Hunting has long been a popular pastime for the British Royal Family, but their hunting grounds have just gotten smaller. Abergeldie Estate, a property of over over 11,500 acres near Balmoral Castle in Scotland, has been used by the royals for fishing, deer stalking, and shooting for over 170 years, but its new owner has cut off their access. Catering mogul Alastair Storey purchased Abergeldie in 2021 for roughly $28 million (£23 million) and recently ended the Royal Family’s sporting rights lease, which was originally granted to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1852, allowing them to hunt on the estate in Aberdeenshire.
Storey, who was born in Aberdeenshire and raised on the nearby Fyvie Estate, plans to transform the land and its 34 residential buildings and offer accommodations and wildlife expeditions. According to planning documents filed with the Aberdeenshire Council, he is also seeking permission to build a main house for his family on the property, the design of which nods to traditional Highland estate homes and will reuse materials from other structures on the estate.
The property was originally given to the Gordon family—who still own Abergeldie Castle—in 1482 by James III and remained in the family for over 500 years. The estate once included Birkhall, which was purchased by Prince Albert in 1849 and given to his son Albert Edward. Members of the Royal Family frequently leased the castle until the 1970s, when John Gordon, 21st Baron of Abergeldie, moved back in. The royals paid just a nominal rent for the sporting rights lease until Gordon increased the fee in 1999.
The Royal Family’s love of hunting dates back centuries. William the Conqueror established a royal hunting preserve known as the New Forest around 1079, starting off a long line of royal hunters. King George V once killed 1,000 pheasants in one day on a hunt in 1913, and Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI, spent his final day hunting hares at Sandringham. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, who was nicknamed the “trigger-happy prince,” became embroiled in controversy when they went on a tiger hunt in India in 1961—the same year he became the president of the World Wildlife Fund.
Today the family hunts grouse at Balmoral in August and spends each Boxing Day hunting game birds at Sandringham. The royals have faced increasing criticism for the practice, particularly given the King’s passion for conservation and the environment. But the royals show no sign of giving up shooting; in fact, the Prince and Princess of Wales have already introduced the next generation to the tradition, bringing Prince George to watch his first shoot at the age of five—a move that garnered backlash for William and Catherine. While Prince Harry was brought up shooting along with his brother (Princess Diana nicknamed them “her killer whales”), he last took part in the family’s annual Boxing Day Shoot in 2018. In 2020 Dame Jane Goodall told the Radio News that she believed the Duke of Sussex would give up hunting. “I think Harry will stop because Meghan doesn’t like hunting, so I suspect that is over for him,” she said.
While they may no longer have access to Abergeldie Estate, as the UK’s largest landowners, the Royal Family still has plenty of hunting ground in Scotland, including at the 50,000-acre Balmoral Estate and a private grouse moor at Corgarff.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest
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