“In England, an estate that has a good house with a well-regarded shoot and fishing is rare,” says Alex Lawson, Director of National Farms and Estates. It’s a similar story in Scotland. “I’d say a handful of genuine estates come to market a year,” says Charles Dudgeon, Director of Farms and Estates in Scotland.
Around half of estate buyers now come from outside the UK. Privacy and ease of access are top of their list of requirements. “Most look to buy for their own enjoyment,” says Dudgeon, with an estate just one property in a larger portfolio. While they may have an eye on commerciality, the emphasis is on leisure. “It makes sense to cover some of the costs, but not at the expense of that personal enjoyment,” agrees Lawson.
Revenue may come from letting out surplus shooting and fishing days, as well as diversifying into other activities, from the traditional, such as farming, forestry and residential lettings, to the more forward-thinking, including renewable energy and leisure.
With supply so scarce, estates often trade off-market – so having an agent in the know is vital. “Quite a lot happens privately, and we’ve always got buyers for the very best-in-class estates,” says Lawson. “We know who’s in the market for the holy grail.”
The rewilding show
Buying a sporting estate is not always about sport – both Dudgeon and Lawson are seeing a trend for buyers interested in rewilding. “Some people have a serious intent to improve environmental credentials, and if by doing that there happens to be an improvement in capital value – which I believe there will be – then great,” says Dudgeon.
Residential lettings have become a significant income stream in recent years. “People have far fewer employees, so they’ve freed up houses, and are prepared to spend money on them to maximise revenue returns,” says Lawson.
On the fly
Salmon fishing is centred on Scotland, particularly the ‘big four’ of the Spey, Tay, Tweed and Dee. “In England, the chalk streams of Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset, such as the Test, Kennet, Avon and Itchen are perhaps the best known,” says Lawson.
Renewable energy is a key area of diversification. “Through stalking, fishing and shooting, these estates are generally a cost as opposed to a profit centre, so having an income from renewables in some form has transformed them,” says Dudgeon.
When it comes to shooting and stalking, Scotland undoubtedly offers the best of all worlds – but there is plenty of good-quality sport to be found in many of the counties across England, too.
An alternative to farming on marginal hill ground in Scotland is forestry, which is becoming an attractive alternative revenue stream. “While planting trees doesn’t produce an annual income, it’s a tax-efficient and potentially high-yielding investment,” says Lawson.
While many estates come with a large main house, not all buyers are looking for a substantial property, says Lawson. “There are a number of people in the market who want a fantastic bit of country with a shoot/fishing lodge rather than a large principal house.”
Three of the very best estates for shooting, stalking and fishing
This 5,500-acre Aberdeenshire estate offers shooting, stalking, fishing, farming and forestry.
A Grade II listed manor house in Herefordshire with a shoot and 1,468 acres, plus 20 additional cottages.
East Benula South
Splendid isolation in Invernesshire, with a deer forest, trout and pike fishing, and a small, secluded cottage.