Craigadam EstatesExclusive Sporting Holidays
With Richard & Celia Pickup
|Craigadam Index||Contacting Craigadam||Rod & Gun|
--- am the sport is a return to --- ry, the hunter leaving the --- h knapped flint and return--- whatever game crossed his --- of the lair is Richard Pickup, --- -shooting in its purest form ---s of Galloway. Like a small boy --- the world's best toy, he carries --- in a whirlwind of boyish --- semi-organised chaos.
--- 17th-century steading with ---Aga, oak panelling, royals --- ls and stuffed hawking dioramas, even the most primevally --- may find himself unwilling to --- es his aprés-shoot seriously, joining the guns for dinner for a lengthy post-mortem of the day and an even more involved discussion of the morrow. With whiskey.
Stories abound about the man's stamina. Working Cox and Box, two Welshmen once tried to break him. One of the dragged Pickup far and wide over the hills - pre-dawn stalking, post-sunset flighting, midnight foxing, - and then kept him talking all night on the merits of cigarettes and whisky and wildfowl. In the morning, team B took over. And so on. After four days the Welshmen waved the white flag. Pickup was up early for breakfast, red-eyed but unbowed.
Despite this hairy-chested stuff, the real power at Craigadam is Celia, aka Mrs. P. When the guns have lingered too long over the pre-prandial drink, the call comes through that "the dogs are looking hungry". Pints are rapidly abandoned, for when Mrs. P. summons who dares refuse ? And with good reason - her cooking is ambrosial and accompanied by a reckless lack of portion control.
The third member of the team is the gamekeeper, Gordon, who pitched up one day as a picker-up and never went home. After a bullock-like hare had been shot mid-drive, Gordon declared that it was a local superstition that any hare shot this far up this hill - particularly beyond this wall, - would bring bad luck if it entered the farm's portals. This superstition, let it be understood, had nothing to do with the fact that he was already carrying two of the brutes and three pheasants.
The barely contained chaos starts early. Like an errant pointer, Pickup sticks his snout out of the door and decides on The Plan. Frost means woodcock; a stiff westerly may bring in rain and wildfowl; high winds - cancel the ferreting. The knock on the bedroom door may come at some obscene hour in the pre-dawn summoning you to shoot geese; or you may be allowed a lie-in before kitting-up to fish.
What will end up in the gamebook is a mystery; in two days we shot 10 species and the fox only escaped through a lack of vulpicidal tendencies from the guns. "Not to worry," said the keeper from the nearby estate, "I know where to find him. I've got his phone number." It is because Pickup and his keepers have seemingly direct access toa woodland Yellow Pages that shooting at Craigadam is so rewarding. Firstly a hill farmer, Pickup's wanderings mean he knows - as much as any man can know, - what will be where, why, when and in what numbers.
We took in two of what Pickup calls "Species Days", starting off on the nearby Barjarg estate with driven snipe from reedbeds. (Andrew Hunter-Arundell, the laird, once tried to remove them with dynamite, blasting them 50 feet skywards. They plummeted back into exactly the same position. So there they have stayed.) This was followed by a beat through last year's oil-seed rape, which produced a dozen pheasant poults (unsaluted); then a beat through newly planted spruce and fir, springing several woodcock (heavily saluted but undaunted) and half a dozen pheasants, before clambering into waders and the River Nith (ggod for backend fishing, and famed for a 68-lbs salmno taken by a poacher). As evening set in, we gathered round a flight pond for mallard, teal - and a crow. The hunters returned to the cave tired, hungry and thirsty, for dinner and a narrow escape: the whiskey took effect before the planned 10-man pyramid in the drawing-room could be attempted.
Dawn had us waiting for the skeins of greylags that lifted off Loch Milton, frustratingly out of range. Pickup piled us into the Land Rover for some bolting rabbits and driven woodcock. Critics might say that this is the shooting equivalent of crazy golf. And there is a danger that one can become species obsessed, letting a perfectly good rabbit escape because one has already shot three that morning, as one wants to concentrate on other beasts not yet ticked off the list, like a blasé American on an African safari.
"Driven pheasant is always good," said one of the guns, "but it can get slightly boring, so to be able to walk out and sheet geese in the morning and then move on to duck and snipe and rabbit, - it's a real treat. Also, without wishing to sound too mercenary, it's a most cost-effective way of spending two days shooting." At [1996 prices : Ed.] £90 per day's shooting and a paltry £30 for dinner, bed and breakfast, it is clear that Pickup is not doing this for the money.
The final bag included pheasants, rabbits, mallard, teal, hare, pigeon, snipe (one of which was picked out of a river by a salmon fisherman the day after we had shot it and returned to its rightful owner's gamecard), woodcock, geese - and the crow. The only thing we missed was at the top of the list: Pickup wanted a jay's wing feather for a Munro Killer he was dressing for a party of salmon fishermen the next week.
For those who seek a smaller, less formal and totally sporting-orientated establishment, make tracks to Craigadam, near Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway, (an hour's drive from Carlisle) a family-run sporting lodge from where guests can enjoy access to over 25,000 sporting acres. Twelve years ago resident owners Richard and Celia Pickup (her father acquired the late -18th-century house with 600 acres of farmland in 1952) decided to add a sporting string to their agricultural bow, and "started to take paying guests who wanted a day's sport and a bit of a party in the evening". The Pickups are excellent at hosting both, integrating with their guests (who come from as far afield as America and Canada) as necessary, and encouraging them to treat Craigadam as their own. Furnishings are "faded chintz" but comfortable and guests have the run of the family drawing room, study and panelled dining room which offers cordon bleu cooking. The premises are not licensed so one takes one's own.
Unlike hotels, meal-times are flexible and can be arranged around the day's sport; for as Richard, who has been shooting and fishing since the age of five, points out, the feeding habits of fish and game tend to concide with humans'. If you are a keen fisherman, Celia Pickup will have you fed and watered by 6.30 p.m. before you make your way up to the trout loch from where you can see the whole of Galloway and, when the sky is clear, the Isle of Man. Constructed four years ago, the loch is stocked with rainbow trout of up to 6 lb. Craigadam also owns a two-mile stretch of the River Urr which is good for salmon, as are the nearby rivers Nith, Annan, Cree and Bladnoch which cost [1992 : Ed.] around £10 a day; a guide and fishing instruction can be arranged and guests are provided with flies, specially tied according to the season and the water to be fished.
Craigadam specialises in providing facilities to match individual requirements. So flexible are the arrangements that it can be on a one-to-one basis, with "sporting packages" including rough-shooting, rabbit days, duck flighting and geese (mainly greylag) as well as walked-up and driven-grouse days. There are also a number of driven-pheasant days throughout the season, with an average of 130 bird-days and a shoot-to-kill ratio of five to one, charged at [1992 : Ed.] £16 a bird. The hill roe stalking at Craigadam, where some 80 bucks and 80 does are killed each year, attracts both novices and experienced stalkers; all the stalking is guided and conducted on foot (rather than from high seats) and an estate rifle is available. Stalking costs [1992 : Ed.] £90 a day, with trophy fees on bucks (including medal heads) ranging from [1992 : Ed.] around £30 to £100.