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Nottingham is UK hotspot for people addicted to challenging hobby

today27 June 2022

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Nottingham has become a major draw for people who love to escape – literally. The city’s escape rooms attract enthusiasts from across the UK who puzzle over challenges against the clock – and sometimes scare themselves witless.

Nottingham is considered one of the best destinations for escape games outside of London and the South East, with one of the highest concentrations of rooms to play anywhere in the UK. Eight, soon to be nine, locations run more than 20 very different settings.

The vast array includes caves, a terrifying horror scene, a bank vault and even the ill-fated Titanic. But all have one thing in common… it takes brains, not brawn, to crack the codes and solve the mental challenges within an hour-long time limit.

Read more: First look inside The Beeston Social – with something for everyone

Groups of two to eight can play, depending on the room. For some it’s an occasional fun activity but others take it very seriously, striving to get out in record time. It’s startling just how immersed you become as the story pans out.

For anyone who has never participated, it can lead to frustration, fall-outs and worse (depending how scary it is) but most of all it’s fun especially if you decipher the clues and manage to escape with minutes (or seconds) to spare. If you get really stuck, there’s a game master watching on CCTV, who can give a hint.



Amy Duggan and her fiancé Ian White celebrating 250 escape rooms at Rameseize at Cryptology in Nottingham
Amy Duggan and her fiancé Ian White celebrating 250 escape rooms at Rameseize at Cryptology in Nottingham

Escape rooms can be founded at Escapologic in Stanford Road, Cave Escape in Mansfield Road, Cryptology in Upper Parliament Street and Houdini’s Escape Room at Tenpin Bowling off Clifton Boulevard. There’s even a virtual reality world of escapism at Victoria Centre.

Escape room addict Amy Duggan, who said she can talk about the subject all day long, travels around the country to fulfil her obsession and Nottingham is high on her list. Amy, who lives in The Wirral, often makes the 240-mile round trip to the city which she describes the “mecca”.

“It’s a hot spot of excellent games, fantastic passionate owners and great games masters. There is such a wealth of themes to pick from in the city’s roster of games that there is going to be something for everyone, from 18+ wet your pants horror (Butcher) to a fantastical adventure (Dreamscape) to an outer space journey (Immaterium). There is scope for enthusiasts to spend a long weekend on a hell of an escape binge.”

Amy didn’t make it out in time at her first attempt at an escape room in Liverpool, but it didn’t put her off. Since 2015, she has visited more than 500 – including 18 in Nottingham.

She’s spent a small fortune on the hobby, which currently costs around £50 per game for a couple. She said: “Escape rooms generally get cheaper per person the more that play. It is an expensive hobby, but, when you compare it to other leisure or entertainment hobbies it works out at a similar price, and the Nottingham rooms are worth every penny.”



The Robin of Lockskey escape room at Escapologic in Nottingham
The Robin of Lockskey escape room at Escapologic in Nottingham

Most of the time she plays them with her fiancé Ian White. “I prefer playing in a team of two, you get to see the whole room, and all the puzzles that way. But I think that a team of four players is a great number for a first time team, especially for some of the trickier and more puzzle packed games in Nottingham.”

The 39-year-old, who works at an escape room in Liverpool, added: “I was a big fan of the Crystal Maze, Knightmare and Incredible Games… TV shows like that, so to be able to do something similar in person was very intriguing. There is nothing like cracking a code and solving that puzzle. The release of dopamine is what we’re all after, and the thrill of escaping and winning the challenge makes you feel really good.

“Then there is the scope of immersive sets, the delightful themes, stories and puzzles that the incredible creators come up with, it’s exciting, unique and different every time. “I think our best time in Nottingham was Immaterium where we were about 32 minutes… but honestly, I don’t keep a detailed record of our times. We don’t play for time, we like to take in the puzzles, set and ambience of a room and really enjoy it.”

Escapologic, in Stanford Street, is the biggest location in the city with eight different rooms including the officially licenced Warhammer Escape room in collaboration with Games Workshop. It’s also home to the most petrifying: Butcher, the infamous horror, and Howitz, a creepy toy shop, both with live actors. Staff’s recent TikTok video Scared of the Butcher vs Thirsty for the Butcher has had 3.7m views to date.

