The Forbidden Corner is one of my new favourite places (and I mean that literally, I’ve added it to the Favourite Places list and everything!) Sure, there were too many children there for my taste (to be fair, I am a crab-ass, and any children is too many as far as I’m concerned), and the weather was extremely terrible, but I still had a blast, which means it must have been good. The Forbidden Corner is hard to describe; it’s kind of like a maze combined with lots of whimsical follies and just random crap, with a slightly sinister haunted house/funhouse vibe, and with some bawdy touches thrown in for good measure – the goal is meant to be to find the exit, but really it’s all about exploring this crazy place.
It’s in the middle of the lovely Yorkshire countryside, and is easy enough to find if you follow the signs from Leyburn, but the signs do perplexingly allude to a “ticket office” that apparently no longer exists. Basically, you’re meant to book tickets in advance, which we were totally unaware of, as the website fails to clearly indicate this (sure, they have a button you can click to buy tickets, but so does pretty much every museum – it doesn’t usually mean that you MUST buy advance tickets). Fortunately, since we visited on such a cold and rainy day, they had room to let us in (I think it helped that we were pretty much the only people there without kids, so they probably figured we wouldn’t take that long), but you may not be as lucky, so do book to guarantee that you won’t end up sad and disappointed. It’s £11 per person, not sure if they offer any kind of discount for booking online.
Now, this is a bit of a tricky one to write about, since most of the fun is in being surprised, and experiencing the place for yourself, so I’m going to try to give a very generic overview, and only show pictures that don’t give too much away. First of all, even if it’s not raining, wellies and some sort of waterproof jacket might not be a bad idea, because you WILL get wet. There are lots of fountains and other things that unexpectedly squirt you throughout, and you won’t manage to avoid all of them. Since I don’t actually own a waterproof jacket myself (yes, I do live in Britain), I had to borrow my boyfriend’s, which was probably good as it provided extra coverage.
Even from the start, you’re faced with choices, as there are three different doors you can enter the maze from, and each will lead you down a different path. When I say maze, I don’t mean that in the traditional labyrinth sense, though there actually is a hedge maze within the larger maze, but this is far more involved, as the paths all cross each other, and you traverse through various buildings and passageways on your journey. I’m fairly sure we ended up going through things backwards, though I’m not convinced there’s necessarily a right way to take (I’m only going by the fact that we found the grotto near the beginning, when I think you’re not meant to find it til near the end).
They give you a brochure when you enter that has objects you’re meant to check off as you find them (though as they didn’t provide pencils or pens, we had to mentally check them); I think in theory finding everything will mean you’ve seen the whole Forbidden Corner, and there were at least two that we never managed to locate. There’s also very cryptic clues along the way that I kept forgetting to read, which is a shame as they might have been of some use in finding the exit.
I’m really struggling not to give too much away, because I feel like I can’t properly convey how awesome this place was without describing it a bit. I have to say that my favourite parts were probably the aforementioned grotto, and the mausoleum; we were the only visitors in there at the time, I guess because it was probably too scary for most children (it was super “haunted,” as the gate warned us, kind of a Yorkshire take on Disneyworld’s Haunted Mansion, so yeah, awesome).
It’s meant to take a good few hours to make your way through; we left after about two hours because we were so cold and wet, but I could have easily spent most of the day there (as it is, I’ll have to go back to try to find the proper exit)! It’s so bizarre, and I genuinely think adults will appreciate it just as much as (if not more than) children, as they’ll get all the little jokes and bawdy humour (speaking of, be sure to use the set of toilets in the parking lot…men will especially enjoy the murals above the urinals (not that I went in there myself of course…ok, maybe I peeked in after my boyfriend made sure there was no one inside)). I don’t think it would be great for very young kids at any rate, as a lot of them seemed to be scared and crying, but I’m sure older kids would love it, even if they don’t “get” everything (it was originally built as a private maze for the owner’s friends and family, which I think explains a lot). There is also a fair amount of walking, and some quite steep and slippery steps, so also take those things into consideration if you visit.
But yeah, the Forbidden Corner is awesome, and I’m sorry I’m being so cryptic about it, but I hope if you visit, and you have an open mind and a sense of humour, you will really love it as much as I did. It was so much fun to explore, and I hope I can go back someday to find all the things I missed. 5/5.