If you’re coming to London to play escape games, this is where to go instead as well
In many parts of Europe, escape rooms are heavily gathered in the capital cities: that’s where you go for both quantity and quality. That’s not true in the U.K.
London has well over 70 games, including many very good ones. But if you’re in the country for a few days and want to pack in as many first-rate escape rooms as you can, then you really should look further afield.
This is an overview of some of the other locations that should be on your radar. Jump to:
- Nottingham & Derby (plus Leicester)
- Salisbury / Winchester
If you can only get to one location outside London, and you want to play more than one game there, you should probably be choosing between Brighton, Margate, Nottingham and Gravesend.
A few disclaimers and warnings:
There are many other very good games that I haven’t mentioned here, because I’m focusing on destinations with a combination of quality and quantity, and which work well for visiting enthusiasts with limited time. For a more comprehensive list, see our main rankings page, the excellent UK region guides at The Logic Escapes Me, and the per-location directory at Exit Games.
Areas further from London, such as the northwestern hotbed of escape rooms around Liverpool-Manchester-Leeds, are woefully neglected, both because I’m assuming visitors are most often based in London and because the games in the southeast are the ones I’m most familiar with. Including the more northerly escaping hubs would instantly double the length of this list.
Note that car journey times are heavily dependent on traffic and on whether you start on the right side of London for where you’re going – getting out of the city can be the longest part of the journey.
Distance from London: 2 hours by train, 2.5 hours by car.
Tourism: As a seaside town it has a beach and a variety of local attractions but I suspect most people reading this site will want to hit the escape rooms and move on. If you do have time to kill, there are some pleasant coastal walks in the area.
Escaping opportunities: Top of your list should be M.A.R.V.O. Induction by Marvo Mysteries. This steampunk game stands out as pure quality from well before you start the game itself. Bournemouth may be an effort to get to, but to paraphrase a certain US enthusiast who visited recently, if you have to get up at 5am to fit Marvo into your schedule, it’s worth it.
See also The MacGuffin by The MacGuffin Project, for spectacular visuals and large-scale Victorian Gothic drama; I haven’t tried their two more recent games.
There are a dozen other games on offer in the town if you have gaps in your schedule, but there are stronger alternatives elsewhere.
Distance from London: 1 hour from London Victoria by train, ~2 hours by car.
Tourism: Brighton is worth visiting even if you’re not playing escape games, a bustling tourist-friendly seaside town with a strong counter-culture feel. Head to the Laines for alleyways full of unusual shops and cafés, to the pier for tacky arcade amusements, or to the Pavilion for the wackiest palace the British Royal Family ever built.
Escaping opportunities: Bewilder Box is the headline attraction here, but newcomers Pier Pressure have made a name for themselves too and are well worth including in any visit. Note that the two Bewilder Box games are in different locations, with a long walk between them!
- Bewilder Box Initiative (Bewilder Box): The original Bewilder Box game, with weird science and a memorable AI helper / hint system.
- Judgement D.A.V.E. (Bewilder Box): Stunning sequel packed with innovative puzzles and a touch of moral ambiguity in the storyline.
- Pavilion Perplex (Pier Pressure): Refined, clever game inspired by the beautiful interiors of the Brighton Pavilion.
- Modrophenia (Pier Pressure): Based on the 1960s ‘Mods’ local gang scene, I haven’t played this but have heard good things about it. Min 4 player due to the quantity of content.
Pier Pressure have also taken over the excellent charity pop-up game The Divide, originally created by TimeTrap in Reading, which you should definitely play if you get a chance.
Note also that Crawley is halfway between London and Brighton, with another of the UK’s strongest escape companies – see below.
Distance from London: It’s an easy drive if you’re in south London with a car, otherwise you may struggle. The London-Brighton train line stops at Three Bridges from where you can get a bus, but beware irregular schedules, particularly at weekends. Car is a much better option if possible – possibly even renting one from nearby Gatwick Airport if you’re going to make a day of it.
Tourism: Crawley is a small town in the countryside outside Gatwick – if you want tourist attractions you’ll need to drive to get to them. There’s a nearby country park that might be interesting, I guess.
Escaping opportunities: The three Tulleys games are pretty much the only reason you’d travel out here. The venue is a highly regarded scare attraction operator; their skillset and location means big, lavish games and it turns out they’re very good at puzzle design too.
- Mutiny (Tulleys Escape): Gorgeous pirate game that blew me away with its set design and chunky physical puzzles.
