The quintessentially British brand Holland & Holland is well known for its beautifully hand-crafted guns, collected by hunting connoisseurs everywhere.
Its Mayfair shop has been discreetly positioned between high fashion boutiques and art galleries in Bruton Street ever since I can remember.
Perhaps less well known is the fact that the leading gun maker owns hundreds of acres in North London, known as the Holland & Holland Grounds. This is set to change as the company has invested heavily into updating and adding to the existing facilities there, with the result being a state of the art outdoor and indoor shooting ranges and a series of meeting/dining rooms, some 45 minutes from Central London.
The tree-lined H&H drive leads to the one storey building, the new part blending seamlessly with the old, where the club-like atmosphere is enhanced by wood fires, comfortable leather sofas and armchairs looking towards the manicured grounds and a canon captured from Napoleon’s army (interesting fact: a direct descendent of the late emperor shoots regularly at the Grounds).
Our group, arriving on a sunny late October day was led by Tom Harrow, the ever-entertaining wine guru, whose witticisms have earned him a reputation of being an unrivalled host.
An on the go mid-morning snack of huge baps filled with crispy, piping hot bacon preceded the outdoor shoot, which was conducted in two competing groups: one shooting clay pigeon outdoors; the other training their rifles on game of their choice below ground. Not literally, of course – the state of the art lower ground range uses German Schiesskino cinematographic technology, allowing you to shoot live rounds at real footage of running boar, deer, buffalo, etc. A red dot on the screen shows if you have scored and which part of the animal you have hit.
Whether you shoot below or above ground, you are accompanied by long-term H&H instructors whose patience appears to be boundless.
Clay pigeon shoots have gained in popularity and with good reason: they are fun, harmless and, as with all precision sports, addictive.
Back at the main building, we were treated to a sabrage opening of a Champagne bottle by Tom Harrow and an outstanding lunch of ham salad with truffle dressing, roast partridge, and a selection on English cheeses.
The wine selection provided an interesting topic, because the bottles had been discovered, quite recently, in the Groundsman’s shed.
The Shooting Grounds building sports one of London’s best priced Bordeaux collections with the UK’s largest selection of Chateaux Rauzan Segla and Canon.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the truly phenomenal wine cellar lining the entire wall of the dining room.
After lunch, we retreated to the recently created cigar room where we were offered a choice of cocktails and Dominican cigars.
The dining indulgences aside, the Holland & Holland Grounds are about providing a series of sporting experiences in a spectacular setting. The facilities are a work in progress but already quite accomplished in terms of detail, service and the sheer enjoyment they provide.
Holland & Holland Shooting Grounds
Ducks Hill Road, Northwood, HA6 2ST
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