Chertsey, United Kingdom
“Heaven for thrill seekers”
London is an ideal destination to spend a few days off. There’s much to see, much to do and there are plenty of cool bars to have a drink in the evening. Cool, that’s what I like. Yet, seeing the London Eye and getting tipsy in Soho weren’t my main goals during this visit. I actually crossed the Channel to add some brand new roller coasters to my counter. London is a perfect base for an amusement park trip. Chessington World of Adventures, Legoland Windsor and Thorpe Park are all located within manageable distance from the British capital. Today, I’m heading to Thorpe Park, a.k.a. the most thrilling island in the United Kingdom.
One of the park’s signature coasters is Stealth, an Accelerator manufactured by Intamin. Stealth reaches its top speed of 130 km/h in less than two seconds and it then climbs a 60-metre tall top hat. That’s quite impressive, but this also represents two thirds of the total experience. The train reaches the final brakes after a mere 10 seconds. Although Stealth delivers an incredible thrill, I think it’s a shame that the layout is so short. The curvy second part of Xcelerator (a similar ride at Knott’s Berry Farm in California) feels a whole lot better.
It’s not my first visit to Thorpe Park, but I’m encountering two new coasters today. And I don’t know if that’s a coincidence, but both are fitted with a creepy theme. The first one is called The Swarm and it’s a B&M Wing Coaster in a post-apocalyptic setting. The area is dominated by a crashed plane, destroyed billboards, a broken fire truck and a burnt down church, which also serves as the station. The trains were designed as flying aliens and those bad guys seem to be responsible for this mess. Thorpe Park did a great job with the theming of The Swarm, but it isn’t just a beautiful coaster to look at. It also delivers pure coaster joy. Wing Coasters have never disappointed me. They usually aren’t the biggest thrill machines, but they provide great fun. That’s not any different here. The Swarm is wonderfully smooth, it contains a number of brilliant near misses and it’s just long enough.
The second new coaster is called Saw – The Ride. We’re talking about a Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter, which isn’t exactly my favourite roller coaster type. I don’t like the uncomfortable shoulder restraints and these rides are often quite brutal. The word ‘brutal’ is actually an understatement when talking about Saw. This is undoubtedly the most intense Euro-Fighter I’ve ever done. It really seems as if Thorpe Park has put the ride in a fast-forward mode. The lift hill is incredibly fast and the mid course brakes are completely switched off today. The result is an insanely intense ride full of heavy g-forces and ejector airtime. Seriously… this can’t be the speed this ride was designed for?! Anyway… I’d like to compliment Thorpe Park for the theming in the indoor part of this attraction. The dark ride features some very surprising effects.
It’s been 12 years since my last visit to Thorpe Park and I don’t remember much of it. Yet, one specific thing remained in my memory: a meaningless attraction called X:\ No Way Out. This was an indoor coaster that treated us to a backward ride through total darkness. The ride is still operational nowadays, but it’s known as The Walking Dead – The Ride since last year. The layout remained unchanged, but the trains are moving forward and a considerable amount of theming has been added. The result is pretty okay: the coaster is enjoyable and its creepy zombie atmosphere works well. Don’t expect any high-speed thrills (it’s just a simple family coaster) but The Walking Dead is an entertaining ride for in between.
In 2002, Thorpe Park managed to obtain the record of most inversions in one roller coaster thanks to the opening of Colossus. This was Intamin’s first 10-Inversion Coaster and honestly… I don’t like these rides. The biggest issue is the layout, which is very unbalanced. The second half of Colossus consists of five consecutive heartline rolls. That’s not just extremely disorienting, but also quite boring. I think that’s a shame, especially since Colossus’ first part is great.
If you’re planning to get a coaster bingo, you’ll have to ride seven coasters. The park’s least fascinating credit is Flying Fish, a small-scale Powered Coaster built by Mack Rides. I’ve ridden this family roller coaster in 2007, so I can skip it today. Nemesis Inferno, however, was still missing on my list. This B&M inverted coaster is a stunningly beautiful machine: its burgundy-coloured tracks wind through the tropical vegetation and the volcano (in which the station is integrated) looks fantastic. And the ride itself? Believe me… it’s brilliant. Nemesis Inferno may not be exceptionally tall, fast or long, but it contains everything you’d expect from a good inverted coaster. The inversions are intense, the curves are very powerful and it’s incredibly smooth. I’d almost commit a crime to get such a perfect roller coaster in Belgium.
Despite their rather chilly climate, the British have a bizarre preference for water rides. Local parks know this. That’s why the United Kingdom is filled with soaking water rides. Thorpe Park’s main draw for water lovers is Tidal Wave. This shoot-the-chute is 26 metres tall and it creates, as its name suggests, a huge wave. I’m definitely not interested in riding it, though. Despite the fact that it’s a pleasant 22°C, I really save such rides for the hottest days of summer. For the same reason, I skip Rumba Rapids and a water slide called Storm Surge.
Thorpe Park is the UK’s ultimate thrill destination, so this park has obviously some flat rides on offer. I like to watch the Flying Carpet, the Afterburner, the Enterprise and the TopScan called Samurai, but that’s it. The only flat ride I ride, is Rush. This is a so-called Screaming Swing. This giant swinging ride pleasantly surprised me at Dollywood, Liseberg and Cedar Point and that’s not any different today at Thorpe Park. This modernised version of a classic swinging ship is really enjoyable.
Thorpe Park hasn’t got a classic haunted house, but they have Derren Brown’s Ghost Train instead. It opened in 2016 and it’s the latest major addition to Thorpe Park. This results in significant wait times, even during quiet weekdays like this one. I spend approximately 45 minutes in the queue and of course, that creates high expectations. The ride doesn’t disappoint, though. I don’t want to go over the whole experience, but let me give a brief summary: Derren Brown’s Ghost Train is a combined walk-through and VR experience. Although virtual reality doesn’t interest me at all, I appreciate it a lot better in this setting than on a roller coaster. Yet, it’s not the virtual reality that impresses me. Especially the visual show elements between the attraction’s two VR sections surprise me in a positive way. Derren Brown’s Ghost Train is a creepy experience that contains some unbelievable special effects. The total experience – which even extends into the souvenir shop at the exit – is therefore fantastic. This isn’t my favourite attraction at Thorpe Park, but it’s definitely the most surprising one.
WORTH A VISIT?
Thorpe Park is London’s ultimate thrill destination and it lives up to that name. Families with young children have few reasons to come here, because this park is mainly focused on inversions, speed and creepy rides. Such thrill parks are generally not my thing. I love dark rides, I appreciate a well-themed family roller coaster and I consider atmosphere more important than record-breaking statistics. However, Thorpe Park pleasantly surprised me during this visit. The park isn’t just the European version of Six Flags. Staff members are very friendly, the park is spotlessly clean and the overall ride capacity is very high. Many other theme parks would reduce capacity during the low season, but Thorpe Park doesn’t. Every roller coaster operated at maximum capacity, making queues virtually empty. In other words: there’s a very positive vibe in this park.
What’s your favourite ride on the island? Were you just as impressed by Derren Brown’s Ghost Train as me? What would be the perfect addition to Thorpe Park? Share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page.