“ Museum Square, Keswick. „
A few weeks ago we booked a couple of nights away in the Lake District. It was ment to be a cheap and cheerful little break. Before going I set about researching the surrounding area where we were staying, to get some ideas of things to do and places to visit. I came across the town Keswick and thought it sounded like a really lovely place to visit. There is plenty to do there and lots to keep the family entertained. One of the places we decided to visit in Keswick was the Puzzling Place and this is my review on it.
The Puzzlng Place can be found in Keswick town center on Museum Square. Keswick does not have a train station. We travelled by car and found it easily by exiting the M6 at Junction 40 and then simply following the Keswick signs from there. As The Puzzling Place is in the City Center it does not have its own customer car park. However, the nearest car park is literally a 2-3 minute walk away at the most. I forget how much this cost now, but i remember is was not too expensive.
It didn't take us long to find The Puzzling Place, it is located above some shops. To access it you must walk up a very long flight of stairs. This may cause problems for wheelchair users or those with prams, so be prepared for this! At the top of the stairs is the gift shop, which is free to enter. Perusing around there are lots of exciting things to look at and buy. Some fairly expensive and some cheap things for around a pound or so. Obviously in line with the theme of the place the gift shop sells an array of puzzles, Jigsaws, mind benders and gadgets. There is also a puzzle area, which consists of a large wooden table running around one corner of the shop which had various puzzles displayed on them. Visiters are encouraged to have a go of them (again free of charge). We had great fun trying to complete the puzzles, but most of them completely baffled me and my partner, arg! My youngest daughter was quiet content to sit at the little desk area playing with bead maze toys, nice touch including something for the little ones.
To get into the main attraction visitors must pay at the counter. The lady behind the counter was very friendly and helpful. It cost us a little over ten pounds to enter, which I found very reasonable. The prices are as followed:
Adults : £3.75
Children / Concessions : £2.90
Family (2+2) : £11.75
Under 5's free
Entry to the main Exhibition area is located behind Some large heavy swinging doors. There are a variety of different puzzles, brain teasers and optical illusions on the walls. According to their website there are over 50 exhibits, many of which are very hands-on and interactive. A few of these exhibits were things you will have probably seen before, however some where very confusing and unique. Here are some of the main exhibitions that really stood out to us:
This is a small little room, the whole room is on a slant and gives the impression that gravity is no longer functioning! It seems like you are standing at an impossible angle and that you should fall over but you don't. There was a ball in the room and when placed on the floor it appeared to roll uphill, there was a similar idea this time with a chair on some tracks. It was really very bizaar, and did make us quiet dizzy and disorientated- but in a good way.
~Ames Forced Perspective Room~
I think that this one had to be our favourite! This was a small white room which looked perfectly normal. However, Once inside it seemed that people where growing or shrinking. I stood at one side and my three year old daughter at the other, and it seemed she was much larger than me! Brilliant little illusion. On one of the walls was a small window, an ideal place for someone to take some pictures, we got some really good ones.
A dark little room with a computer animated pond projected onto the floor, when you walk over the image the water seems to move and "splash" under your feet. Seen a few of these in various places but the kids loved it!
These included portraits (my favorite one being Marilyn Monroe), some horror ones (mummies that seem to move) relics and reptials. According to their website there are over 60 Holograms in the gallery, but unfortunately when we visited a few of them where not working, which was a bit disappointing.
It took us approx 45-60 minutes to walk around the whole exhibition. Luckily when we visited the venue was neither too busy nor too empty. However, I can imagine it gets quiet busy during rainy days in the school holiday. Since the Puzzling Place is on the small side I would suggest visiting at times when it may be quieter to get the full effect.
We really enjoyed our time at the Puzzling Place however I do have a few negative opinions. Firstly I think the place could do with a bit of a refurbishment, plus attention needs to be given to making sure all the exhibitions are in good working order (eg the hologram gallery which I mentioned before) Furthermore, I think more needs to be done in the way of access, the steep stairs leading up to the Puzzling Place could pose difficulty to many, so I think a lift would be a good idea. Lastly there are no toilets, which is a pain when visiting with small children. I have only knocked one star off my review for these problems. I believe on the whole the Puzzling Place is a great little place to visit, with lots going for it and above all I found it good value for money. I think this would suit and Interest a wide variety of people, young and old.
I don't think I would recommend making a special trip to specifically visit The Puzzling Place. However, I would certainly recommend visiting the picturesque town of Keswick and whilst there suggest you spend an hour at the Puzzling Place, you won't be disappointed.
The Puzzling Place
9 Museum Square
My dad and I were in the Lake District for a few days and when in Keswick we ran into this museum quite by accident while wandering round the shops. It is tucked away in an upstairs location among shop fronts in Museum Square and it caught my eye, so we headed up for a nosy.
On entering there is a fairly large shop area that is free to enter and the receptionist doesn't pressure anyone browsing the shop to enter the museum, which is nice. The World of Illusions exhibition itself is behind swing doors and you simply pay at reception if you wish to enter. The shop stocks lots of unusual little items, puzzles, jigsaws on such like and is worth a little look around in itself.
