The Glorious 12th signalled the start of the grouse shooting season today and the Highlands echoed to the sound of the first shots being fired this morning.Farmer and cheese maker Archie Montgomery, who travelled from Somerset, had plenty to celebrate on the moor on Alvie Estate near Aviemore. Archie has brought a party of 80 people to celebrate his 60th birthday.

Archie Montgomery commented: “We’re delighted to have the opportunity to open the grouse shooting season in such magnificent Highland surroundings. Scotland offers world class country sports and the reason we chose this place is because of the shooting. We’re all great supporters.”

Jamie Williamson, owner of Alvie Estate, said: It’s a real family affair for our visitors today and in many ways this highlights what shooting means to rural Scotland. Visitors love it and their presence here gives a real shot in the arm to local businesses. Today’s party is staying on the estate for the weekend and have taken the estate house.

“People often criticise shooting as being nothing more than a tradition – that’s certainly not the case and it’s good to see young people and others from all walks of life taking an interest in it.”

David Kinnear, factor of Alvie Estate, said: “The weather has lessened expectations on some moors. However, we are pleased to be shooting today on the 12th. The fact is that estates still have to invest and prepare for the season all year round. It’s quite a commitment but I think it pays off not just in terms of tourism but also with conservation benefits.

“Many people who are not familiar with shooting probably would not know that a wide range of bird species including endangered birds such as the curlew benefit from managed moorland. And we should not forget that the reason heather looks so wonderful around Scotland is because it is looked after through careful management.”

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