In July 2019, my sisters invited me and the girls for a day out at Alton Towers, a theme park in Staffordshire. It had been a few years since our last visit (I think Mini Mess had been in a pushchair!) and so we leapt at the chance to go back.
Also joining us were my sister’s partners and my little nephew Alfie. On the morning of our planned trip, we looked out of the window and it was WET! I’m not talking about a bit of drizzle, or a little shower, but full-on, persistent downpour.
We briefly considered cancelling the day trip, but agreed that “a bit of rain never hurt anyone” (Ha!) and sometimes wetter weather means the queues are shorter. Packing up our waterproofs, we squeezed into two cars and set off on our journey.
My sister has a Merlin pass which, among many other perks, allows her to bring guests along to the theme park at a reduced rate of entry. Instead of paying the online advertised price of £38, we instead paid £15 each, which was quite a bargain!
I’d have to say that if ever I can afford to get Merlin passes for the family I will snap them up. They get you free entry to so many amazing attractions, as well as discounts in the shops and restaurants so they certainly pay for themselves if you can get the use out of them.
First stop of the day, for the kiddos (and the big kiddos) in the group, was CBeebies Land. CBeebies Land is a mini theme park all of it’s own, tucked away in the corner of the park and is ideally suited for the little ones in the group. It had expanded a lot since the last time I’d visited, with even more rides for the kids to enjoy.
Unfortunately, the rain didn’t help the day get off to a great start. The Postman Pat ride closed down while we were in the queue. It took us about 45 minutes to queue for the In The Night Garden ride. And to add insult to injury, the Peter Rabbit broke down while we were up in the air! (see the picture below) We had to sit in the pouring rain for what felt like forever until the ride operator could get us down again! (He did give us a fast pass for a ride of our choice, so I suppose you have to look for the silver lining in the situation!)
We used that fast pass to ride the Octonauts Rollercoaster Adventure. I thought it was the perfect ride for little adventurers. It’s a surprisingly exciting rollercoaster, with some nippy dips and turns.
By now, we’d been in the park for a couple of hours and only been on a couple of rides. We were also soaked through to our skin, so decided it was properly best to take shelter inside for a while and find somewhere to eat lunch.
There are plenty of choice when it comes to eating at Alton Towers, but we decided to stop for a bite to eat at The Burger Kitchen, which is situated in the Cloud Cuckoo Land area of the theme park. They did a great range of burger and fast food meals, at really reasonable prices. (We also made use to that Merlin pass discount again so, extra bonus! Which reminds me, I’m pretty sure I still owe my brother-in-law for dinner that day! Oops!)
Burger place. (Merlin discount)
Tummies full and ever-so-slightly drier, we decided to once again brave the Great British weather and headed over to the Dark Forest section of the park. Miss Mess was desperate to try out Hex, even though I warned her she might find it a little scary.
Hex – The Legend of the Towers is a brilliantly themed attraction, where the pre-amble to the ride is possibly more entertaining than the ride itself! The ride is a fantastic example of the “Mad House” illusion, and it really does mess with your mind! Miss Mess had a little wobble in the middle, but thoroughly enjoyed herself by the end and happily boasted to anyone who would listen that she’d dared to ride “Hex!”
Next up, we headed to Thirteen and I convinced Miss Mess that she should definitely come on it with us. Turns out, Thirteen is a slightly bigger rollercoaster than I remembered, and poor Miss Mess was pretty terrified! She clung to her Uncle Alan the whole way around, and somehow Kirsty and I on ended up on the front row which was particularly intense. I had to keep my eyes closed during the middle drop section, as I was so scared!
The Wicker Man is the newest ride at Alton Towers and it’s the first wooden rollercoaster to be built in the UK in over 20 years. I’d never been on The Wicker Man before this visit so we (very wisely, it would turn out) advised Miss Mess to sit this one out while I scoped it out first.
It was definitely our longest queue of the day, but still not ludicrously long and it did give us plenty of time to watch the ride we were about to go on (which is possibly not a good thing!!)
It seems like every new ride nowadays has to have an “experience” element, and The Wicker Man is no exception. In the middle of the queue, you enter a pre-show area and I HATED IT! I’m really not a fan of surprises and not knowing what is going to happen, and even though nothing really scary happened in the pre-show, I was a nervous wreck through the whole thing. Every little thing made me jump and I was practically clinging to my sister. Would happily have skipped that whole section and moved straight to the ride.
Speaking of the ride, The Wicker Man was well worth the wait time. It’s been a long time since I’ve ridden a wooden roller coaster and I’d forgotten how intense they can be, even without any loops and tricks. The dips and twists and turns took my breath away, and it was a good length ride. You certainly didn’t feel short changed after queuing.
The theming, with the fire and smoke elements, really helped to create a great atmosphere for the ride and ramped up the tension. I really enjoyed The Wicker Man and it’s definitely on my list of rides I’d like to try again.
Heading over to Katanga Canyon, we all unanimously agreed that it was FAR too wet to go on the rapids. Instead, Miss Mess and her aunties went on The Runaway Mine Train, while I watched the little ones. Runaway Mine Train is a great, classic ride at Alton Towers and I have some really fond memories of riding it. It’s a good stepping stone for budding adrenaline junkies and Miss Mess really enjoyed it. Choo Choo!
One of the biggest disappointments of the day was that Duel (Alton Tower’s interactive Haunted House) was closed when we went to ride it. Miss Mess had been really looking forward to testing her courage, plus it was inside so it would have been a nice break from the continuous dreadful weather.
Sadly, we didn’t get the chance to ride Duel on this visit. While I appreciate that there are MANY reasons why a ride may be closed, it was a little unfortunate that one of the only indoor rides in the park was closed on the wettest day imaginable!
By now we were pretty desperate to get out of the rain for a while, so we decided to take the Sky Ride back to the Main Entrance of the park. Not only did this give us a brief respite from the weather, it also gives you a great view of the park and is a easy, relaxing way to travel around the park.
The Sky Ride dropped us off a stone’s throw from Mutiny Bay, a pirate themed section of the park where we rode the Swinging Ship and the spinning barrels, which just happen to be two of Mini Mess’ favourite rides.
It was nearly time to go home, but we just managed to squeeze in a few extra rides, including the Spinball Whizzer and Postman Pat’s Parcel Post. Both rides are usually a lot of fun, but not quite so much in the pouring rain.
Mini Mess and I got soaked through waiting to ride the Go Jetters ride that we ended up having to make a trip to the gift shop to buy her a change of clothes. (Thank goodness again for that Merlin pass discount)
A little drier, we all bundled back in the car and headed home. While we all had a lot of fun and the rain didn’t completely spoil the day, I do think it was perhaps a little too wet even for us. There was barely any break in the weather, which meant we were all uncomfortably soggy for most of the day.
Unfortunately, as we’d bought discounted tickets we couldn’t take advantage of the “rainy day guarantee” which I thought was a little unfair. After all, we did still pay a set price to get into the park as agreed, and due to the weather suffered frequent ride closures and so we didn’t get to do everything we might have liked to.
Still, we had a lovely family day out, lots of giggles and the girls enjoyed trying out some bigger rides. Which may come in handy for a rather special holiday we have planned very soon….