Last weekend we were very lucky to be gifted entry to the fantastic Camera Obscura and World of Illusions in Edinburgh. We were on a mini break on the Berwickshire coast. With it having such good links to Scotland’s capital, and the forecast looking a little grey, we thought we’d take a jaunt into the city. We knew Camera Obscura and World of Illusion would be a great family day out. However, we didn’t know it would be as amazing as it was!
As soon as you reach Camera Obscura and World of Illusions on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, you are treated to magic mirrors. They are on the outside of the building and as you wait in the queue to gain entry. Spike loved seeing the mirrors make her body really long and really short, or her head go a weird shape! To be honest, she’d probably have bee just as happy to stand in front of them all day. But I was desperate to get in and see the treasures inside!
Millions of us, all over the walls!
As soon as we went through the ticket desk there were more mirrors. We were greeted with a mirror ball, located inside a mirror square. You can literally see hundreds of yourself reflected within it and it was awesome! Once we’d spent lots of time looking at ourselves (Spike!), we headed up stairs. The building is tall and narrow, so you go upstairs straight away to head into the attraction areas. The first floor is mainly the toilets, then the second floor is where the fun really begins.
Mirrors, mirrors, everywhere!
We walked into the second floor and instantly loved the sound of what faced us. The door to the Mirror Maze. There are gloves available so that you don’t leave any marks on the glass as you fumble around. Spike loved every second we were inside the mirror maze. So much so, we went in again as soon as we found our way out the first! There was then another amazing feature in The Vortex… This was a bridge with a tunnel around it. The tunnel had lights which gave it the impression of spinning as you walked through it. It’s safe to say Spike did NOT like how dizzy it made her feel. Neither did T – but I went on twice!
The Camera Obscura Show
For those of you who don’t know, the Camera Obscura is a Victorian invention. It’s kind of like the first CCTV. It’s a pinhole camera which allows you to view things without them seeing you. The Camera Obscura in the building in Edinburgh opened in the 1850s and allows you to see the city as it is happening. When you arrive at Camera Obscura and World of Illusions you are given a show ticket. This is your show time for viewing the Camera Obscura. You get to see the real people outside at that time, without a TV screen! Our show was half an hour after we arrived and we had great fun making people ‘dizzy’ with bits of card. You could view so much of the city as we were so high. It was fascinating to see and it’s no wonder so many people were wowed by it in the 1850s. Cinema wasn’t around so it’s not like they’d have seen anything like it other than at this show!
More floors of fun
The Camera Obscura show is on the top floor of the attraction. The rooftops are open while you wait for your show time. It was so cool seeing some of our favourite parts of the city from the top of the building. Spike particularly enjoyed seeing the people down on the road below! After the show we decided to do the attraction backwards. So we headed to the 5th floor next, which was the Magic Gallery.
The Magic Gallery
There was instant excitement as we entered into this floor. As soon as you go in there are tube lights where you can see how much electricity your body conducts. Spike’s was the best, maybe because she’s so little? The tube lights are so cool. Loads of people were trying them out too so we moved on from them quite quickly. The next part of this floor was dedicated to the optical illusions that I used to have on posters in my room as a teenager! The “Which table is longest” when they are both actually the same and posters like this. Me and T had great fun looking at these as Spike took to the motion detector mat. She played virtual football with herself or scared the fish out of the virtual river. She found that the perfect way to spend a good ten minutes! The dancing man machine and the swapping head desk were also big hits with her!
Peter Pan has nothing on the World of Illusions!
Not as big through as the final attraction of this floor which was the shadow sticking machine. You stand in front of a screen, press a button, strike a pose and move away. Then it looks like your shadow is stuck there. Spike LOVED this and declared it just like Peter Pan!
Light Fantastic on the forth floor
Here we found some of the coolest holograms I’ve ever seen, including a tarantula which terrified me and Spike! There was a show that replicated your body as a skeleton and we had fun being dancing skeletons. The final bit of the light show area was like a shadow puppet set up. This reflected 3 different coloured shadows onto a screen and Spike loved having 6 arms in rainbow colours! After that we went into a gallery which was filled with fun things. There were colouring in screens where you could make symmetrical patterns, a screen which recorded you walking past but there were two of you and you disappeared half way! There was a table where you could become a floating head too! But the biggest and funnest part of this gallery was the Ames Room!
The Ames Room
This was a room where you became the optical illusion! With a camera hole for you to take the perfect photos. You stand in one corner while a friend stands in the other. The person on the right appears huge compared to the person on the left! While Spike didn’t get it when we were in the room itself, she loved the photos we took. So did me and T!
A day pass
We did every floor one after the other and spent around two hours in the attraction. We didn’t spend ages looking at every single thing in the World Of Illusions, but we saw lots. You can easily spend a good 3 or 4 hours in there if you wanted to do everything. Making the entrance fee well worth it. What’s more, the entrance fee gets you a day pass. You can nip out for lunch and return later without an issue.
The third floor – Eye Spy Edinburgh
This floor has more magic mirrors and focuses heavily on the history of Edinburgh with 3D photos of the city. There were TV Screens which showed a series of views from the top of the building overlooking Edinburgh so you could focus in on people in the street down below! (Note; never pick your nose on the street outside Camera Obscura, you will be noticed!) It was quite cool but Spike wanted another go on the mirror maze so we hop footed it. Before we did though, we stopped by the Thermal Imagery room to see how hot climbing the stairs got us! Me and Spike danced around a bit to see if we could warm up more too!
Final stop in the mirror maze
We obviously had to go through the mirror maze one final time. The exit is through the 2nd floor, so it made sense! The maze was a lot busier this time than it was the first couple of times. Meaning we didn’t get as ‘lost’ in it but it was still so much fun. Spike didn’t want to leave. We headed for the exit where we found ourselves upside down in a mirror. Then we created a tune on the piano stairs. Needless to say, we went up and down them a few times!
Camera Obscura fun
After running up and down the piano stairs Spike declared it Ice Cream time. We headed out through the gift shop. Standard for most attractions. However this was one of the most low key gift shops I have come across. It didn’t really didn’t force anything on you as you went out. There was no series of tills to exit past making it clear you hadn’t bought anything. (Unlike other places) So it put me at ease too! We had a fantastic time at Camera Obscura and definitely recommend it. I think we’ll take Spike again when she’s older. There were parts of the attraction we, as adults, enjoyed far more than her. But it was great seeing the bits she loved through her eyes. Especially as we might have missed some of them without her being there.
Disclosure: we were gifted entry to this attraction in return for a blog post about our visit. All thoughts and opinions are my own.