Last year, I broadened my horizons and branched out from video games. This led to me finding a love for escape rooms after completing my first in January 2019; and although COVID-19 put a stop to me doing more of them, I can’t wait to get back out there and try another.
I also had the pleasure of participating in a treasure-hunt after Quietschisto from RNG revealed he’d be in London for a visit last September. I found HiddenCity through an internet search and it seemed to offer a great way of combining both adventure and sightseeing. The Bright Lights Evening Trail had us exploring the city at dusk, solving challenges and interacting with people we met along the way, before ending up at a pub for a cheeky pint to celebrate our victory.
The treasure-hunting didn’t stop there. In early January this year, my work colleagues and I braved the cold to split up into teams and take part in a Treasure Trails experience around Marylebone for an away-day. Even the people who weren’t looking forward to it initially admitted they’d enjoyed themselves afterwards: not only had it inspired a bit of competitiveness, it had given everyone the opportunity to see parts of London and points of interest they might not have come across before.
Over 1,000 self-guided treasure-hunts are available throughout the UK so it’s likely there’s one near you. Simply enter your postcode into the website, select a destination, then either download your trail guide or wait for it to be delivered to you and get out there. The briefing notes included give a bit of backstory and explain the set-up, and after heading to the first location, you’ll be given a series of clues to solve and directions to follow. Each experience takes between 90 minutes and two hours to complete and several themes are available.
The event with my colleagues took the form of a murder mystery. The answers could be found on existing buildings, permanent features and monuments, and each enabled us to cross suspects and weapons off a list until we were left with only one of each. Here’s an example of a clue to give you a feel for what you’re letting yourself in for: you could be asked to find a certain word on a historical plaque, or be given a photograph where a part is blurred out and you need to compare it to your surroundings to find what’s missing.
Some riddles were easier to solve than others. It turned out that the last on our list could only be answered with the help of a smartphone, because the shopfront it referred to had undergone redecoration since guide was last reviewed and we needed to travel back in time with the aid of Google Maps. It’s worth noting that this is a possibility when taking part in a Treasure Trails experience but I’ve read online that the guides are reviewed regularly to make sure they’re as up-to-date as possible.
My next treasure-hunt was another murder mystery with my stepson in a nearby area at the end of July. We weren’t sure whether he’d enjoy it, now being a 13-year old and mainly interested in his Xbox, but he loved being in charge and taking the lead. Even though we’ve lived here for years and the town is a pretty small one, we each saw things we didn’t know were there – and even came across the entrance to the site of a former castle that the kid wants us to go back to investigate in the near future.
My latest Treasure Trails experience happened at the start of August after a conversation with Teri-Mae from Sheikah Plate. She mentioned a bakery in Whitstable that she recommended I check out and, seeing as both my other-half and I had a day off work coming up the following week, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to spend the day by the beach. As neither Pete nor I knew the area, we decided to download the treasure-hunt for the town as a way of doing some sightseeing.
This time is was a spy mission so, instead of crossing off suspects and weapons, we were searching for a code to deactivate a plasma device and ‘save the South-East from disaster’. These clues seemed slightly easier which gave the day a nice relaxing feel. Most of the tour took place around the cobbled backstreets so we got to see parts of Whitstable we may have otherwise missed – and it gave us a good excuse to head to the seafront once we were done for a celebratory drink.
I’d highly recommend checking out the Treasure Trails website if you’re looking something to do, either alone or in a group, that’s a little bit different and costs less than £10. The experiences are an excellent way of getting back outside after being cooped up throughout lockdown and it’s easy to distract yourself with the clues while getting some much-needed exercise. You’ll get to use your brain and you might even see a few sights you’ve never come across before, just like we did.
I can certainly see us downloading more guides in the future and I’m sure our treasure-hunting won’t stop there. I’ve missed escape rooms and would love to do a few more this year if the situation makes it possible; and I’ve still got a video-game-in-a-box that needs to be completed, along with a couple more Ravensburger Exit Puzzles to put together. Maybe there’ll be some more streams coming soon, providing our cat Zelda doesn’t run off with the jigsaw pieces again.
Have you tried any of the Treasure Trails walks? Or have you completed any similar experiences? Let us know in the comments below, so we can use your suggestions and get back outside.