Family: Day-trip detectives

Visit somewhere new and keep your little ones happy by turning them into amateur sleuths

If you don't want to contend with dragging feet and whining on a long walk with a child, it is best to employ distraction techniques. Fortunately, it doesn't always have to be a never-ending game of I-Spy.

A company called Treasure Trails has researched and written hundreds of treasure hunts around the country using existing landmarks as clues, so to try it out we armed ourselves with its Inveraray pack and set off. The starting point was a car park in the centre of the Argyll town (above) and we numbered four mothers, 12 children and a buggy.

Hide Ad

The kids were raring to go but the mystery trail needed to sustain their interest over two hours and two miles, further than some of them had ever walked before.

Each trail guide costs 5, and comes in the form of a pack with a code to crack, a mystery to unravel or a murder to solve. Ours was the latter, so after explaining to the littler children that no one was really going to die, we started looking for the first clue, which would enable us to cross off the first suspect on the list.

Some clues are easy to find: a street sign or a house's date; while others are more complicated, such as an anagram of a name on a war memorial, but the trail has been written so that you take in all the places of interest and delve deeper into local history than a casual visitor would. You certainly need perseverance (and, at one point, help from the lady in the sweet shop). You also need to follow the directions closely because there is no map, but the older children delighted in leading the way.

Our trail took in the beautiful walled seashore, the historic ship on the pier, the old jail and the model Georgian architecture, for which the town is so famous. We completed the circle by walking through parkland, the churchyard and ended up by finding the inscription on a cannon on the doorstep of the beautiful castle.

The only difficulty we had was stopping the older ones running ahead to search for clues, and allowing the little ones time to have a go at finding a clue without the know-it-alls shouting out.

As we should have done, we ended up with one suspect, which we checked at the company website – our detective skills were sound. If your answer is correct, you are also entered for a prize draw, but maybe an afternoon of fun, with surreptitious education and exercise thrown in, is the real prize.

Hide Ad

Treasure Trail packs for 360 cities, towns and villages in the UK are available from tourist outlets for 5 each, or from

• This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday, January 31, 2010