The entry fee to the main exhibit is reasonable at £3.75 for a full price ticket and £2.90 for a child/concession. Under 5s get in for free and a family ticket for four can be bought for £11.75. The swing doors themselves to get in look a bit like a dodgy DIY job and I really wasn't convinced that it was worth going in but in we went, anyway.
A lot of the illusions are big boards on the wall with some kind of optical illusion on them (many of them very famous such as the type with a face that when looked at can either be interpreted as one thing or another). I'd seen a lot of the illusions already in books but maybe that's just due to my mis-spent youth being into that sort of thing! There were a few more 'hands on' exhibits dotted around such as two cases (one small and one large) that you'd to lift and gauge the weight of and a kaleidiscope of mirrors that you could stand inside.
There was also the optical illusion of a large chair created by the angle of a camera pointed at it which provided a good photo opportunity (you are actually just standing on a board on the ground but from a distance and at the right angle a photo would make you look like you are standing on a huge chair).
The best bit was definately the anti-gravity room which due to strange angles on the floor etc. made chairs slide uphill and makes you feel a bit dizzy and strange when you're inside. There is also a fairly large hologram room which is fun and some of the holograms are really detailed and amazing although a few of them weren't visible when I was there as the lights needed to light them had went out. In the hologram gallery there is also a distorted perceptions room where you can make yourself look tiny and your kid (if you have one with you) look like a giant. Again, another good photo opportunity.
The overall feel of the place is a bit basic and amateurish and it is really rather small and probably wouldn't take any more than 45 minutes to go round, even if you were taking your time to read everything and do everything that was there but I think this is quite fairly reflected in the price to get in as it isn't particularly expensive. It reminded me somewhat of a poor man's version of Camera Obscura in Edinburgh.
I would recommend a peek inside if you're in Keswick but I wouldn't recommend you to go deliberately out of your way to visit this attraction although hopefully it will improve over time if enough visitors invest in it.
We were holidaying in the Lake District last week and when browsing what there was to do in the local area I discovered The Puzzling Place. I knew immediately that it would be exactly the kind of thing that my partner would be interested in so we decided to take a trip there one afternoon.
==Where is it?==
The Puzzling Place is in the town centre of Keswick. There is no specified car park for it so you will need to park in pay and display nearby.
==Arriving at The Puzzling Place==
The Puzzling Place is easy to find as there is a large sign pointing to it which is easily seen from the main road running through Keswick. The Puzzling Place is actually located upstairs and there is no lift so those who are disabled would probably not be able to visit. Entry to the shop is free which has a number of things in such as puzzles and toys but we wanted to go into the exhibit so we paid our entrance fee and went in.
This is the first part of The Puzzling Place that you will visit. There is a great deal in here for you to see and lots of puzzles for you to work out. Each part has a poster telling you what to do, what should happen and then explains why. These were lots of fun and we all had a great time in here trying to work things out. There is plenty in here and is the main part of the exhibit with it running through the middle of other attractions. We spent about half an hour in here in total trying to work out particular puzzles. One of our favourites was a chair that made those stood on it look tiny and those stood next to it look huge.
My favourite part of The Puzzling Place. This is the only room like this in the country and is designed to make you feel disorientated. You enter the room going up a slope and then inside there are numerous things to defy gravity, such as a chair which goes up in the air, a ladder where those on it look as though they are leaning to one side and a mini snooker table where the ball rolls up it. We had great fun in this room and we were all really impressed with it.
There is an impressive collection of hollograms (over 60) for you to look at. These were all very good and we enjoyed looking at these though our time in this room was spoiled slightly by a school trip arriving and the teachers letting them run havoc throughout the entire place!
==Ames Foced Perpective Room==
Another illusion room where one end the people look tiny and the other end people look huge. We really enjoyed this part of the exhibit and thought it was great fun.
==Shop and Puzzle Room==
This is outside of the exhibit and entry is free. The shop stocks a great deal of toys, games and puzzles and the puzzle room has a number of puzzles to keep you occupied (not that we managed to get any done)!
There is no cafe and no toilets, though there are toilets two minutes down the road.
Family (2+2) £11.75
Under 5's Free
These vary throughout the year but currently the exhibit opens at 11am and closes at 5:30pm.
==Would we recommend?==
Yes, absolutely. The four of us that visited were all adults but we really enjoyed ourselves and were amazed by some things. I imagine children would also enjoy it. I thought the admission price was extremely reasonable, we spent about an hour in here though we would have certainly spent longer if our peace wasn't shattered by the school trip. It is worth noting there was also a dog in there with some other visitors so I imagine well behaved dogs are allowed though I doubt they will like the anti-gravity room!
I love the August Bank Holiday weekend - hubby goes off diving with another woman and my friends come up to stay (the legendary G, K, S & R) to keep me company and a weekend of fun, frolics and lots of booze commences - highlights including the rewriting of "Who Killed Cock Robin" and keeping our poor neighbours awake with midnight renditions of "Babooshka" and "No Limit" on Singstar.
