From shooting in the rolling hills of the Highlands to fishing on the banks of scenic rivers and lochs, Scotland’s rich rural landscape is the perfect setting for a variety of country sports.
As the most anticipated event in the country sports diary celebrates its 30th anniversary, more than 35,000 visitors and 500 traders are expected to gather at Scone Palace in Perthshire.
The Scottish Game Fair is Scotland’s largest annual country fair and with activities including cooking demonstrations, falconry, off-road driving, shopping and family-friendly sports, the show has something for everyone.
The three-day event takes place between 29 June and 1 July.
Head of events (Scotland) for the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) Sarah Ballantyne says: “The overall aim for the event is to educate people and then as a secondary to that is to entertain.
“Then our third major aim is to raise funds for our charity [the GWCT].
“It’s really to let people learn about best practice and countryside management.”
According to Scottish Land & Estates, the country sports sector attracts more than 4 million country sports participants to the UK every year and adds more than £240 million to the Scottish economy.
Therefore the GWCT objective is to ensure that the Scottish countryside remains rich with wildlife.
Its flagship event showcases the best of what rural Scotland has to offer and this year it is sponsored by farming insurance company NFU Mutual for the first time.
Ballantyne says: “We are putting on some new events specifically to do with the Year of Young People and one of those is bush crafts and countryside skills which is completely free for everyone who is attending.
“It is done by an amazing bush craft guy – Lolly Clark of Huntly-based Amara Bushcraft – who is the only Scottish Ray Mears-qualified instructor.
“He is really good and he will be teaching young people about starting a fire or carving a butter knife and really simple – but great fun – things for children to do.
“That is alongside the masses of other things, from trying a Segway to off-road driving.”
Another new offering is the Junior Macnab Challenge which stems from the 1925 novel John Macnab by Scottish author John Buchan and involves catching a salmon, a brace of grouse and shooting a stag all in one day.
This experience will be available to young people aged eight to 21 and has been created by GWCT in partnership with Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group.
The high point this year will be the 30th birthday party on Saturday night with a ceilidh open to both GWCT members and the public and music by Ceilidh Minogue.
Other key attractions are the numerous food and retail opportunities that are available.
Working in partnership with Scotland’s Natural Larder, the fair organisers have set up a stand-alone cookery theatre where chefs will demonstrate game-related recipes and techniques.
Nearby, the Food Hall will feature more than 45 artisan producers of cheese, smoked fish, spices, sweets and other craft delicacies.
During the three days, an exhibition will be held in the centre of the show to highlight how the event has grown over the decades.
Ballantyne says: “It will show lots of different elements of wildlife and our research, for example, predator control.
“It’s about what happened 30 years ago and what is happening now, for example, all the differences in the technology that would have been used 30 years ago versus today.”
The Scottish Game Fair has expanded continuously since its inception, growing from a two-day to a three-day event in 2005.
Ballantyne says: “It’s had all of the core areas that you would expect at a game fair so your lovely gun dogs, shooting and fishing and so on, but each of those areas have grown and developed over that period.
“From our perspective, our overarching aim is to have the countryside being rich and thriving in game and wildlife, so people need to know about it.
“Even for those who do know that, you’re off on that journey of discovery.
“From a novice to someone who is highly knowledgeable, they will always learn something new at the Scottish Game Fair.”
This article appears in the SUMMER 2018 edition of Vision Scotland. An online version is available here.