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 this summer.

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 do is bring 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 14 loop roller coaster the Smiler, Thi3teen, Air, Nemesis, Oblivion and Rita – you'll accelerate to 100km/ph in just 2.5 seconds!

Cool down on a hot day 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 six will love the new CBeebies Land which opens in May. For peace and quiet, explore the gardens and ruins of the Towers or try the tranquil SkyRide. Extend your visit by staying at the Alton Towers Hotel, and tackle the waterpark while you're there.

Air at Alton Towers

Drayton Manor, Staffordshire

As well as the legendary 'Thomas Land', where you can take a trip in the Troublesome Trucks or ride Cranky the Crane, there are plenty of thrill rides for grown-ups. Drayton Manor boasts Europe's only stand-up rollercoaster – Shockwave – which has a top speed of 84 km per hour, as well as the world's first stand-up tower drop – Apocalypse. Other white-knuckle rides include G-Force, Apocalypse, 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 dinosaur park.

Shockwave at Drayton Manor

Chessington World of Adventures, Surrey

Look out for flamingos, giraffes and white rhino from the off-road trucks in Zufari. Or try the new Scorpion Express, a runaway train with extra surprises! Thrillseekers will also love the Vampire, KOBRA, Dragon's Fury and Rattlesnake.

There are also plenty of rides for younger visitors, as well as a zoo with more than 1,000 animals, 10 themed lands of rides, 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 – and by that we mean the Pepsi Max Big One. This rollercoaster is literally on the seafront and the views are amazing – not that you hang around to enjoy them for very long. The Big One holds the crown as the UK's tallest and fastest rollercoaster.

Brave 'Europe's first 360-degree rollercoaster', in the shape of Revolution. Fusion features five incredible loops plus a double line twist on a suspended looping coaster. For something a little more sedate, watch the fountains dance from the comfort of the onsite restaurant.

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. Pirate Shores opens in 2014 complete with a new play area - Castaway Camps. Other highlights include Atlantis Submarine Voyage, the Dragon, Vikings' River Splash and the Driving School.

Miniland contains nearly 40 million bricks in scenes from Europe and the USA, and in a recent addition – Star Wars.

There are plenty of picnic spots, plus a huge outdoor adventure play fort and live action shows – fun for children, toddlers, and big kids. Younger children will love exploring Duplo Valley with even more water and even more fun – including Splash Safari, Drench Towers and Raft River Racers.

Duplo Splash Safari at Legoland

M&D's, Motherwell

The only theme park in Scotland to boast five white-knuckle rollercoasters – The Tsunami, Tornado, Express, The Runaway Mine Train and The Big Apple – 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

Home to some of the UK's most challenging white-knuckle rides, younger visitors have options including Storm in a Teacup. However adrenalin junkies are well catered for – are you brave enough to tackle Swarm, SAW, Colossus, Stealth, Nemesis Inferno, Rush, Slammer, Vortex or Samurai?

Angry Birds Land opens in 2014 with a high impact 4D cinema experience, dodgems and the 100ft drop Detonator ride. You can extend the fun by staying at the Crash Pad – compact onsite accommodation.

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


Offers and discounts

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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


(6 March 2014)