Treasure Trails: discover mysteries on the doorstep or further afield

Lockdown means most of us have spent more time with people we share our homes with than ever before.

Family adventure...whether you decide to stay close to home or travel slightly further afield, there are more than 100 Treasure Trails to explore across Scotland.
Family adventure...whether you decide to stay close to home or travel slightly further afield, there are more than 100 Treasure Trails to explore across Scotland.

We’ve also started to explore the great outdoors more than before – albeit in a five mile radius, of course!

On July 3, government restrictions on travel were lifted so we’ve been allowed to travel further for leisure and recreation.

However, with many cafes, pubs and restaurants still closed, and most tourist attractions operating booking systems, keeping boredom at bay is still no mean feat.

Themed-fun...each trail has its own theme and takes around two hours to complete, usually on a two mile circular route.

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    Whether you choose to roam further from home or decide to stay put, Treasure Trails may be the answer.

    A network of intricate trails meandering through cities, towns and villages, they are helping people re-discover the best of Scotland.

    There are more than 100 trails to discover across the country, each with its own theme – spy, murder mystery or treasure hunt.

    Ideal for groups of up to five people, each trail covers around two miles and takes a couple of hours to complete.

    All ages...can tap into the 1200 trails across the UK so no matter where you visit there's a chance to explore.

    Costing £9.99 per trail, it’s an alternative, cheap and fun family day out.

    Customers simply print off a booklet full of clues and are led on an intriguing adventure, travelling off the beaten track while also taking in well-known sights.

    Along the way they are treated to interesting facts, compelling tales and historical titbits about their chosen location.

    Because people can choose when they want to start the trail, there’s no need to book a time slot, queue for tickets or worry about keeping their distance.

    Thanks to the fun themes, trails help entice children away from their screens and into the great outdoors.

    So it’s an ideal time to discover the treasures on your doorstep – or further afield.

    Aaron Hutchens, general manager of Treasure Trails, said: “It’s a fantastic way of exploring the hidden gems on our doorsteps.

    “We are lucky enough to live in a beautiful country, steeped in history; Treasure Trails take people on fascinating tours, drinking in lesser known sights.

    “The trails really are a great way of obeying the rules while having a fun day out with family and friends.

    “You do not have to touch anything or go inside any buildings – you are outdoors in the fresh air.

    “It allows you to mix with other people, if you choose, while easily managing to stay two metres apart.

    “Our trails are also fully immersive, allowing you to inhabit the character of a spy, detective or secret agent – so they are great fun for people of all ages.”

    The business closed at the end of March to comply with government restrictions but decided to reopen when the government announced people were allowed to take unlimited exercise.

    That saw a steady increase in customers keen to find out more about local trails.

    Aaron said: “Ordinarily, people download trails when they go to a new place to visit people or go on holiday.

    “But we’re now seeing an increase in people using them to discover hidden gems in their local area.

    “We have seen a surge of people downloading our trails as they are enabling families to have fun safely.

    “With travel restrictions now lifted for leisure and recreation, people will be able to explore trails further from home.

    “And they’ll be spoiled for choice because we now have more than 100 in Scotland, including some on the islands.

    “Additional trails are added every month so we’re always looking for new treasures to explore.”

    It’s a full time job keeping Treasure Trails fully up to date, as well as researching new routes for customers.

    Here in Scotland, that work is done by Carol Devon who lives in Fife.

    Aaron said: “Carol manages all the trails in Scotland but is assisted by a couple of people who help her research new trails and existing ones, to make sure they are kept fully up to date.

    “If the team visit somewhere they’ve never been before, they tap into local knowledge to source historical facts and little known treasures.

    “Across the UK, we have 1200 Treasure Trails and a team of 17 trail writers who keep them up to date.

    “It’s labour and time intensive because we have to revisit locations regularly to make sure the information on the trail is correct.

    “Each writer receives an intensive week-long training course so that a Treasure Trail experience in Cornwall is similar to one you would enjoy in Aberdeen.

    “We want to provide a quality experience so that people keep coming back for more.”

    The formula certainly seems to be working, with the firm having grown year on year since being launched in Cornwall in 2005.

    Despite lockdown, trail downloads are now almost back to pre-Covid-19 levels.

    Aaron believes there is one simple reason for that.

    He added: “I’m 40 and grew up without a phone or computer, when we all used to play in the woods and get our knees dirty.

    “Our trails tap into those traditional values and people want to share that with their own children.”

    To print off a trail, visit Trails can also be posted out to those without a printer.

    From Cornwall to a UK-wide business

    Treasure Trails started in 2005 in Cornwall when a trail was written around Steve Ridd’s home town for a charity event.

    It proved such a success that he decided to write more trails and sell them at craft shows.

    Steve had just left the military to return to his native Cornwall and support his wife Teresa’s career as a teacher.

    He later convinced her that Treasure Trails was a much better idea than teaching!

    In 2006, David Wright, a Scotsman living in Cornwall, contacted Steve about taking the Treasure Trails format to the west of Scotland – and the franchise model was born.

    By the start of 2008, there were eight franchisees writing trails across the UK and two new members of staff were brought in to address the marketing, one being Aaron Hutchens who now runs the business.

    In 2013, Phil Allatt came onboard as the new owner of Treasure Trails. He sat down with Aaron and developed a back to basics business plan which focused solely on writing, maintaining and selling outstanding Treasure Trails across the UK.

    Today, there are 1200 trails across the UK and it is estimated they have entertained well over one million people in the UK. The goal now is to get the other 64 million people onboard!