game books going back to 1838. Lord de Grey was a tenant and entertained Edward VII there frequently. There is also a strong tradition of conservation at Houghton, which, as a result has one of the highest populations of grey partridges in Norfolk. This allows them to offer 8 to 10 wild partridge days each year, connoisseurs shooting
Contact: Robert Miller, 01485-628569
Muggleswick, Co. Durham. This is a clear case of new money acquiring not one, but two classic grouse moors. Muggleswick was acquired by hedge fund manager Jeremy Hermann, along with East Allenheads, for circa £11 million, and he is not only an accomplished shot, by a superb fisherman, who named his company, Ferox Capital after a predatory trout!
Alnwick, Northumberland*. For the very fortunate few, the Duke and Duchess let four double days each year, of between 250-400 birds, and lunch is taken in the ruins of Hulne Priory, atop a mound in the middle of the home park. However, the focus is on entertaining individuals who really appreciate excellent shooting in beautiful surroundings and making them feel like their personal guests, so they stay in the castle and hopefully enjoy their Graces’ hospitality. Once they have sampled it, most become regular visitors!
Contact: Alnwick Estate office tel:01665 510777
Gunnerside, North Yorkshire. This is one of the great shooting estates, and belonged to the Earl Peel, who sold it to the duty-free Billionaire, Robert Miller whose three daughters made marrying well, an art form! He has spent a great deal on the house and estate. Gunnerside is one of the best grouse moors in England. With more than 30,000 acres, it has been described as a highland estate in England. The shooting is across a variety of moors and the lowland shooting is pretty impressive as well, and there is a fine shooting lodge.
Drumlanrig on the Queensberry Estate belongs to the Duke of Buccleuch, and offers a huge variety of shooting in magnificent scenery, with 25 drives covering 15,000 acres, including great high pheasant, and equally impressive partridges, the latter being a relatively recent addition, but now very highly rated by people who know.
Contact: Buccleuch Sporting Office 01848 600415
Linhope Located in the Cheviot Hills, is run by The Duke of Northumberland’s brother, James Percy, who, like his brother, Ralph, is one of the best shots in the country. James Percy also designs and promotes the new range of shooting coats for Barbour, including the ‘Challenger’ jacket. Linhope offers some of the most difficult partridge shooting in Britain, and getting a day here is like waiting for dead men’s shoes. There is also a luxury shooting lodge where guns start and end the day.