On our recent trip to Glasgow, Jess and I were keen to visit the nearby Pollok House. This grand old property, operated by the National Trust for Scotland, was particularly intriguing to us because as well as all the usual things you might expect at a historic property like this, they also had an escape room.
Jess and I had been keen to try out an escape room for ages, and having a period themed escape room to try out seemed just right for our first effort. If you’re not familiar with an escape room, or just want to find out if we got out, fear not, all will be revealed. But first, let’s talk about:
Visiting Pollok House
I’m going to start by orienting you a little about Pollok House, which is owned by the City of Glasgow, managed by the National Trust for Scotland, and open for visits by the public.
The National Trust for Scotland, if you’re not familiar with them, are a conservation charity that aims to protect and promote Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage, and they manage and own a number of properties and lands across Scotland.
Having the National Trust for Scotland operate Pollok House is quite appropriate, because it was at Pollok House that the idea for starting a National Trust for Scotland took root, in 1931, in the cedar-panelled smoking room (which you can still visit today).
The present house dates from the mid 18th century, with extensions added on in the 20th century. However the Stirling Maxwell family who owned and built this property lived here for nearly 700 years – the current property just being the final iteration of the ancestral home.
As you would imagine, the house is quite expansive, with room for the family, their guests, and a huge number of servants – at its peak there were 48 staff on hand to look after the family. It’s surrounded by wonderfully landscaped gardens, which include over 1,000 species of rhododendrons, and trees which are believed to be hundreds of years old.
Touring the house is easy. You can wander freely around the upstairs rooms, which were for the family to use and are therefore somewhat luxurious, filled with period furniture and an impressive art collection. This includes some of the finest Spanish art on show in the UK, most notably the El Greco “Lady in a Fur Wrap” painting, and works by Coello and Murillo. There are also a number of paintings by William Blake.
Note that not all the art will be on display all the time – when we visited for example, ongoing restoration work meant that the famous “Lady in a Fur Wrap” painting wasn’t on the property. Still, it gives us a reason to return!
Once you’ve seen how the wealthy owners lived in the upstairs part of the house, venture downstairs, and see how the servants made it all happen. In the sprawling warren of tiled passageways that make up the downstairs area you can visit servant’s rooms, the kitchen, and more. Some of these rooms have been converted for use as gift shop and dining areas (we had a lovely scone and tea in the original kitchen, now a café).
There’s also a guided tour of the downstairs servants quarters which runs daily (see website for tour information). We can recommend doing this, as it takes you into a number of rooms that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see, including the hunting room, pantry, and room lived in by the butler.
As previously mentioned, as well as the house, there are extensive grounds to wander, and you could easily spend half a day or more here exploring, eating, and just wondering how the other half lived.
The Pollok House Escape Room
Note that as of January 2019 the Pollok House Escape room experience doesn’t seem to be available. However, we’re leaving this section in as it reflects our experience visiting Pollok House.
What is an Escape Room?
If you’re not familiar with escape rooms, the concept is that you are put into a room which contains various puzzles and clues, which you have to solve within a time limit in order to be released. Often the time limit is about an hour, and the escape room will accommodate groups. Some escape rooms have you working as a single team, others let you have more people and play competitively.
What was the Pollok House Escape Room Like?
The Pollok House Escape room is set in the servant’s quarters in a room all set up to look like a part of the Pollok House about 100 years ago. The idea of the escape room is that you have to “escape the past”, which is the title of the room.
I won’t give anything away regarding the room layout or puzzles so as not to spoil the surprise, but we found it was well thought out with a good storyline and plenty of period references to make you feel like you’re stepping back in time. For our first escape room experience we really enjoyed it!
In terms of difficulty it definitely required some clever thinking. We had an hour to solve the various puzzles inside the room which were, I have to say, quite challenging. Did we do it, and escape the past? In a word, no.
I’d say we got just over half way through the puzzles before our time ran out. We had a lot of fun doing it, but alas, our first escape room foiled us. Chatting with the lady running the room, she said that around 50% of people make it all the way through, so we didn’t feel too bad – obviously it’s meant to be a challenge rather than a walk in the park! We’d definitely recommend you give it a go if you like puzzles, lateral thinking challenges, and anything to do with the past.