- The Outfitters (Tulleys Escape): Prohibition themed and lightly more intellectual in style than Mutiny; opinions vary on which of the two is stronger.
- Nethercott Manor (Tulleys Escape): Latest game from Tulleys, with a horror theme that presumably fits well with their expertise; initial reports suggest it’s at least as good as their others.
If you’re travelling to Crawley anyhow, you might as well continue on to Brighton…
Distance from London: 20 mins from St. Pancras via high-speed train, ~75 mins by car.
Tourism: There’s a statue of Pocahontas, but not a whole lot else for visitors.
Escaping opportunities: Gravesend is on the escaping map for one company, the astonishingly prolific The Panic Room, who at time of writing have over a dozen games on offer in Gravesend alone. Pretty much all of them are reliably good, but there are some that I’d particularly recommend:
- Loop (The Panic Room, originally by Clockwork Dog): Legendary sci-fi pop-up game with a unique twist, now given a permanent home.
- Dino Land (The Panic Room): Huge, crazy experience for anyone who ever wanted to star in Jurassic Park (75 mins).
- The Gilman Hotel (The Panic Room): A loving tribute to Lovecraftian horror that’s both creepy and hilarious. This closes on 2nd September, though will hopefully re-open in a new location at some point.
- Old Father Time (The Panic Room): Beautiful, charming fairytale game that’s just irresistibly sweet.
I haven’t yet played Revolución Olé, but it apparently has an unusual mechanic reminiscent of board gaming; and I’m eagerly anticipating their new Wizard of Oz game. Also worth noting are their submarine race game Ten Fathoms and a game set in a Prison Van. (The Panic Room also have a branch in Harlow, Essex. The games there are also good but all the most special ones are in Gravesend.)
Distance from London: 90 mins from St. Pancras via high-speed train, ~2 hours by car.
Tourism: It’s a traditional English seaside resort. The beach is decent by English standards – which is to say, too cold to swim except in the height of summer, when it’ll be packed solid. The Shell Grotto is well worth a visit, and art lovers may be interested in the Turner Contemporary.
Escaping opportunities: Two companies with (so far) five games, all varying degrees of superb. I’d suggest playing all of them, but if you need to choose:
- Pirates of Polaris (The Escapement): A beginner friendly pirate romp which has plenty for enthusiasts too.
- Egyptian Exodus (The Escapement): This one’s more puzzle-centric; play this with your shoes off and enjoy the sand.
- The Pit (The Escapement): Innovative tech, interesting puzzles and an action movie feel combine for a fantastic game – of five outstanding games, this is narrowly my top pick.
- Frankenscape (Ctrl Alt Esc): A well-balanced steampunk game with a more classic style and a superb ending (90 mins)
- Spacescape (Ctrl Alt Esc): An ambitious sci-fi design that mixes screen-based tasks with some much more physical section, with lots of clambering around (90 mins).
If you’re eager to squeeze in more, there’s another company close by in Ramsgate, and plenty more in Kent that might be on your route – particularly in Canterbury.
Nottingham & Derby (plus Leicester)
Distance from London: 2 hours by train to Nottingham, and an additional 30 mins on to Derby; up to 3 hours by car.
Tourism: Nottingham city centre has its share of attractively old buildings, but is mainly known to international tourists because of the Robin Hood association.
Escaping opportunities: These two Midlands towns have become known as an escape room quality hub. A large part of that is because of Escapologic, one of the U.K.’s best known and best respected escape companies, but there are some gems from the other dozen companies in the area, too. Top of my recommendation list would be:
- Curio (Escapologic, Nottingham): Regularly topping U.K. enthusiasts’ favourite games lists, the less you know about Curio before playing it the better, but this game is the single biggest reason why you should include Nottingham in your schedule.
- Edith (Unescapable, Derby): The smartest horror game I’ve played, highly original and intensely scary. Their other game, Tommy, shares many of its strengths with none of the scares.
- Spellbound (Make Your Escape, Derby): Classic puzzle-solving fun with a non-scary witchy theme. Their two new rooms (Utopia & Dystopia) are getting rave reviews and almost certainly worth including in a visit.
- Alien (iLocked, Nottingham): Very technology-led spaceship escape that’s tough enough to challenge even experienced teams; their Mummy game is also worth a try.
- Or pretty much any of the other Escapologic games – they’re varied and distinctive, and different enthusiasts vary in which ones they prefer, so the best option is to pick based on theme.
