White Swan Inn Pickering, right in the heart of game shooting country, is a sporting hotel that game shooting parties will enjoy.
Generally speaking, a close proximity to the shoot, gun storage, drying room, kennels, good fare and a comfortable bed are the first things I look for when reviewing sporting hotels. I’d now like to throw another one into the ring: the ability to remain undisturbed. There’s nothing sinister in that desire – I’m not like Ivor Novello in The Lodger – because often after a long drive, the kind that ends in the dark, I just want to go to ground, to close that door and potter aimlessly until lights out: no feast in the restaurant, no riotous lock-in, no humming to myself in the corridors at 3am.
The White Swan Inn Pickering set modestly half way up Pickering’s Market Place, ticked most of my boxes, and was just the kind of billet I needed to hide in after a late Sunday evening drive from the East Midlands. I might have been right in the heart of a market town but the ambient noise faded the more doorways I passed through. That was fine by me.
Under the ownership of Victor Buchanan’s family since 1983, the White Swan Inn Pickering is somewhere that wants to show those shooting parties who’ve been told to stay in Helmsley, some 13 miles west on the A170, that Pickering has more to offer than they realise.
It has got a strong case. For example, a few years back, prior to a day at Blansby Park, I sat in on a shoot briefing at Russell’s, a café that just happens to be a cartridge throw from the 21-bedroom inn. The guns couldn’t have looked more relaxed about their day, perhaps because Pickeringians (sic) seem to take things that little bit slower.
This extremely attractive market town is also home to one of the main stations on the North York Moors Railway, and on this most recent visit there was something unmistakably romantic about straightening my tie while steam from the platform billowed over the rooftops, hurried along by the sharp peep of the engine’s whistle.
I was stationed at the White Swan Inn Pickering for two nights ahead of assignments at Danby Moor and Wykeham shoot in early season. The drive to the latter was no more strenuous than nipping to the garden centre, and while the journey to Danby took a little longer, time seemed to fade away as I climbed farther up onto the moors, my usual pre-shoot preparation routine forgotten as the autumnal valleys below shone in the morning sun.
Cost: From £139 (comprehensive shooting packages available)
Shoots nearby: Place Newton, Black Park, Ravenswick, Wykeham and Danby amongst others
Contact: white-swan.co.uk or tel. 01751 472288
Scores for the White Swan Inn Pickering
Catering: Local and marvellous. I dined with Victor on my last night and will be passing off his wine recommendations as my own with reckless abandon. 9/10
Accommodation: My Hideaway room was so quiet it could have been in the middle of nowhere. 8/10
Atmosphere: Quiet but that wasn’t a bad thing. I arrived on a Sunday and left on a Tuesday morning. Shooting parties will settle in easily, though. 7/10
Service: The staff are precise, friendly and know their game shooting. 8/10
Suitability for shooters: Gun storage is available and dogs are welcome. Ask about The Bothy for your post-shoot dinner. The inn has contacts with loaders, instructors and vehicle hire companies. 9/10