Note that the Pollock House escape room is an additional fee on top of the house visit that you need to book in advance, even for National Trust members.
Any hints for the Pollok House Escape Room?
Bring some friends! Ok, we’re not going to give anything away in terms of the puzzles or the contents of the room, because we promised we wouldn’t. The only tip we would give you is to come with a few people – the room will take up to 5, and the more brains working on the problems, the better. You can do the puzzles out of order, so a policy of divide and conquer might help you get through it in time to escape the past!
Useful information for visiting Pollok House
Pollok House is found in Pollok Country Park, which is around five miles south of the city centre. It’s a National Trust for Scotland property, so National Trust members get free access, and non-members have to pay an entry fee – see the official website for the most up to date prices.
If you’re not a National Trust member and live in the UK, we think a National Trust membership is an excellent investment and easily pays itself off. Jess and I are both members and love it. You can join here if you’re interested.
When the Escape Room, was operating, this was a paid attraction and needed to be booked in advance. If a similar attraction is offered again, we expect this will be the same.
Pollok House is open daily year round from 10am – 5pm, with the last admission at 4.30pm. The tearoom and shop are also open daily from 10am – 5pm, with the lunch menu available from midday – 3pm, and last orders at 4.30pm. It’s also available for event hire, should you be thinking about hosting something at an lovely venue like this.
Note that photography is not allowed inside Pollock House – we were given special permission to be able to take photos as press. Photography is allowed in the gardens and of the exterior of the house.
How to get to Pollok House
Pollok House is about a fifteen minute drive from Glasgow City Centre, and there is plenty of parking on site. You can also drive from Edinburgh, it’s about a 51 mile drive and will take between an hour and ninety minutes on average, depending on traffic.
Pollok House can also be reached by public transport from Glasgow City Centre. By rail, you take the train from Glasgow Central Station to Pollokshaws West, after which it’s a 15 minute walk through Pollok Country Park to the house. Overall this journey will take around half an hour.
There are a number of buses serving the route also, again, you’ll have to walk through Pollok Country Park from the bus stop. The bus from Glasgow will take 40 – 50 minutes, depending on traffic and bus schedules.
Further reading for your visit to Pollok House, Glasgow and Scotland
Hopefully the above post has prepared and excited you for your own visit to Pollok House. To help you plan your trip a bit further, here are some resources we think you will find useful.
- If you’re visiting Pollok House you should take time to visit Glasgow and surrounds – here’s our 2 Day Glasgow & Loch Lomond itinerary to help you do just that
- The official Pollok House website has all the useful information you need to help you plan your visit including prices and opening times, as well as some history on the property
- If you like houses like this, check out my guide to the best stately homes you can visit in England.
- If you’re visiting Glasgow, we’re sure you’re also thinking of visiting Edinburgh too. Check out our guide to spending two days in Edinburgh, as well as getting off the beaten path in Edinburgh.
- If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ve got to check out Jess’s Guide to the Best Edinburgh Harry Potter locations.
- If you were thinking of taking a trip around the UK and want to include Glasgow as part of that itinerary, we have both a one week itinerary of the UK and a two week itinerary of the UK for you to give you some ideas for what’s possible in those timeframes..
- Heading further out of the city? How about a trip to the Scottish Borders or a tour of some Whisky distilleries?
Or, if you want to get further afield, check out our five day Isle of Skye and Highlands itinerary
- If you’re interested in getting better photos when you travel, take a look at my online photography course, where I’ll teach you everything you need to know about getting better photos – whatever camera you have!
- And finally, if you want a guidebook, either physical or digital here’s a Rick Steves guide to Scotland as well as this Lonely Planet Pocket Glasgow Guide to help get you started!
And that sums up our experience visiting Pollok House in Glasgow! Have you ever done an Escape Room or visited a lovely house like this? Have any questions for us? Just let us know in the comments below!
So you know: As National Trust members we had free access to Pollok House. We were provided complimentary escape room tickets and a guided tour by Pollok House and the National Trust for Scotland