Escape Room Cottage Tewkesbury | A holiday cottage cross escape room – Can you solve the puzzles, unravel the story, and gain the prize… all in one long weekend? The house is filled with puzzles and clues, all woven together into a story for you to discover.
Date played: July 2023
Time taken: Played over a long weekend (Fri-Sun) with approx 10-12 hours of puzzling
Number of players: 4
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (different puzzle levels available)
A Weekend of Puzzles
Playing escape room games is a bit like (I imagine) being addicted to drugs. That first game you play gives you a massive, excited, cerebral high, sending you back out into the world buzzing. It feels so good that you’re soon back, searching for a repeat of that high and, for a while, each new game also gives you the sought after buzz. But it’s not long before one game at a time isn’t enough. The comedown after a single game sends you scurrying to book a second straight away and pretty soon you’re booking escape room days of five or six games in a row. By this point you are a fully fledged ER addict. So when an opportunity to actually live in an escape room, where you can eat, drink, shower and sleep surrounded by puzzles, comes along, it doesn’t take much persuasion to hand over your cash for a full weekend of ER highs.
And at the Escape Cottage in Tewkesbury a weekend of highs is exactly what you get.
Escape Cottage? What Is That?
The Escape Cottage in Tewkesbury is an AirBnB property run by the lovely (and very responsive) Caroline and Rich. And honestly, the cottage itself and Tewkesbury would be more than worth the price of the weekend. The cottage is really a three floor house right in the centre of medieval Tewkesbury. It is a little jewel box of a property, filled with eclectic, quirky and lovely artwork, sculptures and books, that can accommodate up to 5 guests across three bedrooms (a double, twin and single) and with three separate bathrooms. It is beautifully decorated, luxuriously comfortable and spacious and has everything you need for a weekend break, including a fully equipped kitchen. It sits in the heart of the lovely town of Tewkesbury, which is rammed with characterful, wonky, beamed medieval and Tudor buildings, as well as narrow, atmospheric lanes and alleys and a stunning Medieval abbey. Tewkesbury was the site of a key battle in the War of the Roses, commemorated throughout the town with colourful banners representing the many warring families, and there are plenty of self-guided walks around the key historic sites available. And even if history is not your thing, Tewkesbury’s location as a point where the River Avon and the River Severn meet, creating the Severn Ham nature reserve, means there are wonderful riverside and country walks also on the cottage’s doorstep. Also just outside the cottage door are a great variety of independent cafes, restaurants, pubs and shops. There’s no private parking at the cottage (though a cheap long stay car park is a few mins walk away) but, honestly, once you’ve arrived everything you could possibly need for a weekend is all within walking distance.
Yes, Yes, Sounds Lovely, But What About The Escape Room?
TBH I wasn’t sure what to expect of the escape room element when I booked the cottage. I thought that perhaps, in order to appeal to the widest audience possible, the puzzles might be too simplistic for my team of experienced ER nerds, or that it would simply consist of nothing but padlocked boxes dumped in a room. Oh how wrong could I be? The puzzling element of the cottage blew our minds and vastly exceeded every expectation we had by miles and miles and miles.
The puzzling starts even before you’ve arrived, as in your welcome email your host sets up the story behind your weekend adventures and gives you the first puzzle that will give you the code for the property’s keybox. OK, this puzzle IS fairly simple but then you don’t want your guests to spend hours sitting outside your property wondering how on earth to get inside! But once inside, the puzzle world expands and the house becomes a treasure trove of clues, secret messages, mysterious locked boxes and intriguing artifacts. While areas of the house that are definitely NOT part of the puzzle world are clearly marked (by locked doors and stickers), and you are told before arrival that most clues will be straightforward to find so “you won’t need to pull everything off the walls and disembowel the furniture” there is an element of ‘searching’ needed to get puzzling properly. And inspiration and clues can strike at any time – even an innocent mid-puzzle trip to the loo can suddenly reveal a detail hidden up until then.
There is a clear narrative thread to the puzzles, and hints and clues are found in letters and postcards discovered as you move through the property. My advice is to read them carefully because at the end of the puzzles you will have to make a decision based on all you’ve read beforehand. While that narrative winds its way throughout the game play, once you’ve reached a certain point (I won’t say what as it’d ruin the excitement of the discovery for future players), the order in which you tackle the various puzzles no longer matters. Through some very clever tech, you can choose which puzzles you want to focus on, or jump around between the different ones if something stumps you and you need to think about something else instead. From that ‘certain point’ mentioned above hints are easily available if needed, but hosts Caroline and Rich are also accessible via phone or AirBnB messages if you really get stuck.
The variety of puzzles is impressive – there are some purely physical ones, as well as ones for the mathematician in your group, or the music-loving team member or the crossword obsessed player, the logic puzzle solver or that player who just enjoys a good jigsaw. There are some lovely little moments of puzzling and discovery magic that delighted my entire team and had us squealing with excitement, racing up and down the stairs, or just saying “wow” repeatedly. As a team we’ve pretty much seen and played it all before, but there were some elements here that had us genuinely surprised and excited. And to stop the puzzle-hardened obsessives from simply locking themselves inside for an entire weekend, also built into the experience is an outdoor puzzle/treasure hunt that takes you through much of medieval Tewkesbury, giving you puzzling pleasure, a tour of the town and a dose of fresh air all rolled into one. My team failed to find a part of the initial set up for this treasure hunt but still had a lovely time wandering the streets of the town and managed to find all the answers we needed.
And there are differing levels of involvement and commitment to the weekend too. You can choose to take things at a leisurely pace, solving just a handful of puzzles that get you to a certain narrative point, or you can keep going and solve more, or, as we did, commit to the completionist experience and make sure you’ve solved every single thing in the house including the few ‘bonus’ puzzles. Overall I think our team of four puzzled hard for around 10-12 hours in the cottage (but we also squeezed in 11 other escape rooms in Cheltenham and Worcester, on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday) so you can take your time, enjoy the luxurious cottage space and the beautiful town it’s in, and still play through most of puzzles on offer.
In other words, this escape room cottage experience can be enjoyed by anyone who likes to puzzle. There’s enough to keep a diehard ER enthusiast busy and satisfied, while a relative newbie or a family group could also play and have an absolute blast of a weekend. In short, this escape room cottage surpassed my expectations by a (beautiful) country mile and is amazing value for money, given the loveliness of the house and town and the sheer quantity of puzzles squeezed in. Would 100% highly recommend to pretty much anyone and everyone.
A Note on Accessibility
The listing on AirBnB makes it clear that this is an old house split over 3 floors with only stairs for access, so unfortunately it may not suit those with mobility issues, especially as the puzzle-solving requires quite a lot of going up and down across all three floors. Some of the puzzles use colours or sound so may be harder for those with restricted vision, colour blindness or hearing loss.
Full details of the cottage and how to book are here.
Photos in this review are either (c) Cottage Owners (from AirBnB), or Karen Myers, Jake Andrews, Jane Blackwell.