Puzzling place and pencil museum - Bubbablue and me

Unusual outings: Derwent Pencil Museum and Puzzling Place Keswick

Keswick is a bustling town in the Lake District, and we visited on a recent trip to Windermere.  Along with a busy high street with a plethora of outdoor shops, cycle hire places, and lovely walks out of the town, there are also some interesting tourist attractions with a more relaxed feel. Nothing about Lake District is glitzy, and without being recommended to visit the understated Pencil Museum, and Puzzling Place, I’d probably not have known about them.

There’s a few places to park, but they will fill up on sunny summer days, so get there early and enjoy some quieter time wandering around the town.

Puzzling place and pencil museum - Bubbablue and me

Derwent Pencil Museum

I knew N would have a moan about the Derwent Pencil Museum but thought there might be something of interest there. I mean, who doesn’t have questions about how pencils are made?  Evidently not N. But he humoured me and we spent a short while visiting.

pencil museum in keswick
derwent pencil van

You enter the museum through a ‘graphite mine’ and you’re given both a children’s and adult’s trail with questions to answer as you go round. N gave up on his pretty quickly, but I had a go at mine. It was a lot harder than I thought, and I struggled to find some of the answers.

walking through a graphite mine

The first thing we noticed was the world’s largest pencil, standing alongside some pencil making equipment.

worlds longest pencil

You can find our about the local history in mining the graphite, the museum itself, the famous people changing history of writing and the history of the pencils produced.  As well as wall exhibits, there’s an interact video for you to choose the topic you want to learn about, and there’s plenty of items on display. From machines to pencils, to celebration pencil packs launched through the years.

history of pencil museum
history of pencils

There’s also a drawing or colouring area, where you can sit down and try your hand at some art work.

I quite enjoyed finding out about Derwent pencils heritage, but it’s not really one for children who get bored with museums. If they stick at a trail or are really keen on drawing and art, then they might enjoy it, but with hindsight I’d have been better off leaving it.

pencil museum displays
paints and inks
pencil sharpener display
pencil carving detail

On completion of the trails, you hand them in at the reception desk and get pencils depending on your success with the answers.

It was only a 10-15 minute walk through the town to the Puzzling Place, somewhere much more N’s cup of tea.

Puzzling Place Keswick

If you like illusions and being baffled (or solving weird things), then the Puzzling Place could be for you.  It’s upstairs above other shops and cafes but is bigger than you expect.  It’s just a few open spaces full of fun and quirky visual illusions to tax your brain.

Think like the Magic Eye puzzles of the 1990s and you’re getting close to what the puzzles are about.

From pictures of impossible never ending bridges and walkways (think Escher’s work), spinning patterns which make you think you’re seeing something you’re not.  2 in 1 pictures. And optical illusions making someone larger or smaller than they are.  It’s a lot of fun.

weird mirror illusion
spiral illusion
famous people masks
mirror strips illusion

We loved 2 of the rooms set up.  One is all wonky and makes you feel a bit sick as you’re walking the wrong way in.  The floors tilt, but walls are the opposite, so you see chairs going up, water flowing up pipes instead of down, and you end up leaning the wrong way on ladders.

uphill snooker ball
water flowing uphill

The second of our favourites which was very funny was the sideways house.  N couldn’t get it at all.  They add a tv so you can see what you look like in the space, but it’s fun to try and work out how to pose hanging upside down.  It’s much easier telling others which way to stand until you do it yourself in the space. Then I thought I was being cool but was the right way up.  N couldn’t get his head round it to tell me what to do so I didn’t get photos of me.

hanging upside down illusion.

The big and little chair and people illusion confused N too. He kept saying ‘I’m not small like that’. Highly amusing.

little and large chair illusion

He enjoyed the human kaleidoscope, and the hologram room was fun.

There were some magician’s tricks there but N was flagging by that point.  He’d raced round and I know I’d not got to see everything that was there.

Get there early so you can enjoy before it gets too busy otherwise you’ll find you have to wait to have a go (and some kids in the house spaces weren’t waiting to give people a chance to try it first).

For the money we spent a good 1 ½ hours there and had a lot of laughs.  As well as a lot of ‘I still don’t get that’ moments.

It was one of the most enjoyable places we visited on our days in the Lake District, so if you’re in the area, check it out. For some old fashioned but still up to date fun.

Check out the video of our visits

Do you know of any similar illusion places? Or any other Keswick recommendations?

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