The Great Manchester Scavenger Hunt

Danger Moo-seWhen was the last time you went on a scavenger hunt? I think my last proper one was the Manchester Cow Parade in 2004. That is, unless you count the Manchester Art Crawl I attempted last year. Then of course there are bar crawls and Northern Quarter café crawls: Do you think they count?

The idea of scavenger hunts has played on my mind for several months now. One of my Day Zero Project challenges is to create a hunt of my own, or to take part in one at least.


Poor PlanningManchester Confidential trialled a bizarre one last year: ‘A Tour of Uninteresting Objects’. The fact it claimed to be uninteresting made me very interested indeed. I hoped they would run the tour again and they did, as part of the Stairs WaterfallManchester Histories Festival, but I discovered it too late and missed it again. 

I’m not sure whether I would find the whole hunt entertaining but the name of it intrigues me. I already Diversionknow where to find these little gems… but like many Blockbuster movies I fear they’ve revealed all their best bits in the advertising.


Photo from USA Today of Hayley Atwell filming on Dale Street in Manchester.With a little research I’m sure movie locations could be turned into a hunt. It’s no coincidence that Hollywood keeps returning to Manchester to film: We’re told the Northern Quarter looks a lot like old New York. Captain America was filmed near Piccadilly Basin last year; Alfie was filmed near the old Smithfield Market a few years earlier; and Sherlock Holmes was filmed in-between the two, both in location and in time, with additional scenes at the Town Hall.


Beetham Tower by Dave Schofield

Photo: Dave Schofield

An Architectural Treasure Hunt took place alongside the Manchester International Festival in 2011. We are lucky to have eclectic and unusual architecture throughout the city centre to match Manchester’s rich and varied heritage. Most of the time all you need to do is look up.

We have our fair share of eye-sores too; Beetham Tower might be iconic but urgh! What were they thinking?


Manchester Town Hall, John Rylands Library and the Manchester Museum all offer mini scavenger hunts within their walls.Northern Quarter Space Invaider

Moving outdoors, Manchester city centre had 47 Space Invaders hidden amongst its streets. Unfortunately several have been painted over but I know where a few still remain. Using this map I’m sure I could find more.


Perhaps Manchester’s newest scavenger hunt is Farrow & Ball’s 50 bird boxes, which were painted and installed for National Nest Box Week. (14th to 21st February) I read that Farrow & Ball have a pallet of 132 colours for exterior paint so in my mind I visualised an array of brightly coloured, patterned and embellished bManchester Bird Boxird boxes, decorated to rival the Manchester Cow Parade.

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered all 50 boxes had been painted off-white. (Technically, they’re painted in ‘Pigeon’ and ‘Dove’ to follow the bird theme). I’m sure they had their reasons but I can’t help thinking it was a wasted opportunity. I’m not going to track down 50 white boxes but if they had been brightly painted, by members of the public or school children perhaps, then I might have given it a go. Maybe I should suggest it to them for next year.


So when was the last time you went on a Scavenger Hunt? Do you have any suggestions I should incorporate into my own hunt? I’m open to ideas.

All comments are welcome 🙂  


15 thoughts on “The Great Manchester Scavenger Hunt

    • They are fun. You should try it. You can probably find one in your local area if you google it, or like me you should try to invent one yourself. Do you ever play it with your children? They’d probably love it too.

  1. Can I now ban any picture usage from prior to my DSLR camera (October 2011) at least, because, well, in a word my pictures are usually rubbish especially before then. And I used horrible watermarks as though the world and his friend wanted to steal them!!

    So is scavenger hunt anything like a treasure hunt? I once organised a car-treasure hunt across the North West, two teams of four adults in two cars, and me at the end in the pub cooking chilli con carni. It was a bind to set up the day before, all the clues hidden in village community notice boards, under bridges, hanging from trees and all sorts. I can’t remember the prize at the end but I remember we got as drunk as monkeys. I ain’t ever heard of the other stuff, but I love the Beetham Tower!!!!

    How do you find out about the stuff like the bird boxes, and how have I never noticed the space invaders! I need to look harder, and I already look pretty hard!!

    • If you want I can replace the photo I used with another. Send one to me and I’ll upload it. It’s a great photo when you see the large version – I just deliberately used the small version because I borrowed it from you before asking if it would be ok. 🙂 I don’t mind switching it out. It’s up to you.

      Yes, scavenger hunts are like treasure hunts. The difference is that on a treasure hunt one clue leads to the next, which leads to the next, until you eventually find the prize at the end. On a scavenger hunt you receive all the clues at the beginning then you need to gather proof that you solved them all. That could mean taking a photo at each location, collecting something from each location or something more obscure.

      E.g. “How many decorative birds are there on the building next to the Dustpan and Shovel sculpture. (Hint: Northern Quarter)”.

      The answer is 14 and here’s my proof:
      (I noticed these for the first time yesterday so I was looking for an excuse to share the photo 😉 )

    • Your car-treasure hunt sounds epic! Wow, how many villages did they have to visit? I can believe it took you ages to set up. It sounds like it was a lot of fun. Can you remember what it was for? Was it to raise money for charity or just for fun?

      My friend told me about the Space Invaders. I’d seen several around but I didn’t realise so many until she said she’d been hunting them all taking photos. They have Space Invaders hunts in other cities too. We found some when we were in Paris. (I think it was Paris. It could have been Nice…)

      As for the bird box story I read the press release. 🙂

    • Lol, we could… although my mind is blank right now. What did you have in mind? (Or were you hoping I would create one?)

      Are we still meeting in the tea and cheese place you recommended? I’d like to go back to the Sugar Junction Tea Rooms but I don’t think they’re open in the evenings. They have a book swap and a couch area. (Just checked – They close at 6 pm).

  2. I remember the Cow Parade in 2004, and would love to see something similar happen here again. Maybe the new National Football museum should do something similar to generate interest before their opening this year…

    • The Cow Parade was fun 🙂 We still have a few dotted around the city but one by one they’re all disapearing. I miss them.

      I like the idea of doing something similar for the National Football Museum. What did you have in mind? Decorated footballs all around the city? (If so, can I do one?!)

      The National Football Museum opens on 6th July but I haven’t heard much about it. I’m not a huge football fan to be honest. I kinda liked the Urbis being a gallery… I hope they make it interesting for people like me too.

  3. Pingback: Finding Manchester | Manchester Meanders

  4. Hey sorry this comment is for an older post of yours, but if you’re still interested in doing scavenger hunts around Manchester, try out Treasure Trails They have scavenger hunts all around the UK, three of them being in the Manchester area. I tried one back this past Spring and really enjoyed it.

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