What to do on a slightly gloomy autumn weekend in Glasgow? Well, we opted for a day at Pollok Country Park combining both an indoor activity exploring the Edwardian Pollok House and enjoying a good outdoor wander around its gardens and the surrounding parkland. Pollok House has also recently added an exciting interactive element to their building and are now offering a historical themed escape room challenge known as Escape the Past. We decided to head along to give it a try.
We also decided to take my parents along for the fun -maybe the older generation is better at general knowledge and if nothing else my mother is excellent at cryptic crosswords so we thought maybe that would come in handy.
The Escape Room
So first off, we’ll admit that for the majority of us this was our first ever escape room. Andrew was the only one to have ever taken part in an escape room before, I was aware of the general idea while my parents had no clue what I was talking about when I suggested they come and join us for the day.
So what is an escape room?
Think Crystal Maze or Fort Boyard but usually more the mental puzzle games rather than the physical exertion ones, although these might depend on where you book your escape room experience. Most are set around a series of challenges leading to finding the key or a code to actually get out of the room – hence the name- but in many the goal is to find an object or solve an overall riddle by working out lots of little tasks and puzzles. Their are almost always time limits meaning you must try to figure out all the puzzles as quickly as possible in order to succeed! They do range in length, difficult and price – our challenge lasted 90 minutes total with 60 minutes to escape, was suitable for between two and five people and cost a group total of £55 (Oct 2017).
Our Escape the Past experience
In keeping with the unique historical building the escape room challenge at Pollok House has a period theme and so, as our taskmaster Chloe explained, we are transported back to an Edwardian period to try and thwart the evil Butler’s murderous plan. All we have to do is find his murder weapon – a bottle of poison.
Our first task before we even got into the room was to come up with new and historically relevant identities. We were a bit rubbish at this so let our taskmaster come up with this for us. I lucky side stepped the Chambermaid role and became Sybil the Lady’s Maid, Andrew the Valet and my parents a Kitchen Maid and the Gamekeeper. There are even dress up hats if you’d like some help get into character!
So once we’re all sort with our new identities and magically transported to the past we have one hour to snoop around, or maybe more accurately ransack the Butler’s quarters while he is on his rounds and find all our clues to stop the Master of the House from being poisoned.
So into the room and go…. Em….what now?
As we said, this was our first ever escape room so it took us a fair bit of time to figure out what it was we were meant to be looking for before we could even get down to the puzzles solving. After a lot of initial confusion we slowly got into it and realised we had to get codes for locked boxes. We won’t give too much away so as not to spoil the fun but one of the things that slowed us down a bit was not looking hard enough. Be thorough in your hunting and don’t be afraid to move things, as long as it’s not screwed down you’re OK to search under or behind it.
You can have up to five people in the escape room scenario so unless you’ve maybe done a few before or are really good at puzzles we’d recommend more than the minimum of two players. The puzzle vary from numerical to visual to colour patterns so lots of brains will make the process faster.
I was probably the worst at the room and while we tried to split up and tackle multiple puzzles at once we often abandoned one half way through and then forgot what we had already tried. Also, random clues would just keep appearing from unknown places as someone else in the room had found something so we’ll admit we were a bit chaotic at this.
So did we get out?
YES! Time seemed to go so fast when we were in the room. At one point my father gave us a time check and we couldn’t believe how long we had been in already but we did manage to complete the room with a whole 6 minutes to spare! We can’t take all the credit though. One of the good things about the Pollok House set up is that your taskmaster is always there on the other end of a radio to help so they can provide clues “from the future” if you’re looking a bit lost. We really needed these at points and just a quick hint really got us on track.
We found the whole thing fun but it was quite challenging. While we’re not by any means escape room experts, for us this seem quite a good experience, it was challenging and a lot of thought was needed but we didn’t feel we had to give up at any point.
After the fun of the morning we chose to stay at Pollok House and explore a little of the real history although there was some cross over with the escape room story. No murder plots but lots of the characters were based on real people from the staff records.
If, like us, you choose to do the escape room before a tour of the house we’d recommend a quick stop for tea or a little wander first to get the buzz of the game out your system. There is a tea room onsite which we failed to take advantage of on our visit. We went straight upstairs to the main portion of the house but I feel we didn’t fully appreciate the first room as we were too busy discussing our escape room tactics and score. A little break probably also helps dissuade the urge to touch things in a bid to find your next clue!
From the male servant’s room where the Escape the Past challenge is based you follow the grand staircase up to the multiple rooms open on the upper levels. Like many period housed you are able to do a loop through all the rooms on each floor so don’t need to backtrack.
On the first level you’ll find rooms such as the Library, Drawing Room and the Dining Room . Each room has information boards that you can find more about the generations of family that called this place home or the many items on display.
Remember to look up every so often as well as there is plenty of ornate plaster work in many of the rooms. We also really liked the wood panelling in the Smoking room which was shipped all the way from Borneo and the hand painted wallpapers in the Bedroom. The lives of such people were often lavish.
On the upper floor you can also read or listen to some of the more modern history of Pollok House, its service as an auxiliary hospital during World War I and the Maxwell family whose ancestral home you are exploring.
Current prices for entry to Pollok House are £6.50 per adult and £5 for concession (Oct 2017) but remember to check online for the most up to date pricing.
Pollok House is a National Trust property and is in fact where the National Trust for Scotland was established and held their first meetings , so if you’re planning to visit a lot of National Trust for Scotland properties considering annual membership or the tourist friendly Discover Tickets might be worthwhile for you.
Entry to the house is not usually included in the escape room ticket and so you must see the cashier at the front desk before exploring the house.
The Gardens and Wider Park
After working up an appetite with our busy morning we ventured out into the gardens to find a nice lunch spot. Luckily, there are lots of benches in front of the house, though we made the mistake of heading to one of Pollok Country Park’s picnic areas first only to realise it is only a picnic area and not picnic benches so only really suitable on a dry day if you’ve brought your blanket with you. The benches at the front of the house are a much nicer spot anyway with a view over the river with Pollok House and gardens behind.
There are also never-ending gardens to explore so after our quick food stop we off to wander the many, many paths surrounding the house. Trails head off in all directions, so try not to get lost but there is certainly lots of interesting plants and shrubbery to enjoy. I won’t pretend to know much about gardening but the beds were all full with pretty designs, neat edges and lots of unusual plants. Despite the October chill the garden was still full of colour and lots still out in flower but even with autumn on the way soon there will still be plenty to see around the mosaic hedged gardens.
If you’re looking for a longer walk you can also follow the river through the wider Pollok Country Park where you can get lost in nature and might bump into the odd squirrel.
We also found plenty of interesting things on our woodland trails including these rather cool fungi growing out of a tree. But if cute and furry is more your thing then there is also the added bonus of Highland cows in the park and you just can’t beat their cuteness!
Have you ever been to a historic house with exciting interactive events?
We would like to thank Pollok House for their invitation to try out the Escape the Past challenge and for entry to the house for our group. As always our reviews are our own honest opinions.