Even when I’m staying put here in the UK, I’m always on the lookout for new places to see and new things to do. It’s all down to that severe case of itchy feet that I have had for as long as I can remember. Never content with staying in week after week, I spend countless early mornings and late nights scouring the web for new things to do.
One of my go-to places for ideas is Groupon (believe it or not). Not only do they have travel deals massaging my wanderlust, but they also have offers for random and unique activities such as water-zorbing and cave-trampolining (both of which I’ve done and they are awesome by the way)!
Right up there with a more unique way to spend a weekend, is treasure hunting out in the charming villages of the Cotswolds in England. Not too far away from Bristol and home to quaint villages, old thatched cottages and cute gardens, the Cotswolds are what you imagine when you think of England. Ahem, aside from London anyway.
I suspect you’ve heard of these “treasure hunts” before – quite a few different cities have them. I had initially wanted to embark on a hunt around Bath (one of my all-time favourite cities), but that offer was sold out at the time. So instead, we got excited about hunting for treasure in the Cotswolds, which was the first time we’d done anything like this before.
Now, before you start getting all excited; these hunts aren’t for crystals, jewels and gold (I wish)! Instead, you’re on the hunt for various distinctive landmarks such as pub signs, war memorials and initials on benches; which makes this a really awesome and fun way of getting to know a place. We found a lot of hidden gems we would never have known about! Gems – get it?!
Anyway, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the beginning – here’s what you can expect from a quintessentially English treasure hunt…
Before you leave your house
After purchasing a treasure hunt, the company should email you with documents such as the following:
- Organiser’s guide – so you know what the heck you’re doing
- Organiser’s route summary – no getting lost out in the countryside now, you hear?
- Clue set #1 – this is a slightly easier set so that children can join in
- Answer set #1 – so that you can check whether you answered the clues correctly
- Clue set #2 – this should be slightly harder clues (called cryptic clues), for the serious treasure hunters
- Answer set #2 – no cheating!
- Bonus hunts & questions – for when you’ve smashed this hunt out of the park
- Bonus answer set – well, we know what this is for, don’t we?
Remember: Every company is different. However, the list above and this page here should give you a good idea of what you can expect from your treasure hunt package.
With everything stored away within a handy PDF pack, you’re free to start the treasure hunt whenever you want and on whichever day you want. That’s the good thing about these types of hunts – they’re totally flexible, fun and different!
So, now all you’ve got to do is decide which day you want to head out and roughly what time you want to leave. For our hunt, it took just over 4 hours, although we were driving all the way around the Cotswolds. Your organiser pack should offer you rough guidelines for how long the hunt should take, so that you can work out timings yourself. My only advice would be to try to pick a dry day; no-one wants to be running around in the drizzly rain searching for pub signs and landmarks!
On the treasure hunt
Following your route summary, start following the directions to the first place. If you’re embarking on a city tour then you should be able to complete the hunt on foot. In our case, we were covering quite a few miles out in the deepest countryside so our trusty car got us around. Once you arrive at your first destination, it’s a race against the clock to answer the clues in your hand.
Some example cryptic clues might be something like:
What were ‘the men unto us both by night and day’?
What part do ‘Gunter’ and ‘Grigor’ play in the village?
As you can see, these types of clue don’t give you much to go on other than that the answers are somewhere dotted around your current destination. You’ve got to be on the lookout everywhere you step – from the sides of buildings to inside shops and under bridges, the answers to the clues could be anywhere!
If you have children in tow, then you should probably stick to the easier clues so that they can join in with the fun too. Some of these questions might be:
What is the name of the river running through Lower Slaughter?
The public bridleway leads riders to Bourton-on-the-Water and where else?
Note: All of these example questions were taken from a ‘teaser’ document found here.
We had great fun trying to figure out the cryptic clues, but I must confess that some of them were really tough! We did manage to score a few points in each place we explored, but we may have had to resort to some cheating when we got really stuck.
Once you’ve had a go at answering all of the questions, tally up your score using the answer sheet and keep going until you’ve explored every nook and cranny of the city or countryside you’re in. Children will have great fun exploring and answering the clues, and adults will enjoy it too… hopefully!
Where did the treasure hunt take us?
Now, this wouldn’t really be a travel blog if I didn’t cover where we actually ended up out in the Cotswolds, would it? In total, we explored five villages plus two bonus landmarks:
Known as ‘the Venice of the Cotswolds’, this was by far the most beautiful place we went to. This is a charming little village set upon a winding river, complete with several places for the perfect afternoon tea and various boutiques adorning the main square.
This treasure hunt took us from one end of the village right to the other, from the Village Hall to a field of flowers, so we got to see quite a lot here. And of course, we mooched around in the various independent shops as well – lovely!
Slightly smaller than Bourton-on-the-Water but also set upon a dreamy river, Lower Slaughter was quite a nice little village. I must confess that it would not be somewhere at the top of my travel wishlist or anything, but that’s another good thing about these hunts. They take you to places you would never have thought of going.
We enjoyed following the river, walking through the church gardens and inspecting house signs looking for our “treasures” – it probably helped with it being a warm Saturday in the summer!
Lower Swell is an even smaller place than the other two. There’s not too much here aside from houses, a school, a church and a war memorial; which meant this part of the treasure hunt went quite quickly.
Stow-on-the-Wold is another charming village that we loved exploring. It was quite similar to Bourton-on-the-Water so I’d highly recommend visiting both at least once in your lifetime.
With so many old houses, pretty cafes, unique boutiques and secret garden gates, we had a lot to be on the hunt for!
Rollright Stones & Whispering Knights
Now, these obviously weren’t villages we were exploring – these were landmarks we had never heard of before! The Rollright Stones resemble something like a miniature Avebury Ring Circle. They are ancient Druid stones in a perfect circle and look just as old as you’d think.
And across the road, we were amazed by the tremendous views across the Cotswolds and the Whispering Knights landmark we also found (thanks to our hunt for treasure). So actually, we got two bonus landmarks for the price of one here!
Great Tew was the one place we were really confused by! There are old chocolate box houses here, parklands and the local village church and it’s pretty small. How we managed to get so confused I’ll never know, but for some reason, we just could not work out where the start of the treasure hunt here was!
Quite a few minutes later and with many locals eyeing us strangely as we walked past, and then past again, we finally worked it out and followed our clues. And if I take anything away from our time in Great Tew, it will always be the humorous sign we found on someone’s garden gate declaring: “ON THIS SITE SEPT. 5, 1782, NOTHING HAPPENED.”
In case you’re wondering, our hunt was with a company called Treasure Days. You can read more about the Cotswold hunt here. Prices on their website at the moment declare £35 for the full hunt (this is the one with the cryptic clues) or £18 for the easier family edition. I must confess we didn’t pay those prices ourselves due to purchasing via Groupon.
And here’s a map of the route we took in case you want to follow in our footsteps:
So, do you feel inspired to go hunting for treasure out in the Cotswolds? Or did this just give you a flavour of what is waiting for you out in the English countryside? Write me a little note in the comments below and let me know…
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