Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Thrills and beauty at Alton Towers

Day 2. Up with the lark this morning, 6.45am and my room mates are still in slumberland as I creep quietly out of the dorm and down to the self catering kitchen for breakfast. I eat alone, spaghetti on bread with two boiled eggs. After checking out I have time for a wander around the grounds and some photo's.

Ilam Hall is a huge Victorian Gothic manor house set in 84 acres of country parkland, on the banks of the River Manifold. It was first built in the 16th century, then demolished and rebuilt in the 1820's. A large part of it was demolished again in the 1920's, and in 1934 it was donated to the National Trust. Last year it had a complete makeover inside and the facilities are everything you would expect from a good quality hotel. How fabulous to spend the night here for just £16.

The river running through the grounds with the Hall in the background.

I left just after 9am, it's a short drive to Alton Towers. I had to stop on the way to take this shot of the mist hanging around in the valley.

I was a bit early at the Towers, it opens at 10am. When you arrive there are marshalls to direct you to a parking place, as I was early I was next to the entrance. Then you walk to the Monorail Station and take a ride to the pay booths. My ticket was free with Tesco vouchers, but there was still £5 to pay for the parking. That's it they are not getting any more money from me today. I have my pockets stuffed with snacks and I had a drink before I left my car, I will manage on that.
It was like the charge of the Light Brigade when they removed the barriers at 10am, everyone makes a dash forward for their favourite ride. I have been on them all before, except for the new ride, THI3TEEN, which is advertised as the ultimate roller coaster. The park is vast so you spend a lot of time walking from one area to another. There are cable cars, called Sky Rider, to assist you if you want to travel above the trees, which I did several times.
On the way to THI3TEEN I stopped off at Rita Queen of Speed. There were no queues so I managed to get a front seat ride. There is a seperate queue line for front seat riders, and it's always a good idea to get the front position for the best ride. This ride is awsome, you are catapulted from 0 - 100 kph in 2.5 seconds, you realy have to hold on to your eyeballs, ha ha. When I got off, I dashed round to the entrance for another ride, this time half way down the train as a queue had formed for front seat.
I will just mention at this point that it is very difficult to get good photo's of moving roller coasters, I bet you have guessed that by now, judging by the speed which Rita travels. I tried my best but most of them were just not good enough to post here.
Anyway, after Rita I made a beeline for THI3TEEN, and as a single rider I was able to take advantage of walking past the queues straight onto the ride. It has it's advantages being by yourself. The ride seemed pretty tame and not very long. It was advertised as going through areas of unexplored woodland known as the dark forest, which turned out to be a few rotting and broken down trees strewn about. Just as I thought it was over there was a sting in the tail. The carriages went into a dark shed, and you wondered what was going to happen next. Suddenly it felt like you were being dropped from a great height, then it stopped, and you reversed out of the shed and rolled gently back to the start. The ride was ok, but I wasn't inspired to go on again.
What I did do though was have a ride on this amazing machine, Air. I love this one.
You are strapped into your seat, the floor drops away from you and you are tilted forward so you are hanging in your restraints face down. Then you take off underneath the track, flying through the air. You have to hold your arms forward and pretend you are Superman, it's exciting. Part the way round you do a couple of corkscrew turns, then you are flipped over onto your back looking up at the sky. I love this ride, it's my favourite.

The children are well catered for here, Wobble World had two massive bouncy castles inside, one for tiny tots and one for older children who are a bit more rough and tumble.

The Theatre was announcing a show to start in ten minutes, not for me today, because it's sunny and I want to be outside.

This is another good and popular ride, Nemesis. You hang underneath the track, then it flips you over several times. It has g forces great than a space shuttle launch, or so it says, it is pretty fast. Hang on for dear life, and try and stop your head from hitting the side restraints. I take my hearing aid out for these rides because I lost part of it once on a ride at Drayton Manor Park. I also have my specs fastened at the back of my head with a cord.

