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Best theme parks in the UK: Rollercoasters, rapids and ghost trains

Climb aboard hair-raising rollercoasters and come face to face with dinosaurs

Kate Hilpern
Thursday 28 April 2022 05:52 BST
Paultons Park's new Lost Kingdom attraction
Paultons Park's new Lost Kingdom attraction

You can’t beat being shaken about and having your stomach turned for a couple of minutes for an adrenalin rush. Luckily, the UK is one of the best places in the world for theme parks so you don’t have to go far for an action packed day out.

These days, the top theme parks also feature dedicated children’s areas so your kids can immerse themselves in their favourite CBeebies shows or go crazy in a world devoted to Thomas The Tank Engine, while the adults take it in turns to go on something more terrifying.

Here are the best places to experience some thrills and spills.

Thorpe Park, Surrey

All aboard Derren Brown’s Ghost Train which opened in July 2016,after three years in the making. This head-spinning, 10-15 minute train journey includes exhilarating live action sequences, 4D special effects and grand-scale illusions. Also new is I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! experience, and there are some of the highest and fastest rides in Europe here too.

Children over 3 and adults from £37 (under-threes free).

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Derren Brown's Ghost Train, Thorpe Park

Drayton Manor, Staffordshire

The new Tamarin Trail takes adventurers through beautiful gardens, allowing kids and adults to come face-to-face with a troop of mischievous Marmsosets and Tamarins. The park is also home to Europe’s only Thomas Land, which last year underwent a £2.5m expansion, including new rides. There are white-knuckle rides, including the stand-up rollercoaster, Shockwave, and 54-metre drop tower, Apocalypse.

Adults and children over 4 from £27.50, 2-3 year olds from £11, under-2s go free.

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Warwick Castle, Warwickshire

Although not officially a theme park, this medieval castle offers history, magic, myth and adventure to suit all ages, and is now home to the UK's first fully-interactive multi-sensory Horrible Histories Maze, giving visitors a fiendishly fun and fascinating experience getting lost in time. The aim is not to reach the centre, but re-order the muddle that mischievous Rattus Rattus has made of time. From July, you can sleep over in the new riverside medieval-themed woodland lodges of Knight’s Village and join in with jester and knight school in the evenings.

From £25, under-3s go free.

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Chessington World of Adventures, Surrey

Following Pandamonium in 2016, last year saw The Gruffalo riverboat open at Chessington, which boasts over 40 rides and attractions. In addition, there’s a new-look Trail of the Kings, in which adventurers seek out treasures as they walk among jungle giants, and explorer glamping tents.

From £36, under-3s go free.

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M&Ds, Lanarkshire

Scotland’s biggest theme park boasts the Giant Condor, a ride that soars up to 30m and provides awesome views over the rest of the park, Strathclyde Park and Lanarkshire. Other big draws include Tsunami, Scotland’s only inverted rollercoaster, Tornado, Big Apple and the Runaway Mine train rollercoaster.

From £10, under-3s go free.

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Alton Towers, Staffordshire

Alton Towers' adrenalin rushes include Nemesis, Rita and Oblivion and Galactica, a rollercoaster with integrated virtual reality. Spring 2018 saw the opening of Wicker Man, a 57.7-foot-tall ride, while the theme park is also home to the UK’s first Rollercoaster Restaurant.

Tickets from £36, under-3s go free.

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Paultons Park, Hampshire

Lost Kingdom, an immersive dinosaur theme park world, opened in 2016. Costing £9m to build, it’s located within four acres of Jurassic landscape and includes two family rollercoaster rides, Jurassic-themed family rides and a dinosaur adventure play park, along with a Jurassic Jeep expedition. Also located within Paultons Park is Peppa Pig World and Little Africa.

From £39.75 for anyone over 1m, those under 1m go free.

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Legoland, Berkshire

Legoland regularly updates its attractions, with 202’s Lego Mythica one of its best additions. Enter a parallel universe where mythical creatures come to life before your eyes. The park also has the 500,000 Lego brick Death Star, one of the most impressive and biggest models ever created for Legoland and Miniland, a recreation of iconic landmarks from around the globe. There are loads of rides, many without height restrictions, as well as the large “splash and play” in Duplo Valley.

From £32, under-3s go free.

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Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancashire

There are 125 rides and attractions across the 42 acres at the end of Blackpool’s promenade, including the steel mega-coaster Big One, Nickelodeon Land and the Wallace & Gromit ride, Thrill-O-Matic. New ride ICON is a £16.25m rollercoaster which cuts through the Big One.

Adult wristbands from £37, under-2s go free.

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Blackpool Pleasure Beach

New Forest Water Park, Hampshire

The UK’s first outdoor aqua park doubled its size in 2016, with new on-water installations of monkey bars, hurdles, wiggle bridges and lifeguard tower. Based on Total Wipeout, it’s all about embracing your inner Ninja Warrior. The family-run park offers camping facilities, a clubhouse and activities including kayaking. Ages 6+.

From £20 for a one-hour session.

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Gulliver's World, Warrington

Warrington's family-run theme park is designed especially for kids aged between two and 13 and has over 80 rides. Attractions include the Ghost House, Pirates Play Area and Amazon Climb.

Adults and children from £22, under 90cm free.

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Flamingo Land, North Yorkshire

Set in 375 acres of picturesque North Yorkshire countryside, Flamingo Land Resort is an award-winning zoo and funfair park. If you like rollercoasters head straight for Mumbo Jumbo. Costing in excess of £4m and created using the latest coaster technology, Mumbo Jumbo’s 112° vertical drop saw it enter the record books as the ‘world’s steepest roller coaster made from steel’. ZG

Adults and children from £29, Under 4s free.

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