The day before my son returned to school he said he didn’t know where to start with telling his classmates about all the adventures we’d had this summer. Luckily his teacher asked him to name his two favourites. He named three: The National Centre for Birds of Prey (NCBP), Chester Zoo and our day in Whitby.
He is quite a bird person anyway as we have two macaws at home but he loved seeing and learning about all the different birds of prey at the centre, especially their burrowing owls. The centre was bigger than I was expecting and the display we watched was really interesting.
National Centre For Birds Of Prey Things To Do Review
The centre is located in the picturesque Duncombe park in the village of Helmsley, North Yorkshire. There is actually quite a lot to see/do in Helmsley so lookout for a post on that from me in the future. We didn’t have enough time to visit the park but we would certainly return to the centre and make time to see the park.
The National Centre for Birds of Prey takes around 2 hours to visit but we could have stayed longer and watched the second bird display of the day. They have three in total and they change the birds they display for each one. At the centre, there are a great number of birds that you can see in their cages and also out of them sat on stands.
There are around 40 aviaries to walk around and you can see hawks, owls, falcons, buzzards, eagles, vultures and more. All of the aviaries have information signs telling you more about the birds. My son was really taken with the burrowing owls in the first aviary and he was thrilled when one of them was brought out for the bird display. They are really small and not at all afraid of people. It was hopping about between people’s feet and onto the benches. Sadly, I didn’t manage any decent photos as they are just so quick.
They recommend that you take your time walking around the centre. We certainly did that as many of the birds were really fascinating to watch especially some of their larger birds and they certainly have a lot of large and unusual birds. Some of the birds are part of their breeding programmes so their aviaries are cleaned out less often and will appear messier but it’s all part of the great work that they do.
The area where they have some of the birds out on stands is nice to see as you can get much closer to some of their birds. Some of the one way systems were a bit confusing but it wasn’t overly busy when we visited so it didn’t really matter. We saw many bird species we’ve never seen before and many actually seemed to want to give us as much attention as we gave them.
The flying ground for the displays is in a lovely picturesque setting. Some of the birds had their own ideas of what they wanted to do and some were just dots in the sky but the talks were really informative and at times humorous. They certainly had some funny stories to tell about their birds. From late March until late October there are three displays a day at 11:30, 14:00 and 16:15. In the autumn/winter there are two displays a day at 11:30 and 14:00.
The one issue the centre has is its toilets. There are a few next to the main shop which is fine but once you are in the park the main bird viewing area is a long walk from any toilets which is not ideal if you have young kids. There is one toilet down by the cafe but this had a massive queue and wasn’t really practical for the size of the centre.
In wet weather, they do have somewhere to fly the birds indoors although that currently remains closed due to covid.
The centre also has a free ink stamp trail. You can pick up a free leaflet on the inside of the first gate next to the first box. The idea is that you collect stamps as you walk around the park.
The centre also offers a number of birds of prey experiences which children from the age of 10 can take part in. These are at an additional cost to your ticket and they must be booked in advance. Prices are available on their website and this is also where you can book a date for your experience.
Duncome Parkland and Gardens
The Duncombe parkland costs just £1 to walk around and it is open from mid-April until around the 3rd week of December. You can also look around the gardens at a cost of £5 per adult and £3 per child. The gardens are open from mid-April until late August. They close on Saturdays and during special events.
The parkland has waymarked walks, discovery trails and orienteering courses for all ages which explore the woodlands, river valley, meadows, woodland skyline and commercial forestry. The house is not open to the public. From what I can see from reviews people who have just paid £1 for the parkland have been happier than those that have paid to visit the gardens.
In the gardens, you can explore at leisure the great lawn and level terraces, temples, yew tree walk, woodland walks and the scented ‘secret garden’ around the old conservatory. There are fine views of the valley 180ft. below and the distant moors. Do be warned that the park is quite a walk away from the car park and the cafe is at the birds of prey centre where you have to pay to enter. The parkland is supposed to have a play area but I have no further information. The centre has a play area next to the car park but that is currently closed and they are planning on updating the equipment.
National Centre For Birds Of Prey FAQ & Further Information
Address: Duncombe Park, Helmsley, York YO62 5EB, North Yorkshire
Category – Birds – Outdoors – Suitable for all ages.
What are the ticket prices?
An adult ticket costs £10, children age 4-16 are £7.50, under 4’s are free. Other pricing options including a family ticket are available.
What are the main facilities and things to do?
A relatively large centre dedicated to birds of prey with numerous aviaries and daily flying displays. Experiences are available. There are toilets and a cafe.
When are they open?
They are open from late January until late December, 7 days a week.
Is there food available?
There is a cafe serving hot and cold food and drinks. You can purchase soft drinks and icecreams from the shop at the entrance.
Is there parking?
There is free parking.
Are they dog friendly?
They are unable to allow dogs within the centre grounds. However, admission to the centre also includes admission into the surrounding parkland of Duncombe Park which is great for dog walking. Assistance dogs are also not permitted.