Bag a Macnab

PHOTOGRAPH Adam Whitehead
STYLING David Lamb 

August 19, 2016


Jackets, breeks, sweaters by Purdey
Gloves by Alain Paine
Boots by Hunter Field
Lightweight shooting jacket by Barbour


Since the 1920s, optimistic sportsmen have been heading to the Scottish countryside in the hope of “bagging a Macnab”. Now you can try Gleneagles’ own version

“It started off when my colleague had a family in for the morning to do fishing, archery, clay pigeon shooting and air-rifle shooting,” says Gleneagles’ shooting instructor, Nick Raby. “‘I’ve got the full Macnab here,’ he yelled”. Thus the Gleneagles Macnab was born. The history of the Macnab, though, goes back much further.

In 1925, the year after the Gleneagles hotel opened, author John Buchan published a novel called John Macnab. The story follows three bored men from London’s clubland as they put a challenge to three Scottish estates: “John Macnab” – their collective name – would poach a salmon or a stag from each estate and return it to the owner undetected. The novel planted a seed and soon the idea of “bagging a Macnab” took off.

The original challenge was to shoot a stag and a grouse, and to catch a salmon in the same day: often referred to as the pursuit of “fur, feather and fin”. It might sound straightforward but the difficulty of walking three or four miles to find a grouse, the same distance again for a stag and then having time enough to catch a salmon means that the Macnab often defeats even the most experienced sportsmen. For others, pure luck gives them the thrill of unexpected success.

Today, there are few estates where such a feat would even be possible. On most, you wouldn’t find the animals in close enough proximity to each other – which is why many have created their own versions. Near Gleneagles, for example, there’s the “lowland Macnab” – shooting a buck, a pheasant and catching a trout – but at the hotel a more humane version has proved equally popular.

So, what does the Gleneagles Macnab entail? Shooting ten clays from the King’s Pheasant high tower, getting eight bull’s eyes at the air rifle range and six golds in archery, then finishing the day off by catching a rainbow or a wild brown trout at Greenwells Loch on The PGA Centenary course or Laich Loch. Unlike the original Macnab, time is on your side, but for each element of the challenge you’ll have the exact number of attempts and no more – just ten clays fired, eight shots at the rifle range and six arrows for the archery. There’s as long for the fishing as you like, but only the most patient succeed.

The perfect group challenge, you can even spend the whole day with the same instructor in tow. Will you succeed? Now that’s another matter...

To book an experience at The Gleneagles Shooting School call 01764 694344.

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