Slaley Hall, Northumberland, is synonymous with golf but it is also attracting the attention of a growing number of shooting parties too.
In the not too distant past game shooting was lauded as “the new golf”, and there is much the two sports have in common: a day out on carefully managed land, an excuse to wear something recherché, the satisfaction of a fine shot, wincing after an easy miss and the chance to swap stories over a pint afterwards to name five. Shooting parties can therefore feel certain they won’t stick out like a chimney sweep at a wedding when they swing by Slaley Hall, whose championship-standard golf courses dominate its 1,000 acres near Hexham.
And those aren’t the only reasons. Before the original Edwardian mansion and gardens were extensively developed in the 1980s, Slaley Hall had a long and rich fieldsports history. Built in the Victorian baronial style by the appropriately named Hunting family, the original mansion and estate (then some 3,000 acres) once played host to month-long shooting and fishing parties.
Despite its relative seclusion amongst moorland and forestry, Slaley Hall is easy to find off the A1 near Newcastle and, while it looks a little corporate on the approach, inside it has a welcome that is typical of the north-east of England. It’s very purple and perhaps a little too dark here, but that’s not to say it’s without character. Visitors know when they have passed from the seemingly endless wood panelled corridors of the extension and into the original mansion’s heart and there is no unsympathetic jarring in decoration.
I’ve never had a bad dinner at a Northumberland hotel (I still crow about the menu at Doxford Hall) and our three courses in Duke’s Grill were no different. The leek and cheddar soufflé was a fine starter, I almost stood up and applauded the lamb main course as the plates were cleared and couldn’t have wanted more from my apple and rhubarb crumble – save for a pair of XXL trousers.
Cost: From £120
Shoots near to Slaley Hall: Whitfield and Beaufront Castle
Scores for Slaley Hall, Northumberland
Catering: Dinner at Slaley Hall only served to strength the strong reputation Northumberland’s kitchens have for ingredients and creativity. 9/10
Accommodation: Our Chambre Unique room was comfortable and understatedly stylish. It was also a little battle-hardened, so perhaps a spruce up is in order. 7/10
Atmosphere: With golfers, weekenders, families and a wedding party milling around things were always friendly – a shame we dined in relative seclusion. 7/10
Service: A real mixture of ages proudly represent Slaley Hall and we would return based on this factor alone. 9/10
Suitability for shooters: Dogs are welcome at Slaley Hall and shotguns can be stored in the gunroom. Add this to the proximity to some first-class shooting, access to private lodges, private dining and a spa for non-shooting guests and you’ve got a fantastic base for your team. 9/10