I freaking love mazes. Big ones, small ones, those only meant for children under the age of eight – I love ‘em all! Forcing yourself to get lost in order to test your well-honed (or so you thought) sense of direction never stops being fun for me.
I’ve been to the “world’s biggest” maze in Hawaii and gotten genuinely lost in a corn maze in New England, but one of the most unique labyrinths I’ve come across is a tiny speck of a maze in the scenic town of Bourton-on-the-Water.
If the name didn’t tip you off, Bourton-on-the-Water is in England. Specifically, the super cute straight-out-of-a-fairytale English countryside known as the Cotswolds. Basically, hundreds of years ago the region’s economy fell apart and no one had the money to update their homes, so everything stayed the same. Now millions of tourists flock here every year to gawk at the thatched roofs and ridiculous names of quaint village roads.
A maze hardly seems like it should be the top thing on your to-do list when visiting this famous area, but this one is special. I wasn’t expecting much for the £3 entry fee, but when the woman at the gate launched into a detailed explanation of the rules and how to call for help, I perked up.
You see, this isn’t just a maze – it’s a puzzle. Not only do you have to find your way out after locating the den of the “Minotoad” in the center, before you can do that you have to find a series of clues on the ground throughout the twisting passages. The clues are almost all graphic and accompanied by a Roman numeral.
You must translate the clue into a word, and when you put them in numerical order they’ll reveal a poem. This poem is another clue which, when interpreted correctly, will reveal the location of the dragonfly inside the Minotoad’s lair.
Like I said, it’s a multilayered puzzle that’s a challenge for both your sense of direction and your reasoning skills. Nick and I usually compete pretty heavily over things like this, but we had to put our minds together to figure this one out!
I’m not going to spoil the ending here, so you’ll just have to add this to your “odd things to do while traveling” list. (I can’t be the only person who has one of those, right?) This attraction is staying on mine because apparently there’s a bonus puzzle you can request if you’ve already done it once. So obviously I have to go back!
A final warning to my fellow Americans: you may want to brush up on your British slang or have an English friend with you when you take up this challenge, or you may end up very confused by one or two of the words in the poem. Not that this happened to me or anything.