Managing the Angus glens

Managing the Angus Glens

credit: Mark Hamblin

From hill to plate: why grouse and deer are crucial to the Scottish estates

The Angus glens in full bloom hum with life. Bees buzz over the heather, mountain hares lollop to cover and the grouse rise in a covey shouting their famous call, 'Get back! Get back!'

It is one of the most beautiful and well known scenes in Scotland, yet it is not entirely natural. The moors, with their mosaic of purple and green, look like this because they are managed for the grouse.

More than 20 estates in Angus harvest grouse over the season that runs from the Glorious 12th on 12 August to early December. The birds are notorious for their fast, jinking flight, and keen shots come from around the world to shoot a brace. Thousands of grouse are then delivered into the food chain via local restaurants, game dealers and butchers.

Venison has seen a resurgence in recent years, and butchers and restaurants in Angus source wild red deer or roe deer straight from local estates. Bruce Brymer Butchers in Brechin pick up whole deer from Glenesk, one of the Dalhousie Estates. Highland Game, based in Dundee, takes deer from all over Angus and processes the meat into burgers, sausages and steaks.

With wild deer the taste and supply vary with the season. Stags killed early in the summer are fatter. By the end of the October rutting season the male deer have a more acquired taste, while hinds can be eaten over the winter and have a milder flavour.

It is this journey 'from hill to plate' that members of the Angus Glens Moorland Group want to celebrate.

Lianne MacLennan, wife of the Head Keeper at Invermark, explains how the regular burning of heather to provide fresh shoots and the legal control of predators not only encourages grouse but also birds such as curlew, lapwing and golden plover.

Primary school children have visited Glenprosen Estate to see the birdlife and learn how the grouse are harvested. Members of the public are invited to go on wildlife tours and see for themselves the multiple benefits of managing the land for grouse, including wildlife, the boost to tourism from shooting, the employment opportunities for those working on the estates and the community created in remote areas.
MacLennan also points out that it makes a delicious meal. 'People are afraid to try grouse but once they have tried it cooked properly – simply roasted and pink in the middle – and realise how easy it is to cook, their opinion changes.'