Country sports enthusiasts heading to Scotland for the Glorious 12th next week are demanding a greater variety of iconic Scottish experiences.
Tourism experts report that wildlife tours, whisky tasting and castle visits are major draws for the days when they are not shooting, making their trip a more complete Scottish experience.
Andrew Grainger from the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG) said: ‘Country sports have been the bedrock of the rural economy for decades. They still underpin the majority of visits that we expect next week, however we are now seeing an increase in people looking for a more diverse experience, including other aspects of Scotland’s heritage.
‘The grouse shooting sector is in recovery phase following the very poor season last year, so in those areas where the shooting is limited, this trend is particularly apparent. This year there is better sport to be had in the east than in the west, but there should be an improvement on last year. Grouse shooting is managed to ensure that there is always a sustainable stock of birds remaining.’
The grouse season, which begins on Monday, will bring £32m to the Scottish economy and will attract visitors from Europe, North America and further afield.
The Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group reports that there are 270,000 visitor trips to Scotland per year for country sports overall, with a value of £155m to the tourist economy. Sporting shooting supports 11,000 full time jobs in Scotland, of which 2,640 are in the grouse sector.
Grouse shooting is a significant driver of tourism to Scotland with 20% of all country sports visitors shooting grouse and 89% of visitors shooting at live quarry.
Approximately 60% of visitors come from England, with the remaining 40% from within Scotland and overseas – primarily the USA, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, France and Spain. New markets are opening up in China and India.
Andrew continued: ‘We have started to see visitors coming from China to shoot, but in small numbers so far. The Chinese are fascinated by Scottish culture and heritage and will often combine a trip to a castle with a visit to a whisky distillery and one day of shooting. The fact that grouse shooting is an iconic Scottish tradition is at the heart of its appeal. In the long-term we expect this market to grow.’
The grouse season, which runs for 16 weeks from 12 August until 10 December, boosts a wide range of rural businesses, who rely on spending by estates and their visitors.
Steve Mitchell of Maryton Garage in Kirriemuir said: ‘We are busy all year round with vehicles from the estates in Glen Clova, Glenogil, Kinnordy and the lower glens too. It’s not just all the gamekeepers’ vehicles, there’s all the other estate staff too, from chefs to maintenance staff and factors. The estate work is a really important part of our business. I have four people employed here and we are able to rely on that work coming in on a regular basis. The boost from the grouse season is very significant for businesses in the area.’
Bel Forbes, owner of Bel’s Butchers, with shops in Edzell and Montrose said: ‘There is a very good tourist trade here in the summer starting from August onwards and our shop in Edzell is at the foot of Glen Esk so visitors come here and travel on up the glens or up to Deeside. Many of these are enjoying country sports, or just visiting Scotland generally.
‘We hugely benefit from the grouse season. We are very close to two large sporting estates and all their beaters are fed by us – they order pies, pastries and meat sandwiches in large orders of 70 at a time. We supply to all the guests at the lodges in the area also – breakfast rolls, lunches and more. Guests who have enjoyed our food over the week will often then pop into the shop and buy something to take away with them on the way home and some also arrange with us for a mail order delivery.
‘I employ 22 people and we take on young people to train as apprentices too, either in front of shop or for food preparation and butchery roles. When there is a good grouse season, we do extremely well. We rely on that trade to take us through the quiet period in January and if there is a good grouse season we can take on an extra young person to train up. For a business like mine the sporting sector is absolutely integral to the local community – all the businesses in this region benefit.”
The SCSTG’s Game for Growth strategy aims to increase the value of country sports by £30 million by 2020 – bringing the total to £185 million.