Let’s face it, the UK dark ride scene is nothing to scream about in comparison to countries such as the Netherlands or Germany, but I want to take a peek in our dark ride collection here in the UK!
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Taking a trip to the seaside is a crucial holiday for many British people every year. We are super lucky to have many seaside parks all over the UK. Infact there are 123 seaside parks and piers in the UK alone. Local to me you will find Clarence Pier and Brighton Pier, both home to some lovely rides and a few coasters. But the ones we need to talk about today are home to many of the dark rides in the UK.
Starting off with a park I visited last year, Adventure Island. This park on the Essex coast is home to the cute and adorable Adventureville. Although a smaller kids ride it’s worth a ride just for the second lap around! Spoiler alert, all the lights go down and everything is neon and glow in the dark! It’s a bit of fun and worth a ride at least once.
Heading from one seaside town to another, we are at in my opinion the best all round Park in the UK, Blackpool Pleasure Beach. A day out here at the park is a completely varied one – plenty of big rides and plenty of smaller rides. You cannot go wrong with a trip to BPB. I think the most well know ride and most anticipated this year is Valhalla; after its huge refurbishment it’s due to open summer 2022. Consistently voted the Best Water Ride in the World by Amusement Toy and yet to be beaten, we hope this refurbishment makes it even better than before. Known to get you soaked, confused and make you feel like you might catch fire it’s a ride not to miss!
Blackpool Pleasure Beach is also known for its smaller, unique and older dark rides. Alice in wonderland is a journey through the story of Alice, whilst riding in a Cheshire Cat. Apart from the constant “cuckoo” noise, the ride is cute and has stood the test of time and rough weather of the seaside. Another well known dark ride is the River Caves: journey though the tunnel of love and along the cutest flume ride in the UK.
Another ride worth talking about at BPB is the famous Ghost Train. Known to be haunted by a ghost called Cloggy, this really is a Ghost Train! Not only is this ride a great classic ghost train ride, it was also thought to be the first ever to use the name ‘Ghost Train’. Originally opened in 1930 as a single layer pretzel loop and then converted many more times until It became the Ghost Train we know and love today!
Lastly at BPB we have the wonderful Wallace and Gromit’s Thrill-O-Matic! A family ride that replaced The Gold Mine opening in 1971. The retheme of Wallace and gromit open in 2013 and took cheese lovers through the land of Nick Park the creator of the franchise riding in slipper themed vehicles. Watch out for the mice!
Back down south now to an island like no other, Thorpe Park! The park isn’t well known for its dark rides because it doesn’t really have any! It’s home to the indoor coaster (originally called “No Way Out,” now rethemed to The Walking Dead) and Derron Brown’s Ghost Train. Both are in the dark, but they can’t really be considered dark rides.
Derren Brown’s Ghost Train is labeled an Advanced Virtual Reality Dark Ride – we’re still not allowed to talk about it (Derren Brown said so!), so there are no spoilers here. If you haven’t ridden it, it’s worth a ride just to experience the technology that is hiding in that warehouse!!
Staying down south and not far from Thorpe Park is Chessington World of Adventures. Like Thorpe Park it’s not known for its darks ride either (thanks Merlin) but it is home to the Gruffalo ride. Back in the 1990s when it first opened you got to journey into the Bubbleworks Factory, surrounded by water and the smell of bubblegum and bubbles of course. The cute little ride was then rethemed to its then sponsor Imperial Leather, who kept it mostly the same but added rubber ducks and it smelt like a nice bath! It was then rethemed again and is equally cute but now known as the Gruffalo ride. Journing through Julia Donaldsons book The Gruffalo, it follows the story but the ride lay out is exaclty the same.
Heading into London we can’t not talk about the Spirit of London ride at Madame Tussauds. Journeying through the capitals history in giant taxis shaped vehicles from tudor England and the Plague to the vibrant colors of the 60s,70s and 80s. For anyone wishing to learn the history of England this is a quick way of doing it!
Next up we’re heading to Alton Towers, known for its rollercoasters but also home to a few dark rides. The newest one to be built is Gangsta Granny: The Ride. Alton Towers rethemed the Cloud Cuckoo Land kiddie areato build the world of David Walliams. Included in this were serval rethemed rides and the Main attraction, Gangsta Granny the Ride.
The ride is mainly aimed at families as it is themed around the book Gangsta Granny. The ride takes you through the scenes in the book and takes you along for the burglary of the Crown Jewels. The special effects are great and it’s a perfect addition to the dark ride-lacking park!
For arguments sake, the park also has another ‘dark ride’. Depending on what you believe a dark ride to be, you could include Hex, although this ride is a Vekoma Madhouse but inside the castle. The queue includes walking through the castle and tells the tale and history of Alton Castle.
Opening in 2017, Nijago was a highly anticipated dark ride to arrive in the UK. Featuring 4D effects and motion sensor technology this interactive dark ride is great fun and extreamly competitive. Riders will experience heat, smoke and wind whilst fighting along side our four ninja warriors.
Also at Legoland Windsor you can find the City Deep Sea Adventure. Discovering a lost lego city whilst onboard lego submarines surrounded by real fish! If you’ve ever want to feel like your swimming with sharks, this is pretty close. With onboard tour information, you can learn about the fish and spot Lego divers along your route.
Lastly we come to the UKs interactive Dark Rides and they’re all pretty good! At Alton Towers we have Duel, an interactive haunted house shooting Dark ride. At Chessington World of Adventures you have Tomb Blaster, an Egyptian themed shooting dark ride (my personal favourite). Drayton Manor is home to Gold Rush, a mine-themed shooting ride. And Legoland Windsor has Laser Raiders, another Egyptian themed shooting dark ride, but of course in Lego! All four of these rides are great, fun and of course allow you to be super competitive with the people you are visiting with (my sister is still yet to beat me!)
There are of course many other rides that could be added to this list and many more that I need to ride hopefully this year! But these are the ones that stuck out for me in the UK which I have visited.
I’d also love to go back in time and ride some that we have lost to rethemeing or being closed down. Did you get to ride Charlie and the chocolate Factory at Alton Towers? I would have loved to experience that one! We would love to see more dark rides built in the UK, not only do they provide something that everyone can ride they also add charm and roundness to a park.
Missed your favourite, let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to ride it as soon as I can!
Want to hear all about what is coming to the UK for this season? Find us on Spotify for our latest podcast on UK Theme parks for 2022!