Country houses for sale

Buying the perfect sporting estate

The classic Macnab-bagging a stag, a salmon and a brace of grouse within 24 hours- is often held aloft as the pinnacle of sporting achievement. Inspired by John Buchan’s ripping yarn John Macnab, the challenge demands a good deal of skill and luck. Many more try than succeed. In recent years, the concept has developed to include three of any well-won quarry on the same day, adapting with the local fauna-especially if you can do all three on your own property.

A glance at the sporting jewels on today’s Highland market will quicken the pulse of any rifle, gun or rod with Macnab ambitions. The Suisgill estate in Sutherland (on the market with Savills), offers prime fishing on the scenic River Helmsdale with accessible grouse and stags. Balavil House near Kingussie in Invernessshire, is on sale (through Strutt & Parker) for the first time since 1790, and has moorland and riverbanks alive with opportunity. Then, there’s Invermarkie Lodge in the dramatic Deveron valley, Aberdeenshire: once owned by David Cameron’s great-grandfather, it’s a destination for fly fishermen (for sale with CKD Galbraith and John Clegg & Co). Here, the Macnabber might try an alternative challenge of sea trout, high pheasant and roe. But does the Macnab potential of these estates factor into the asking price?

Robert McCulloch, a partner in Strutt & Parker’s Edinburgh office, says that agents often play up the kudos of the challenge: ‘The achievement has a certain romance, but does it add value to an estate? I’m not so sure. The all round appeal of a property is more likely to influence price than the draw of a Macnab.’ Mr McCulloch adds that the market is moving slowly at the moment and is hindered by a lack of supply. ‘I think vendors are waiting to see what happens with the Scottish independence referendum next year, as well as the forthcoming Common Agricultural Policy reforms. If all goes as we hope it will, we should see a more buoyant market from September 2014.’

* Give Country Life this Christmas for a present they can open again and again

Richard Seaman, a partner at George Goldsmith in Edinburgh, believes the Macnab carries more commercial clout in the rental market. ‘Many estates have worked hard to establish a shootable surplus of grouse for pointers, which is the most sociable form of shooting game, in my opinion. Even if your Macnab is achieved over a week, then you’ve still had memorable sport.’ South of the border, variety can spice up the asking price, as the combination of high-quality shooting and fishing is rare. Great Durnford Manor, near Salisbury, was a recent exception that offered both a driven game shoot and chalkstream river.

Recommended videos for you

Nonetheless, Alex Lawson, who heads up the farms and estates team at Savills, explains that-compared to Scotland-the sporting attraction is often a secondary consideration to the value of the house itself. ‘Prices tend to be governed by the residential market. Those primarily interested in the shooting or fishing may not want the commitment of a large house, too. However, the market is crying out for estates or farms that have modest houses, but come with great sporting potential. And one that could offer an English Macnab – let’s say a woodland roe, a brace of greylegs and a wild brownie-would be highly sought-after.’

Invermarkie Lodge in Aberdeenshire comes with salmon fishing on the Deveron. Offers over £1.5m through CKD Galbraith (01343 546362) and John Clegg & Co (0131-229 8800)

* Country houses and sporting estates for sale

* Follow Country Life property on Twitter