Thrilling theme parks

Brave the best white-knuckle rides in the UK

For a fast adrenaline fix, or family fun with the children, head to one of our homegrown theme parks.

If rollercoasters aren't your bag, fear not – most also offer more sedate attractions. From animals and aquariums to monorails and mini-golf, take your pick.

This is our round-up of the most thrilling theme parks around Britain. All you need to bring is the noise – scream if you want to go faster!

Alton Towers, Staffordshire

Fun for the whole family with a range of rides to suit all. Big thrill rides include Thi3teen, Air, Nemesis, Oblivion and Rita, where you'll accelerate to 100km/ph in just 2.5 seconds.

Tackle the Sonic Spinball, Hex, and Duel, before cooling down by riding the Congo River Rapids or the Flume. Discover over 300 species of fish at Sharkbait Reef, where you can walk through the 10m Ocean Tank Tunnel.

Kids under 6 will love CBeebies Land, featuring all their favourite characters. For some peace and quiet, explore the gardens and the ruins of the Towers or try the tranquil SkyRide. Why not extend your visit by staying at the Alton Towers Hotel, and tackle the super Splash Landings waterpark while you're there?

Air at Alton Towers

Drayton Manor, Staffordshire

Anyone with a preschooler at home will be familiar with the island of Sodor...and Drayton Manor offers the chance to visit this very special place. Toddler-Mecca Thomas Land enables little ones to see their heroes up close, and enjoy their first taste of many theme park rides. Take a trip in the Troublesome Trucks rollercoaster, climb Cranky the Crane, fly high in Harold the Helicopter and Jeremy the Jet, or drive Diesel crazy. But there are also plenty of thrill rides for big kids at Drayton Manor. Shockwave – which has a top speed of 84km per hour – has been voted 'best stand-up roller-coaster in the world', and the park also also boasts the world's first stand-up tower drop, Apocalypse. Other white-knuckle rides include G-Force, Maelstrom, Pandemonium and Stormforce 10. There's also a zoo – home to more than 100 species from around the world including 12 rare breeds – a farm, and a novel dinosaur park.

Shockwave at Drayton Manor

Chessington World of Adventures, Surrey

You can spot flamingos, giraffes and white rhino from the off-road trucks in Zufari: Ride Into Africa. Or for a bit more excitement, tackle the Scorpion Express, a runaway train with a few surprises. Thrillseekers will also love the Vampire, Kobra, Dragon's Fury, Rattlesnake and Dragon Falls.

This family-friendly park also has plenty of rides to keep younger visitors entertained, as well as a zoo with more than 1,000 animals, a Sea Life centre, a huge soft-play area and the Madagascar Live stage show.

The Vampire at Chessington

The Big One

Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancashire

We couldn't write about Blackpool without mentioning The Big One – the UK's tallest and fastest roller coaster. The legendary mile-long rollercoaster has a top speed of 87mph, and at 235ft affords amazing views – but you don't hang around to enjoy them for very long.

If you'd prefer a little more time to take in the vista, and see Blackpool Illuminations as never before, you can now Walk The Big One.

But back to the thrill-rides...brave 'Europe's first 360-degree rollercoaster', in the shape of Revolution, before tackling the world-famous Big Dipper. If you still want more, try Infusion – the world's first looping coaster suspended over water, or one of the many other white-knuckle rides Blackpool has to offer.

For something a little more sedate, ride the Steeplechase, watch the fountains dance from the comfort of the onsite restaurant, or take it easy in Nickelodeon Land. This zone features 12 family-friendly rides based on shows and characters from the long-running TV channel, including Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer.

Gulliver's Theme Parks, various locations

There are three Gulliver's theme parks in the UK – all designed especially for younger children. Offering 'big fun for little people', all three parks are geared towards children between the ages of 2 and 13. They feature a wealth of undercover attractions, soft-play areas, and thrilling rides. Gulliver's World, in Warrington, is home to the UK's oldest wooden rollercoaster – the Antelope. Choose from Gulliver's World, in Warrington, Cheshire, Gulliver's Land, in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, and Gulliver's Kingdom, in Matlock Bath, Derbyshire.

The Antelope at Gulliver's World


Legoland Windsor, Berkshire

Legoland is one of the best theme parks in the UK for younger thrillseekers, but there's enough to keep the whole family happy. Highlights include Atlantis Submarine Voyage, the Dragon rollercoaster, Vikings' River Splash, the Jolly Rocker and the Spinning Spider.

Legoland Windsor is now home to the UK's largest outdoor water play area – in the shape of Drench Towers. Although it's closed in inclement weather, Drench Towers is just about the best place to cool off on a hot summer's day, with water slides and much more. Don't forget swimsuits and towels!

Head across to Heartlake City to meet Lego Friends Mia, Olivia, Andrea, Emma and Stephanie, before being astounded by Miniland. Containing nearly 40 million bricks in scenes from Europe and the USA, and even Star Wars, you can marvel at miniature Lego replicas of Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, the Gherkin and Canary Wharf for starters – each made from individual Lego bricks.

There are plenty of picnic spots, plus a huge outdoor adventure play fort and live action shows – fun for children, toddlers, and big kids.

Duplo Splash Safari at Legoland

M&D's, Motherwell

The only theme park in Scotland to boast five white-knuckle rollercoasters – Tsunami, Tornado, The Giant Condor, Captain's Curse, Runaway Mine Train and Space – as well as more than 20 rides for children. There's also 10-pin bowling on site, along with pool and snooker, bingo, adventure golf, an indoor tropical rainforest complete with creepy crawlies, an amusement arcade, a soft-play area, regular car-boot sales and a hotel.

Captain's Curse at M&D's

Thorpe Park, Surrey

Adrenaline junkies are well catered for at Thorpe Park, which is home to some of the UK's most challenging white-knuckle rides. A few scary stats for you: The Swarm reaches speeds of up to 100km/h; SAW The Ride is truly terrifying, with a 'beyond vertical' drop of 100 degrees from a height of 100ft; and the head-spinning Colossus features 10 inversions, including the UK’s only quadruple barrel roll. If you still want more, Stealth is one of Europe's fastest rollercoasters and there are a stack of dizzyingly high rides.

A selection of less furious attractions cater for younger visitors, including Rumba Rapids, Depth Charge, Mr Monkey's Banana Ride, Flying Fish, Storm Surge, Logger's Leap, the Angry Birds dodgems and Storm in a Teacup.

Swarm at Thorpe Park

Paultons Park, Hampshire

Nestled in the New Forest, not far from the south coast, this is another British theme park that's ideal for younger adventurers. The home of the famous Peppa Pig World and a new 4D cinema, Paultons also has a raft of thrilling rides for braver adventurers to tackle. Choose from Magma, Edge, the Cobra, Kontiki, water rides and many more.

There's a range of furry and feathered creatures to see, including meerkats, toucans, wallabies and penguins. And kids will love getting soaked in the huge Water Kingdom – don't forget the swimming costumes!

Peppa Pig World at Paulton's

The Cobra at Paultons The Edge at Paultons


Planning your day

It pays to know what you want to do, and a rough order of when you want to do things, so you can make the most of the attractions at the theme park.

Don’t forget to:

  • Check height restrictions
  • Get a map of the park
  • Agree a central meeting point in case you get separated
  • Pack a picnic to save cash
  • Consider fast-tracking your way to the front of the queues
  • Avoid tackling the heavy-duty rides straight after lunch


(8 October 2015)