After our quick visit to Beeston Castle earlier in the year, we joined English Heritage knowing that we would be returning to explore the grounds a bit more carefully. The opportunity arose during the Easter holidays when we attended one of the many events held at the site – we went hunting for dragon eggs!
The event was free to members, with a normal entrance fee for non members, so we showed our cards and had a look around the exhibition. Here we found snippets of history, ancient arrow heads and a model of the castle, which Rowan was quite taken with.
After a good nosey round, and armed with our dragon egg hunt answer sheet, we were about to set off when we noticed one of the story telling sessions was about to start. Rowan sat on the grass with a group of other children, transfixed, as the two dragon slayers enthusiastically told the story of the Lambton Worm. With audience participation, everyone enjoyed the tale, though Rowan was not impressed that I was the old crone. Give him a couple of years and I’m sure he’ll find it highly amusing.
With the story brought to an end we began our search for the dragon eggs, Rowan armed with his wooden sword in preparation. We found the first quickly – at the start of a path which led up through the trees. From here, the boy took the high road as we plodded along the low road.
As the trees cleared and we found ourselves walking up steps, the castle walls came into view and Rowan noticed another egg.
We filled in the answer to the question on the egg on our treasure hunt sheet and looked where to go next. The great thing about these treasure hunts is that they really encourage you to explore the site. We were visiting the wall next, peaking through arrow slits and crawling through windows. I also realised that I play a lot of Skyrim when I thought about collecting the hanging moss attached to the stonework. You never know when you might want to make a potion.
Eventually, our treasure hunt led up to the castle itself. We strolled up the hill, then climbed the steep bridge over the rocky moat to castle door.
Inside, there were ruined rooms to discover and wander around whilst admiring the views from the castle’s vantage point high on the crag. We found another clue by the deep castle well. The well is rumoured to be the home of buried treasure but Rowan didn’t fancy going down to take a look.
By this point, we only had one more clue to collect, so we made our way out of the castle and back down to the main entrance via the woodland walk. The story of the Lambton Worm was obviously still fresh in Rowan’s mind, as every hole in the ground that we passed was home to a baby dragon. One or two may have grabbed his ankle too!
We spent some time examining the nature around us – old tree stumps, mossy branches, more dragon baby holes.
We look at the different types of bark on the trees and Rowan excitedly identified a Silver Birch.
The path led back to the castle walls. From here, we retraced our steps back to the main entrance, arriving back just in time for Dragon Hunter Training!
Taught by the dragon slayer who had previously told the story of the Lambton Worm, Rowan learnt how to hide behind his shield as a dragon breathes fire, how to charge when the dragon shows his belly and how to make lots of noise to try and scare the dragon (parents were the dragons). He had a great time.
Once fully trained up, and after a quick visit to the shop, we head to the caves to find the last clue. Our torch didn’t penetrate too far inside, and the bars only served to fuel Rowan’s imagination even more. What could be in there?
Treasure hunt complete, we returned to the shop so Rowan could claim his prize – some golden coins. As we left to return to the car, Rowan excitedly showed one of the dragon slayers his haul. He was told the resident dragon only lays chocolate eggs, and the coins were made from a melted down dragon egg. Perfect end to a brilliant day.
Beeston Castle has a number of events on through the year. You can find more about them here.