I was recently asked if I would like to review the brand new SpyZone at Gulliver’s Kingdom in Matlock Bath, Derbyshire. With three little budding spies I was more than happy to agree.
Whenever your country needs you…
Whenever the time comes…
I’ve never visited Gulliver’s Kingdom before (despite several pleas during my own childhood) so the only idea I had about the site was from reviews I’d read online. Many are quite scathing about the site’s location (on a hillside), however the SpyZone is located by the car park and before the actual theme park, so no steep climbs. We visited on the hottest day of the year so far, fortunately I chose to wear shorts (the SpyZone is not the place for skirts!) The kids were all very excited as you might imagine, which does add an extra pressure for the attraction (living up to expectations).
Inside the building you are greeted by ‘Secret Agents’ who take your tickets and ask you to wait in a comfy lounge while your training is prepared. This is also where the parents of older kids can wait while their children train (under 10s must be accompanied by an adult in the SpyZone). There are lockers to store your handbag etc, take advantage of these as you will be climbing and crawling.
Next you are invited through to a debrief room where a head spy explains the training ahead. Everyone is fitted with a bag containing gadgets such as blacklight torches, bug detectors, pens and paper. Once everyone understands the rules you are sent through a small tunnel where you climb up a shaft and into your first training room.
The basic premise is that you enter 8 training rooms, each with code words that need to be cracked. In one you must send teammates into a tunnel while you jump about pressing symbols (never touching the floor) and the kids in the tunnel shout back the letters you have cracked. In others you must scan the room for bugs (finding one reveals a codeword) or flip switches on a reactor.
Obviously this is very much a kids attraction but forget the kids…. I had a wonderful time!! So did my husband, it’s sort of like playing a cross between the Crystal Maze, Jungle Run and Knightmare (remember that one!) Teamwork is essential, so is speed (each room has a time limit) and it’s just seriously good fun! So if your kids are over 10, find a younger child to take to give yourself the excuse to go as well!
As for the kids, they all loved it. My daughter did have one ‘moment’ in a corridor full of laser beams where she froze in the middle terrified of setting off an alarm. Quick as a flash a Master Spy appeared and helped her through (I really appreciated the attentive nature of all the staff). This was perhaps my least ladylike moment as I hopped, limboed and scrambled across the floor My youngest (4) was un-phased by the laser beam corridor, so it’s not a given that your child will be scared.
When you finish your training you embark on a daring mission to save Queen and Country. I would tell you more about this mission, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but you’ll be leaping and code-breaking aplenty trying to disarm a bomb.
When you finish you give in your Spybook (where you recorded your codewords etc) and receive your final score. We managed Secret Agent status, hurrah!
Would I recommend SpyZone?
It’s probably no surprise that I would! We all had a wonderful time and it’s so different from your average attraction. There’s something quite magical about entering a world you can normally only find on TV. Plus I think it has a secret educational benefit:
- They have to practise teamwork
- They are decoding and spelling words
- They must listen attentively to instructions
- Read extra instructions
- Write down codewords
- Plus the physical aspect of crawling and climbing
I should also mention the wonderful staff who were friendly, patient and genuinely seemed to enjoy their work and helping kids have fun.
Could it be improved in anyway?
No, although I hope they will update the codewords and/or rooms periodically so that we can visit again in future and have just as much fun. It would be a real shame if it was a one time attraction. Perhaps posting up on the web when changes happen so parents can check before a return visit.
As I said earlier skirts/dresses are a no no really. You need to visit being prepared to climb, crawl and generally scramble about.
The Kids gave me their own review scores (with Spy names of course):
Agent Ninja – 10/10 because it was very exciting and when I grow up I’d like to build my own SpyZone
Agent J – 9/10 because little kids might get scared (although ours didn’t!)
Agent Storm – 10/10 because it was really fun and great
Agent Little – 10/10 because I loved it!
SpyZone is open all year round after school, at weekends and all school holidays.
It costs from £7.95 per junior spy.
SpyZone is included for Gulliver’s Gold Passport holders.
For full details and to book click on the SpyZone website here.
We also popped into Gulliver’s Kingdom after the SpyZone (the child in me was pleased!) and saw dinosaurs, bobbed about on water rafts and rode runaway horses. The site is indeed steep, so if you have a pushchair start at the top and work your way down. However a themepark especially for kids (and those of us who don’t love massive rollercoasters) is a wonderful idea. We had really good fun and would be happy to visit again (perhaps on a slightly cooler day).