It may be a highlight of the countryside social calendar but the season, which began yesterday on the Glorious 12th and is due to end on December 10, has lost all of its glory this year for the Royal Family. They will have to cancel shooting parties on the 50,000-acre Highland estate. Although Prince Philip no longer shoots because of a stent in his heart, Prince Charles, his sons, and siblings still enjoy the sport. The Duchess of Cambridge has also tried her hand at it and has taken Prince George to watch his father shooting.
Its absence this autumn will leave a big hole in the days of many visitors to the royal estate for whom a walk and picnic may not be enough.
One insider said: “There’s not much else to do at Balmoral and that’s why so many guests come. It’s a great shame.”
Sources said a plague of heather beetles had done much of the damage, stripping bare the moors on which the red grouse depend. A spokeswoman for the estate confirmed that there would be no shooting.
She said: “Grouse populations are cyclical and to retain and preserve stock there will be no grouse shooting this year. And that happens periodically.”
The Duchess of Sussex will be joining Prince Harry and the Royal Family in Balmoral for the first time this year.
She is not a fan of blood sports and did not join the royals when they went on the Boxing Day hunt in Sandringham.
Elsewhere though there is optimism. At Rottal Estates in Angus owner Dee Ward said he is fully booked over the next three weeks with guests taking part in shoots before dining on the birds.
Balmoral Castle, where the shooting season was due to start yesterday
Many events were cancelled last year because of a similar shortage of game birds after a harsh winter and hot summer created poor breeding conditions.
The Balmoral decision came on the day that the Labour Party called for a review of grouse shooting amid claims the sport causes environmental damage.
It said draining land in preparation for the season destroyed “huge swathes” of plant life while killing large numbers of animals.
But landowners argue that shooting creates valuable employment opportunities while helping to protect the environment.