TREASURE HUNTERS: 6 of the best clue solving quests in London
✨ MELANIE FULLBROOK
My favourite holiday of the year, both as a child and now continued into my adult life, is Easter. I’m unsure exactly how or why it started - potentially just having three children who were competitive and liked playing a lot of board games - but my parents started putting on an Easter egg hunt from as early as I can remember, and it is a tradition that I’m still to let them terminate. What began as basic toddler hunts for chocolate eggs around the garden (with plastic egg shells containing jigsaw puzzles pieces, maybe a dot to dot or a little map to find treasure) has evolved into a full-day epic hunt that has been enjoyed by myself, my siblings, our partners, friends and now finally my nephew as a third generation for over 30 years. More than any other family tradition, it is one I am certain I will continue should I have children of my own.
The hunt always starts with the same plastic eggs hidden (normally in the garden unless away) where we all push each other out of the way, giddily squealing to get the most. Then we head inside to split them open, divide the chocolate equally between the hunters into bowls and start on the first set of clues. This first round will lead to a second and a third and will continue, each round different and surprising in its own way. Rounds have included air rifle shooting different coloured balloons on the washing line to get clues hidden inside, throwing fluffy chicks with spades into different coloured baskets to get points, complicated riddles, maps to glue together, potting snooker balls in the order of the rainbow, colouring in cuddly toy bunnies to reveal a pattern or in recent, more technical years: music lyrics written in code on plastic alphabet beads needing to be ordered on string to make YouTube URL links in which a certain numbered word in each song would make up a sentence (my parents are geniuses but nuts!) Hunts have taken us around different towns and cities - where my parents have snuck out at ungodly hours to hide plastic laminated clues up in trees, behind road signs, under Parisian carousel horses and even one year, submerged with weights underwater beneath a bridge.
The sense of communal joy as we discover the treasure is always epic (even though the ‘treasure’ itself has rarely advanced from a tenner or some little treats). Every year it is different, every year it is challenging. Most years we are successful, although one particular memorable year the final clue required us to call our grandparents and get them to hum a tune which, on realising they were both completely sozzled post Sunday lunch, ended in hilarity as they both tried to hum two incomparable versions of the same simple melody through fits of giggles. I look forward to it every year and this year is no exception. Inspired by this love of treasure hunting I’ve put together a list of some of the top quizzing and clue solving experiences in London. I hope they bring even a morsel of the joy that my parents’ hunts do. And if not then there’s always Easter coming up at mine!
Based in different pubs and bars in London (Islington, Hackney, Clapham junction, Bermondsey and Farringdon) and Brighton Hand Made Mysteries offers 1hr or 2hr timed escape room experiences. Prices are around £20-35 and available up groups of 6. A very intense, immersive and whacky clue-solving and task-lead experience.
With the Angel maze closed this weekend the new maze experience opens in March in the West End. Prices range from £50-70 and you can go alone or in teams of up to 8 people. Just like the TV show you elect people to commit to attempt different challenges to get crystals. With 32 different challenge rooms it’s set to be a full on treasure hunters dream. I can’t wait to go! The Manchester Maze is still up and running too!
The most user friendly hunting there is. All you need is a working phone and energised feet ready to walk around your chosen city. The hunts now cover London, Manchester, Brighton and York. With prices at around £15-25 it’s an amazing way to spend the day. Their themed hunts are a particular favourite with current offerings including Alice in Wonderland and Sherlock Holmes. Each hunt requires a lot of observation, skill, some logical puzzling but nothing too challenging. A great thing to do leisurely on your own or in a pair ... but if you want to add some stakes and competition you can set up a timed race with opposing teams for friends or colleagues.
A much more energetic and silly option done in groups of 5 and great for hen and stag dos. Teams compete to get back to base first having completed their challenges (which can also be personalised). Tasks include taking photos/videos or finding specific items. Examples include things like: TAKE A PHOTO OF YOUR ENTIRE TEAM UPSIDE DOWN or TAKE A PHOTO WITH THE CAPTION “I can’t believe we all fit in there!” All very silly and good fun with an award ceremony and video / photo sharing at the end.
Great for a day on a budget - these free multiple choice hunts allow you to explore new areas of London without paying a penny.
A more immersive experience with characters to meet and clues to solve - these murder mysteries can be hired privately or booked on their public event days. Events include a Hollywood themed mystery in an old cinema for £32.50 and the exploration of the truth behind the murder of an art dealer in Chinatown.
Let me know if you've found any other brilliant ones in London that we can try! And if you're after something intimate but not immersive, then get in touch to book a private theatre experience with Revels in Hand.