Players’ emotions run riot. Boss Simon Stokes, also known as the keymaster, said: “Every day is a rollercoaster. On the two scary experiences we have people crying, soiling themselves and in some cases being physically sick.

“One in five will quit the Butcher, that can vary from day to day, but as a rule you know who is going to quit before they go in. It’s a good job we give them a safe word, otherwise who knows when the Butcher would be finished with them. The other rooms, there can be an odd argument now and again. Sometimes it’s a great relationship test.

“There a couple of small groups of enthusiasts that travel Europe to try and get the best time for the room – personally not my play style as I like to appreciate the time and effort that has gone into creating the rooms itself rather than breaking a record. The quickest time in one of our rooms is around 25 minutes.”

Who tends to be the most successful men or women? Simon said: “I’m not prepared to answer that, just in case my wife ever reads what is printed.”

Jennifer Gilbert-Scott and her husband Nick run Cave Escape, in Mansfield Road, and are in the process of turning a former restaurant a few doors away into a second location, Judge’s Escape Emporium. One of the rooms will mirror a glamorous Pullman steam train’s dining carriage.



Carfax at Cave Escape, a gothic Dracula themed room
Carfax at Cave Escape, a gothic Dracula themed room

Instead of competition between rival companies she said there’s a genuine camaraderie and friendship. “Nationally the owners know each other. We have a Facebook group so if we’re trying to get a puzzle to work and can’t everyone helps out.

“Nottingham has an amazing escape room offering and I think that part of the draw here is the wide variety of unique and highly rated games on offer. Ultimately, we’re all aiming for the same thing which is to push the boundaries of what a live action adventure experience can be. It’s a real joy to be part a mutually supportive, progressive and creatively adventurous industry right here in the city.”

Five Nottingham escape rooms feature in the UK’s Top 50 of 2021, more than any other city, according to review site Escape the Review. Meanwhile, six of the 35 UK games nominated for the Top Escape Room Project Enthusiast Choice Awards (the worldwide ranking of 50,000 games) are based in Nottingham).

Tourism chiefs at Visit Notts said the city’s escape rooms are famous for their uniqueness and originality. Marketing and communications manager, Kinga Kapias, said: “The escape game concept has really taken off and gained popularity around the world in the last couple of years and we’ve seen Nottingham start to amass a high number of brilliant venues in the industry. Whatever you want, we’ve got it here in Nottingham.

“Cave Escape is a unique escape room located underneath the city streets in one of many man-made caves that Nottingham is known for, Escapologic builds on Robin Hood’s legacy with their themed escape game called Robin of Lockskey, we even have a VR escape room at Zero Latency where players are tasked with escaping a virtual world of mystery and mischief. There’s even an escape room at one of Nottingham’s famous eateries – Pieminister, and an entertaining puzzle-based live escape game at Logiclock.

“Escape games have become an integral part of the tourism and visitor offering here in the city due to Nottingham’s growing reputation as a hub for escape room venues.

“Nottingham is full of surprises around every corner and it’s certainly been a pleasant surprise to see the city establishing an excellent reputation for brilliant escape game attractions. It’s not all that surprising as Robin Hood escaping the county jail is probably the original escape game! Whilst escape games remain an ever popular group activity for visitors, there’s a new niche opening up amongst enthusiasts and we hope that Nottingham can continue to grow its reputation.”



Monuments escape room at Cave Escape in Nottingham
Monuments escape room at Cave Escape in Nottingham

NOTTINGHAM’S TOP 3 ACCORDING TO ENTHUSIASTIC AMY DUGGAN

Amy runs one of the UK’s longest standing blogs on escape rooms, britofanescapehabit.com, with reviews of all the Nottingham escape rooms she’s played. These are her favourite three:

Daylight Robbery at Cryptology: Amazing game play, as enthusiasts it’s refreshing to find a game that really packs in the puzzles and keeps a team busy for the entire hour of game play. This game had more puzzles than we could finish in the hour, yet we still completed our goal! Unbelievable game play and puzzle density.

Monuments at Cave Escape: A gorgeous, immersive setting, clever puzzles and engaging story.

Curio at Escapologic: Sheer ingenuity, beautiful set design, immersive story and a special function (Curio is a has secret in the escape room enthusiast community, and we don’t talk about spoilers!)

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