Down to the Wire Review | Being in Russia undercover for the government isn’t easy at the best of times. Especially during the Cold War. Even more especially when someone has tipped off Russian intelligence about you….and they aren’t very happy. Wanting to destroy your work; and everything attached to it. You have one hour to save yourselves, and all your secret findings. The Countdown is on. Tick tock.
Date Played: 24th August 2023
Time Taken: 40 minutes
Number of Players: 2
Whenever I go on holiday, wherever it is in the world, I look and see if there are any local escape rooms. For a sunny week in August my family had booked a trip up from London to the Lake District, and being just an hour away in Edinburgh I thought I’d come along to escape the Edinburgh Fringe. There’s something so lovely about taking a week away to work in little cottage in the middle of absolutely nowhere, miles from the nearest tiny town. So what I wasn’t expecting to find was… An escape room!
I’ll be super honest. I almost didn’t book the room. The bus to get there would take an hour from where we were staying, and it only ran 5 times a day (so if we missed it we’d be screwed). To make matters worse, whichever bus we took we’d be arriving into Bowness 5 minutes after our room was meant to start. On top of that I made the mistake (or enthusiast judgement) of looking up other enthusiast reviews before. Other enthusiast reviews were… Not great. One reviewer said it was one of their least favourite rooms in the UK. Sheesh. That bad? So I chewed up whether I’d book it or not over the whole week. Until, on the very last day of the trip, I thought “What the heck, when else will I ever be in Bowness?! Lets just do it.” Besides, I only ever book good rooms, and I kinda wanted to see what a not-good room might be.
But on that front, I was disappointed. You know why? The room (or the company) wasn’t bad at all. Not in the slightest! It was lovely. Welcoming, super accommodating, and the room was the perfect example of making a fun, light-hearted experience on a small local budget. If asked, I’d probably even recommend it. But let’s get into all the specifics.
What to Expect at Bowness Escape Rooms
Bowness Escape Rooms is located in the heart of Bowness, just a short walk from most of the town’s bus stations. If you’re in town for a walking holiday, plenty of bus routes go through Bowness, so it’s a fairly conveniently location for the Lake District. On the other hand, if you live in the area then – oh my god you’re so lucky it’s so pretty – you may already know all about Bowness Escape Room and how to get there. Either way, despite my earlier bus complaint, it’s a convenient location.
The entrance is located on Lake Road (not Quarry Rigg, as Google Maps indicates), and is a part of a little stretch of cute shops and cafes. At this site, they run two rooms:
- Cutting Room
- Down to the Wire
We only had time for one, so we picked the less scary Down to the Wire, though it is worth noting that Cutting Room can be made less spooky if you want.
In our case we were running late, but the team were super responsive via Facebook and gave our GM a heads up that we’d be running a little late. It seems like they have bookings comfortably spaced apart and so despite showing up a whole 15 minutes late, we didn’t feel at all rushed.
Our Games Master was the enthusiastic Raphael (or Raffi for short) – please excuse spelling! Raffi greeted us at the door and had us wait in the waiting room with a couple of ingenious puzzles to play around with. Then came the usual briefing (no force, nothing high up, don’t poke the plug sockets, and so on), before we were transported back into the Cold War and off to a flying start.
Down to the Wire
Down to the Wire begins with you, the players, contained in a separate space from the main room. It’s a classic ‘escape into the room’ beginning, where everything you’ll need to use is tantalisingly just out of reach, and you need to figure out how to break into the main game area. Here, we were greeted with a few linear puzzles. Solve one, gain access to the second, and so on. Now, I’m a complete sucker for something slightly gimmicky that tests your skill level rather than puzzle solving level – but I know these aren’t always the most popular. There’s something that happens in this first room which we found brilliantly fun, but we definitely were lucky with our skill.
After only a little bit of faffing, we finally escaped ‘into’ the main room, and from there the game was truly afoot. With the theme being the Cold War, our central goal was to deactivate a bomb that stood in one corner ticking away in the background. There were a number of things we needed to do before we could get to the bomb. A number of locked boxes, some padlocks, and a tantalising class case in one corner with plenty of puzzles inside it.
We managed to ‘beat’ the bomb in around 40 minutes. There were a few notable places we could have shaved some time off, but besides trying to make up for showing up 15 minutes late, we weren’t especially in a hurry.
Overall, the puzzles felt fun. The entire room is linear, meaning it’s less practical for a larger team, especially where a few puzzles can really only be solved by one or two people at the time. There were also one or two where the solution was in fact something much more obvious than we thought, where we’d spend a while trying to ‘solve’ a puzzle when the solution was staring us in the face. Similarly, a few maths puzzles where the real answer wasn’t the complicated thing we were trying to do. But overall, they clicked with us. I can see how some groups – especially enthusiasts – might be frustrated with some elements of the room, and so maybe I wouldn’t recommend it to a super, super enthusiast, but for our little two player team it clicked well.
In terms of decor, this room is painted a sleek Cold-War military green and white. It looks mostly like a scientist’s office, with books on the table and test tubes and microscopes dotted around. Similarly, there’s a little Cold War bleakness. It’s furnished fairly sparsely and most of the puzzles or locked boxes you need are on display around you. That’s not to say there weren’t a few surprise reveals – there were, such as a keycard being swiped in just the right place to trigger a secret door… But generally speaking we knew where each ‘secret door’ was hiding from a carefully concealed wire behind tape, or a slightly fraying design that had definitely been handled a lot. All that to say, not a bad thing, just a thing. It felt on the low budget side, but what it lacked in fancy decor it made up for in enthusiasm and love.
We enjoyed Down to the Wire! It was an unexpected bonus onto a non-escape room holiday. It wasn’t a perfect room, but for a little hidden treasure found deep into the countryside, we were greeted cheerily and enthusiastically, and found in the room a lot of love and a few clever puzzles along the way. It’s not going to wow enthusiasts, and it’s best not to go in with super high expectations, but for us it was the perfect way to spend a morning. I’d recommend it for anyone in the area who wants a fun challenge!
Down to the Wire is one of two escape rooms that can be played at Bowness Escape rooms in the Lake District. You can book it here.