Another trip to Rochester was long overdue and a sunny weekend offered the perfect opportunity. It seems we always manage to hit the weekend with engineering works on the trains though so we were left with the choice of a possibly unreliable rail replacement bus half way or, the route we took, the long way round via Bromley. Got there in the end though (passing through the new station they seem to be building) to glorious warm sunshine reflecting off the Medway.
Once we’d strolled into town our first stop was for cake and coffee at the Deaf Cat (rapidly becoming a Rochester trip favourite). Nicely refreshed we headed on up to the castle. We’d known a falconry demonstration was scheduled for the day and on arrival we found a large area of the inner bailey roped off. In one corner sat a couple of tents, with a large eagle outside.
Peering into the tents revealed a number of resting birds of prey, while the board outside told us we’d missed the first display of the day and had a bit of time until the next. Not thinking we’d have enough time to see the keep properly before the birds were flying we decided to visit the nearby cathedral.
The splendid cathedral would probably dominate were it not sitting beside the castle. As it is the large building is a bit more welcoming, drawing the visitor into its pretty gardens and quiet interiors. When we arrived we were greeted with a gentle piano recital filling the aisle with a serene sense of calm thanks to Charles Timberlake. As the relaxing playing followed us we wandered the spaces, though unfortunately an improvement project had cut off access to what I recall as a lovely crypt.
After a pause in the cathedral shop it was a quick walk back to the castle for the birds we’d been waiting for. Raphael Falconry did an excellent job of talking through the different types of hunting birds and their uses in falconry, though it was of course those birds themselves which were the stars. Swooping low over heads to take the offered bait, the three birds they flew were very entertaining and enjoyable.
Show over we headed up into the keep of the castle, with its now familiar spiral stairs connecting the floor-less levels. We paused for the traditional photo of Heather on a window seat before reaching the spectacular views of the roof, made all the better for the cloudless skies.
It’s always a bit of a disappointment to have to come back down from the top of a castle but descend we did, nicely in time for the next falconry demonstration. Three different birds flew than earlier, and Heather was very glad we stayed to watch them as she was called forward to have the honour of a Harris’ hawk coming into to land on her out-stretched arm!
Still buzzing with the excitement of the birds we headed to find a drink to calm down. Rejecting the first few pubs as a bit busy or poncy we tried the Two Brewers which was empty but possibly because of the feel of being a bit locally unwelcome. We moved on to the much more pleasant Eagle Tavern where we could relax in the sunny beer garden.
From there it was dinner time, and the wonderful Don Vincenzo. The proprietor apologized to us on arrival that the only table he had available was outside, as if that was a problem on such a lovely evening. Even more lovely was the food, my Italian cured meats followed by sea bass both being delicious. Even the tiramisu was good, which rounded off a lovely day. All we had to do was get home!
You can see all the photos (with plenty of birds of prey) on their own page.