Duel is a fun ride, you sit in a little car and ride gently round a track inside a dark cave, you have a gun and you try and knock out as many tiny green lights as you can. My score was 33600, which wasn't too bad. I had a second ride but didn't beat it.

I went on the Rapids, but didn't get too wet. Then I went on the Flume and got soaked. All around these wet rides are booths with hot air blowing, you pay two pounds to dry yourself off. It was a warm sunny day, why were people using them? Alton Towers aren't daft are they, extra revenue.

Sharkbait Reef is where I saw the Pirate, inside were aquariums of various sizes, set out like you were walking among the wreckage of a galleon. It was quite pleasant and calming after all the frenzy of the coasters.

This ride made me laugh, though I didn't go on it, it was fun to watch. The boats go round slowly on a track and they have water cannon which work by winding a handle. The faster you wind, the further the spurt of water. The people stood on land also have the cannons, so a battle takes place as they all try and soak the enemy. Very funny.

The other rides I went on were, Runaway Mine Train, Oblivion, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I gave a wide berth to the rides that twirl round and round, my stomach can't stand that. They are collectively known as the Spin and Spew rides, no thanks, give me coasters any day.
Alton Towers has extensive gardens, and it was a joy to stroll round, largely by myself. I don't know what you call these buildings that are like massive greenhouses, but this one was derelict, in desperate need of tender loving care.

This was in a very quiet corner in the centre of a very overgrown pond. It's a haven for wildlife.

The little bridge,

Trees and bushes of every colour, beautiful.

Looking down at the little bridge.

And to finish off, Alton Towers itself. This majestic building is mainly a shell. Although it looks very grand from a distance, it is derelict. So sad to see it like this. It's a pity that merlin Entertainments Group, the owners of the site, and who also own nearly 60 other attractions world wide, have not restored it to it's former glory.

And there I leave you with the beautiful side of Alton Towers. I have just noticed that I started this post with the fully restored Ilam Hall, and I end it with the hope that one day the Towers might be next.


  1. The 'greenhouse' structure I would guess going on what I've seen at other grand houses is either an orangery or a fern house.
    I'd love to go on some of those rides but would hesitate to go on my own and my husband certainly wouldn't agree to come but I'm glad to read about your fun and what the experience is like.

  2. Air is my absolute facourite too, followed by enterprise! I always go on Air towards the end of the day when the queues have gone and then just keep rejoining the tiny queue for as many goes as I can squeeze in before it closes!

    When I was a child my Aunt lived near AT and got 20 free tickets every year so I went a lot as a kid, but personally, I don't think the place is as good as it's cracked up to be and so although it's local, I rarely go - every few years when I have free tickets is fine for me. I know people who will happily pay full price and goes 7 or 8 times a year - which is ridiculous!

    I'm glad you enjoyed your day! Ilam is so beautiful. My mum's friend lives there and I am a regular visitor to the hall and for walks there, with the pretty little cottages and the stunning views!

  3. I was fortunate to visit Alton Towers as a child(early Eighties:) Is that the Japanese gardens?1

  4. Hi Cosmic. I saw no mention of the gardens being of Japanese style, either in the map given out or signs on the ground. The area around the pagoda was very overgrown, more for wildlife than Japanese. It all seemed very English to me, not that I am an expert in the names of the trees, and shrubs.

  5. You might want to consider Disneyworld s Rock n Rollin Rollercoaster - now that is a decent ride. Can you get free Eurostar ticket with Tesco s vouchers - there must be really good deals if you book ahead. Never been to Euro Disney or Alton Towers but have been to the Florida Parks. Alton Towers looks lovely.

  6. Hi lizzie, I haven't been to Euro Disney but I have been to loads of parks in the USA. I was a member of the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain (RCCGB) and went on several of their trips. I road the tallest coaster in the world (at that time) Millennium Force at Cedar Point in Ohio, ten times without getting off. Done the parks in Orlando, Vegas and Los Angeles, and Germany. Nothing in this country is anything like as good as those.

    You can use Tesco vouchers for a Eurostar ticket, but it might take some time for me to save enough points. Thanks for the suggestion.