Considering the fact that the family-friendly theme park Gulliver’s Kingdom in Derbyshire is just 45 minutes from our house, it might come as something of a surprise that we’ve never actually taken the kids there!
I visited a few times when I was just a young’un, and we’ve visited the Gulliver’s Land in Milton Keynes with my family, but for some reason we’ve never made it to the park just around the corner.
After seeing that Gulliver’s Kingdom had an offer running for Father’s Day (Dads go free!), I decided it was the perfect excuse to take the family along for a fun day out. (Side note – if you are going to book tickets, it’s worth heading online at least 2 days before you intend to visit. We waited until the day before because of uncertain weather and we missed out on a pretty decent online discount. Every little helps, folks!)
Although it’s been a few years (or decades) since my last visit, there was one clear memory I had of Gulliver’s Kingdom – the hills. The whole theme park is built on a hill, virtually a cliff! The car park is crazy, running all the way up the hill, the park runs from the peak all the way down to the bottom of the hill. It’s easy to see why one of the best ways to get from one end of the park to the other is the ski-style chairlift. Although they do try to make the park as accessible as possible, it might prove something of a challenge if you have mobility issues.
Luckily for us, we’re all (mostly) fit and healthy, so after showing our tickets at the gate it was time to start our adventures around Gulliver’s Kingdom. We entered through the top entrance and made our way directly to “Western World”, via the handy travelator that helps you to dodge at least one of those pesky hill climbs.
“Western World” is themed (as the name would suggest) around the “Wild, Wild West. There were only a couple of rides, the Mine Cave and the Log Flume, which Freya enjoyed. Poppy, on the other hand, loved the Junior Cowboy town including a saloon, bank and jail. (Mummy got put in jail robbing the bank many times!) She’d have happily played there all day if we’d let her, but after a little while we decided to move down the hill to the next section of the park: Safari Kingdom.
In Safari Kingdom, we all had a ride on the Flying Raft and Freya went on the Dodgems with her Dad. There was a bit of a downpour at this point in the day but luckily the dodgems has a handy covered observation area where we could take shelter and so avoided getting too wet.
By now, we were starting to get a bit hungry so decided to go in search of food. While the park map indicated places where food was available, it wasn’t always clear exactly what type of food was on offer. We decided our best bet seemed to be Bourbon Street. Unfortunately for me, the quickest way to reach Bourbon Street was via the chairlift, which I had been very much hoping to avoid.
The chairlift ride was actually a lot of fun and also a great way to get a good view of all of the attractions on offer at the park. I found the getting on and off to be the most nerve-wracking bit, but the ride itself felt safe and secure, even for a overly anxious person like myself.
Once our feet were firmly back on the ground, we took a walk down Bourbon Street where we found a pizza place. We decided to share a pizza and garlic bread between us and the girls had a Unicorn slush drink (with a discount on refills which I thought was a nice idea!)
After lunch, we continued our exploration of the park. Freya and her Dad took a ride on the swinging Pirate Ship, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the greatest idea so soon after eating . Thankfully we managed to avoid any sickness episodes, but Freya did have me worried there for a moment.
There was still plenty of other areas of the park to explore, including Toyland where the two cycle based rides gave Mummy a real workout! Smuggler’s Wharf had Percy’s Pirate Adventure, a fun lazy-river ride for the whole family, while Freya enjoyed riding on the log rollercoaster with her Dad.
Poppy’s favourite part of the park was The Lost World, a dinosaur themed land with lots of things to look at. We all had a ride on the Dino Cars, with Freya giving us a Jurassic Park style commentary, and then Freya dragged her Dad onto Dino Falls, a large drop water ride.
It was almost time to head home so we agreed to let the girls each choose one last ride or attraction to visit before we left. Freya decided to brave the Tree-Top Drop, a ride she’d been avoiding for a while. Poppy headed straight back to the Little Cowboy Town for a little more time playing before we had to drag her back to the car.
All in all we had a great day at Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock and we’ll certainly be adding it to our list of fun days out for the family. I’d definitely recommend it to families with children aged between 4 and 13 years. There are plenty of rides for the little ones, as well as a couple of rides for those looking for a little more of a thrill. The entrance cost is good value for money, especially compared to some of the larger theme parks where small children may not have much to do. For more information on their special offers and events, check out the official Gulliver’s website.
We’re off to Gulliver’s World in Warrington soon, which means we’ll have visited all 3 Gulliver’s parks in the UK. I’m looking forward to seeing how they all compare.