Kelly Double suggests where to learn to shoot and where to stay within easy reach of London
There’s seldom a diversion from city life as effective as a session of clay shooting. In the wake of Team GB’s Olympic successes and as the shooting season is getting underway, there’s never been a better time to put your finger to the trigger and immerse yourself in this heritage, country sport.
The wide rural skies and focus on hitting targets can easily chase away the stresses of urban living with exhilaration. With both grouse and partridge already in season, and pheasants joining at the beginning of October, I have pulled together my top four destinations for learning how to shoot, and which countryside establishment nearby you can rely on to provide you with delicious sustenance afterwards. My options have varied menus and low-key luxury bedrooms and are thus perfect spots to recharge after a long day in the fresh air.
Shoot at The Oxford Gun Company
Located just an hour outside London and set in some 400 acres of stunning quintessential British countryside, The Oxford Gun Company is an award winning family-run shooting ground with over 40 years’ experience in the business. Surrounded by rolling countryside, and a course set across babbling brooks, there is no better place to become immersed in this heritage sport.
The instructors at The Oxford Gun Company teach the Stanbury Method and have the experience that it takes to truly give you the best introduction to the sport, guiding you from the very beginning – Amber Hill trained here and completed its TSC Academy, so they know what they’re doing. Whether you aspire to the Olympic rings, or just want to enjoy some time in the countryside, the team can help you hit the targets to get there.
Then dine and stay at The Pheasant
Celebrate a successful day’s shooting at The Pheasant, Brill. Just down the road from The Oxford Gun Company, the pub is perched on a hill and enjoys views over the historic Brill Windmill and neighbouring counties. The Pheasant, to my mind, offers the true country pub package.
You can sample a wide range of traditional dishes, made on site with locally sourced, seasonal produce and then head to bed in one of the cosy rooms. Service is friendly and the atmosphere excellent.
Shoot at Lady’s Wood
Set amidst the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside, with easy access from both the M4 and M5, Lady’s Wood is not far from Bristol and Bath. The grounds are set in 65 acres of natural woodland with a quintessentially welcoming Cotswold stone lodge.
The course has a large variety of sporting traps which can simulate anything, from a bolting rabbit to a long distance pheasant thrown from the 120 ft High Tower – a special feature of the school and one of the highest in the country. Lady’s Wood instructors are always delighted to introduce new shooters to the sport, delivering a full and thorough understanding in all aspects of gun safety and shooting etiquette. The team are skilled in the tuition of juniors and ladies and will make you feel relaxed and safe whilst building confidence in your new skills.
Then dine and stay at The King’s Arms
A traditional British pub and hotel set within the small village of Didmarton in the beautiful Cotswolds, The King’s Arms is an absolute treat. Serving local ales and beers alongside an evolving menu of seasonal British cuisine it’s a sure fire way to enjoy countryside comfort. The restaurant only uses the freshest locally sourced produce and all game on offer comes direct from the neighbouring country estates.
With a choice of self-catering cottages in the stables of the original 17th century King’s Arms, or cottage-style bed and breakfast rooms the luxurious touches will allow you to feel like the Cotswolds is truly your home. Dogs are welcome too – so there’s no need to be afraid of bringing the pooch along for an adventure.
Shoot at The Royal Berkshire Shooting School
Established over two decades ago, The Royal Berkshire Shooting School is recognised as one of the finest facilities of its kind. The school employs seven full-time, professional shooting instructors, and has one of the most expansive shooting grounds in the country.
Its frontline team of shooting professionals has amassed over 100,000 hours as instructors and more than 125 years of experience in the shooting and fishing business. You will know you’re in safe hands. If you want a challenge in a forward-thinking environment, this is the place for you.
Then dine and stay at The Yew Tree
The Yew Tree Inn is a delightful 17th century country pub with rooms and excellent dining situated in the lovely English countryside, moments from Highclere Castle. The food here is an absolute treat, and as a result, The Yew Tree has quite rightly built up a reputation for its high standard of food and service.
With two AA Rosettes, The Yew Tree’s superb kitchen team is headed up by Emma Broom whose has over 20 years of experience cooking great British cuisine. Menus are inspired by the surrounding English countryside, so expect to dine on fresh fish and game plucked straight from forests and rivers nearby. Every one of the rooms has been designed with comfort and relaxation in mind and you’ll not be disappointed. Dogs are more than welcome in some of the rooms and The Yew Tree can even provide facilities such as dog beds and water bowls on request.
Shoot at Bisley
Easily accessible from London and set in the Surrey countryside, the short journey to the countryside will evoke a sudden release of tension that only the outdoors can prompt. A leader in the world of clay shooting, Bisley was founded in 1895 and its grounds are continually being developed to ensure an unbeatable service and variety of targets. It’s ideal for both beginners looking for an introduction to the sport and more seasoned shots. Each instructor is carefully selected and the great majority have shot for Great Britain.
Beginners looking for step-by-step advice can request one-to-one lessons to start off on the right foot whilst seasoned professionals can polish their skills with top tips from the very best in the business.
Then dine and stay at The Inn at West End
Just 20 minutes from Bisley and recently refurbished to the highest standard, The Inn at West End is the perfect escape from the city. Fresh, seasonal produce is the cornerstone of each and every plate and longstanding, excellent relationships with its suppliers mean that the menu changes and evolves according to the best ingredients dependent on the time of year. Nuanced, innovative dishes sit happily alongside more traditional, British pub classics. Disappointment is not an option.
Each room is individually decorated in a contemporary country style and equipped with all you need for a relaxing stay in rural idyll. With beds that look (and feel) like clouds, flat-screen TVs, broadband access, en-suite wet rooms, safes sized to accommodate shotguns and many other thoughtful details this is an inn that will impress. Two rooms even cater for dogs, and one for guests who require additional accessibility facilities.
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