Country pursuits in the spotlight

The Scottish Game Fair kicks off on Friday 30 June at Scone Palace. Picture: Sandy Young
The Scottish Game Fair kicks off on Friday 30 June at Scone Palace. Picture: Sandy Young
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Promoted by The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

The Scottish Game Fair takes place in the grounds of Scone Palace from 30 June to 2 July, 2017.

Rural events unite people who share a common interest whether that’s horses at international trials, heavy events at Highland games or country pursuits at a game fair.

The Scottish Game Fair in the grounds of Scone Palace in Perthshire, organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and with The Scotsman as headline sponsor, is considered to be 
the main player on the country sports 
circuit and shines a spotlight on the 
£240 million-a-year field sports sector.

The three-day showcase of game, wildlife and countryside management, which takes place this year from 30 June to 2 July, is calendar staple for gundog breeders, falconers, anglers, food and drink producers and country clothing retailers, and attracts more than 30,000 visitors – many with a four-legged companion in tow.

Over the course of its 29 years, the game fair has grown, adding new events and traders to enhance the visitor experience.

“Going back, the GWCT launched the Scottish Game Fair primarily for three purposes,” explains Hugo Straker, chairman of the Scottish Game Fair, who has been involved for 28 of its 29 years.

“The first purpose was to show the importance of game and its conservation to the Scottish countryside; a lot of people who come to enjoy the fair don’t come from rural backgrounds and really want to understand what’s going on.

“Secondly, it was to offer the public an enjoyable and educational day out. We have something for everyone. We have always taken great pride in offering everyone a day where they can come collectively and go away with a smile on their face.”

The third reason, which still very much applies today, is to fund GWCT’s research, which aims to ensure a thriving countryside in Scotland rich with game and other wildlife.

The trust’s stand is certainly worth a visit – perhaps en route to the main ring to watch the “Dog ‘n’ Duck” show, pipe band or terrier racing – to learn more about the work it does.

With 450 traders selling everything from crafts and clothing to outdoor equipment and ice cream, it’s no wonder the average visitor to the game fair spends between £128 and £147.

The food hall is another area which has expanded over the years as our appetite for top quality Scottish food and drink has increased.

“People are very food oriented these days and we have got the reputation of producing the most fantastic food hall with all the mouth-watering goodies that go with it,” says Straker.

“Our main ring events continue to be massively popular. They are all part of the traditional tapestry of any game fair.

“New for 2017 is the inaugural Four Nations International Gundog competition which is going to be very exciting.

“We have always prided ourselves on having great gundog events. What people will have this year is a unique opportunity to see the best gundogs and the best gundog handlers in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England coming to the Scottish Game Fair on the Saturday to compete.

“Each of the handlers will run three spaniels and three retrievers. It has taken a few years to bring that together and, at last, here it is.”

Another unique event is the competition for the Fred Taylor Memorial Trophy which sees working hill ponies and their handlers – dressed in traditional stalking estate tweeds – compete to win one of London gunmaker Rigby’s newly launched Highland Stalker rifles.

“The ponies themselves are wonderful characters,” adds Straker. “It’s a very unique event for people to see.”

Many of the new additions to the programme at the Scottish Game Fair are the result of feedback from visitor surveys, conducted every three years by GWCT.

Acting on feedback about the fishing area, the organisers have worked hard to revamp it for this year’s event.

“This is an opportunity for people to come and see the revamped area which will include something called the Bothy where there will be panel discussions and Q&A sessions with fishing experts including Fiona Armstrong,” says Straker.

“We also have the world’s fly casting champion Hywel Morgan coming to demonstrate his winning techniques in the main ring.

“People want to come to the game fair and be informed. It’s a great opportunity for us to showcase rural activity.”

2017 Highlights

GWCT Main Stand

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s flagship stand beside the main ring is a “must visit” for all fair goers. Its displays highlight the benefits of the trust’s research and how science can be readily translated into practical management advice that helps to ensure a thriving countryside rich in game and other wildlife. This year’s theme is “Grass to Grouse” and will showcase how sympathetic management of a hill-edge livestock farm can be efficient without loss of biodiversity and carefully integrated with sporting enterprises.

Wee Beasties Marquee

A hive of activity for younger visitors, giving children a chance to take part in hands-on workshops including candle-making, clay modelling and using an oilseed rape press to make your own oil. Experienced beekeepers will be on hand to answer questions about honeybees and pollination.

Artists in Action

Talented artists and makers who take their inspiration from wildlife and the countryside showcase their exciting techniques at the GWCT’s ringside stand.

Exhibitors

Vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, woodland and forestry equipment, woodland management services, advisory services for land management including financial advisers, aerial mapping and surveys and estate agencies, clothing, crafts and food and drink.

This article appears in the SUMMER 2017 edition of Vision Scotland. An online version can be read here. Further information about Vision Scotland here.