Alton Towers

17th July 2002

It was a relief to finally bid adieu to Pontins this morning in favour of a somewhat higher standard of accommodation. Many of the Americans couldn't help taking photos of the place for future memories. For me the magic (or otherwise!) had already worn off, though I'm still in a certain amount of disbelief that anyone could voluntarily choose to stay somewhere like that for a family holiday. But I digress.

Alton Towers

Alton Towers is the best known theme park in the United Kingdom and probably the only one widely known to people in Ireland. The reason is simple; they may not be the biggest, but they do the most advertising by far. They also have some positively stunning coasters. Unfortunately, they also have huge numbers of guests, more than can reasonably be supported by the number of attractions. I had to wait nearly two hours to ride Oblivion (#71), which seemed more than a little ridiculous for a ride that lasted just seconds.

The other major problem with the park is that smoking in queue lines is not forbidden. Long waits are never fun at the best of times, but when you're surrounded by people smoking they became actively unpleasant. Worse yet, queue etiquette is conspicuous by its absence; I had to repeatedly chase away people trying to jump my place. If they were really your friends, they would have waited for you.

The surprise hit of the morning turned out to be Black Hole (#72). From the outside this ride looked like it wouldn't be up to much, thanks to a not particularly tall black tent. However, inside was another Schwarzkopf design, this one featuring inline seating. As a single rider in the front I might as well have had the train to myself, which was a really cool experience.

Ticking off Corkscrew (#73), Beastie (#74), and the powered Runaway Mine Train brought me to what has widely been considered the best roller coaster in the UK since it opened in 1994. Nemesis (#75) is dug into a huge hole in the ground, and takes advantage of the terrain for some wonderful near miss effects. Ten laps were not enough to appreciate this ride fully; it really was that good.

The final new coaster for today was Air (#76). It was interesting to compare this version of a flying coaster to X-Flight. Air proved to be in a completely different league, being smooth and comfortable, making it far better to appreciate the sensation of soaring over the landscape below.

My last ride of the way was not in fact a coaster. Hex is a so-called haunted swing attraction, which apparently puts all others of this genre to shame. Having never done one before it's difficult for me to comment on that, but the basic premise involves a particularly clever optical illusion which was entirely convincing; I'll leave it at that.