---Where is it?---
Anyway, whilst out and about in Keswick on a relatively miserable (well, it's hardly traditional August weather) Saturday I decided to take them to "The Puzzling Place" which is located just off the high street (there are signposts if you're struggling to find it) in Museum Square - amazing (well, puzzling...) that loads of people I've spoken to don't know it exists. Having been with the in-laws several years back (the same day that my mother-in-law bought me a dog toy to play with - admittedly it was a moose, but a dog toy nonetheless), and with a friend a while earlier this year when we had some time to kill, I thought it would be right up their street, especially the boys (G, K & S) who are easily amused. According to the website (www.puzzlingplace.co.uk - not the best website, but worth checking out if my review doesn't convince you) it opened in 2001.
---Entrance and the shop---
On entering the Puzzling Place you walk up a flight of stairs and arrive in a shop. There's a sign saying that there's no public toilets in the building, but that's hardly a problem unless you have an extremely weak bladder.
The shop contains a wide range of gadgety type gifts - you could end up spending a fortune in there (I imagine it would be a nightmare if taking kids). Alternatively you could go online and find everything that's in the shop at reduced prices.
You pay to enter the exhibition in the shop, at the cost of £3.50 per adult (£2.75 for children and concessions, under 5s free I think) which is definitely well worth it. You're probably looking at spending just under an hour in there - but it's an hour of much amusement (even with the in-laws!), and I think that the five of us will still be reminiscing on the experience in 20 years time.
The Puzzling Place is open from 10am to 6pm, 7 days a week.
---The Layout ---
The Puzzling Place is essentially one big room (with a few bits going off the side), a bit like an Art Gallery. It's full of exhibits which I'll now run through.
---Optical Illusions ---
If you're fascinated with optical illusions as I am, then you'll love the Puzzling Place. There are various optical illusion pictures on the walls (some you'll probably be familiar with, but others you won't be), but there's also more exciting interactive illusions - such as a mirror which made us look HUGE (even K and R who are very thin), a spinning wheel thing where you press a button and it spins round (and then you have to look at the back of your hand and it appears to be wobbling), a mirror where you stand opposite a friend and swap features which each other (my eye's and R's nose etc), a kaleidoscope which you get inside, and various other things to pick up and/or look at. The optical illusions are the basis of the Puzzling Place, and there's a pretty big selection - you'll certainly find something which impresses you. It's a very interactive experience and children will love it, although smaller ones might need some of the things explained to them so that they understand what it's all about.
I don't think this exhibit was here last time I went (or perhaps it was out of action). In a side room there's a fish pond projected onto the floor. If you jump on it, or wave your arms around then it simulates a splashing in the pond and the fish move accordingly, quite fun.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is a room which is a bit like a crooked house, in that the floor is at an angle. Hilariously K fell over as soon as he entered the room, and he never really recovered from that - he was all over the place - it is said to cause feeling of nausea in some, and pregnant women should exercise caution. We did get some funny looks. Inside the anti-gravity room there's a ladder which you can stand on, making it look like you're leaning forward. There's a broom stick which stands up on its own, a mini snooker table where the ball seemingly rolls downwards on its own, and there's the moving chair which we all had a go on (someone joked that it was a sign of what's to come as it's a bit like a stair lift). A child helpfully informed us that although it looks and feels like the chair's just moving on its own, it's actually because the floor in the room is not normal!
There's an impressive selection of holograms including some of the earliest ones from the 1960s. I remember back in the 1980s being taken to a hologram exhibition in York and was amazed by them when I realised that they weren't actually real objects. Unfortunately though the holograms are mainly from the 1980s and 1990s (when these things were particularly popular), and do look a bit dated in the light of things we have these days. However, there are still some good ones such as the mad hatter's tea party, a trombone, and some which look different depending on which angle you view them from.
*The Little/BIG room*
In a side room off the hologram exhibition, there's a very clever room, which I have decided to name the little/big room. If you stand in one corner then you appear to be absolutely huge, but in the other corner you appear to be tiny. When in the room you can view what you look like on a TV screen - alternatively a friend can take a photo through the viewing window. This is quite a surreal experience; you can get the gist of it from looking at my pictures! I particularly enjoyed being a little person!
The Puzzling Place is definitely worth a visit if you're out and about in Keswick, especially if the weather's miserable as it was for this August Bank Holiday (and the last one come to that)! It was pretty busy inside (like minded people I suppose!) particularly when we arrived (when I've been before it has been less busy), but we still had a chance to experience the exciting rooms without other people around - perhaps though they were too scared by our screams and laughs coming out of the anti-gravity room.
It's worth going just to experience the anti-gravity room and the little/big room - and if we were amazed by it, I can imagine that kids would be even more impressed! The only downside really is that some of the exhibits could do with being spruced up a bit, but I would imagine that this is an ongoing process.
I would certainly recommend if you're up for a laugh. This review is also on Ciao with some amusing pictures of us!