- Contraption (Nottingham) for classic steampunk
- Cryptic (Nottingham) for something that’s pretty but very very dark
- Howitz (Nottingham) for twisted and creepy
- Heistakes or Epicentre (both Nottingham) for action or disaster movie, respectively
- Butcher (Nottingham) if you just want to have the crap scared out of you.
The recently opened Cave Escape (Nottingham) might be worth a look too.
If you want more, Leicester is on the train route between London and Nottingham and has Escapologic’s second branch with their three newest games, all of which I’d highly recommend; and there are plenty of other companies in the surrounding region to boot.
Distance from London: 25 mins by train from London Paddington, double that by car.
Tourism: Nothing exceptional.
Escaping opportunities: Reading is another city where it’s hard to find a bad game. The centre has three companies, all of which are worth considering:
- Escape Reading has the fantastic Blown Away, a bomb game which emphasises interesting multi-person puzzles; Vampire Slayers is a mildly scary escape room that’s well worth playing while you’re there.
- TimeTrap Escape Rooms make lovely smart games with unusual themes full of creative ideas and handpainted components, such as Imaginarium, set inside Lewis Carroll’s head.
- Deadlocked’s two games The Testing Chamber and The Phoenix Research include some unusual ideas that mess with the normal escape room format a little, so good options if you’re after something a little different.
Also, Reading is 30-40 mins away from Guildford, and Guildford Escape Rooms is another strong venue with two games well worth playing.
Salisbury / Winchester
Distance from London: Each is about an hour from London Waterloo by train, or closer to 2 hours by car. Both are convenient to reach from Southampton, though surprisingly inconvenient to travel from one to the other.
Tourism: Both towns have notable cathedrals and the kind of historic town centres that people visit even if they’re not obsessed with escape rooms. Salisbury is also a convenient place to catch a tour bus to Stonehenge. (Yes, it’s perfectly safe to go to Salisbury, no matter what Russian spy stories have been in the news recently.)
Escaping opportunities: With only a couple of games in each, the main reason to consider heading to Salisbury or Winchester is because you want to combine one or two good games with some non-escaping tourism; or as part of a longer trip by car – such as one to Bournemouth and/or Swindon.
In Salisbury you shouldn’t miss SPECTRE by Live Escape Salisbury; I haven’t tried the detective game at Salisbury Escape Rooms so far but it has a solid reputation. Winchester has ClueCapers, whose delightfully idiosyncratic Mission to Winchintzy was particularly charming; I also liked their second game and haven’t yet tried their third.
Distance from London: 90 mins by train from London Waterloo, a little longer by car.
Tourism: There’s little that’s high-profile, though the nearby New Forest region has plenty of non-escaping attractions.
Escaping opportunities: While the games in Southampton don’t make it into my ‘UK top ten’ shortlist, you can play almost a dozen games all of reliably excellent quality. My personal favourite is Houdini’s Escape The Titanic, but it’s a safe bet playing anything from Exciting Escapes, Houdini Escape, Other World Escapes or Elusion Rooms, and which of their games you’ll like comes down to individual preference more than different in quality. In brief:
- Houdini’s games are a little grittier and realistic in style, with excellently observed historical detail. Escape From Titanic is an extended 90 min game.
- Exciting Escapes theme their games by decade; my favourite was the entertainingly physical 70s Breaking The Law, but 80s nostalgics may prefer Changing The Record. I thought their spaceship game Spies in Space wasn’t completely successful, but as a 75 min game with some unusual elements it might be of interest.
- Other World Escapes are friendly accessible games notable for their excellent themed hint systems. Mayan is a bit more physical, Vermilion is a good option for a competitive race game.
- Elusion Rooms have a horror game and a heist game, with Seven Sins and The Pandora Heist. Each has a system that allows different degrees of victory, the latter much more so than the former.
Be warned that the above four venues are far enough from each other that walking between them may not be an option.
Distance from London: 1 hour from London Paddington by train, twice that by car.
Tourism: Swindon is not a city with tourist appeal, but it combines well with a trip to Bath.
Escaping opportunities: This town is on the escaping map because of Professor Dunstan and the Search for the Ancient Statuette by Co-decode, an exquisitely elegant game widely agreed to be among the best in the country.
That’s the main attraction, but I’ve also seen praise for Agenda 21 by Incarcerated (which I haven’t yet played, but which by reputation is considerably stronger than that company’s earlier games).
But what about…
Tourist favourites Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, and York all have games available but for escaping you’re better off heading to any of the above destinations – although if you’re in the area, Cambridge Escape Rooms has a copy of the Heaven And Hell room many enthusiasts know and recommend from Budapest.