Alton Towers has a *bit* of a special place in our hearts. Without getting too sentimental, it’s the first theme park we ever visited together. It’s also the place I – Charlotte – rode my first proper roller coaster (the corkscrew, for anyone who cares) and had lots of fun with my family as a kid.
It’s an extraordinary place although it’s hard to put our finger on why, it just is. Since that first trip over three years ago, we headed back for a third time this month. And, since we had a break in 2017, we were pretty excited to hop on the monorail, enjoy our traditional first ride on The Runaway Mine Train and generally soak up the atmosphere of Alton Towers again.
But waxing lyrical about days gone by wasn’t the main reason for our visit. Oh no, we were really there for Wickerman, Alton Towers’ new GCI wooden roller coaster of dreams. Here’s how we got on, and what we thought of the park’s new addition, in our Alton Towers Trip report.
We’ll get the boring bit out of the way first. We live in Yorkshire so have always stayed the night when we’ve visited Alton Towers. If you only go once a year like we do, we reckon it’s a park that needs two days to enjoy to its fullest.
We’ve stayed in a few different places – including the Splash Landings Hotel – but given it was over £300 thanks to the Easter holidays, we decided to look elsewhere. We ended up getting a pretty good deal through the Alton Towers website for the Hilton at St.George’s Park. We’ve stayed there before and really liked it; modern, clean and enough England memorabilia to make any football fan jizz their pants.
If you don’t know, St George’s Park is the official home of England football, so there’s always very important people milling around. Oh, and 17 year olds who earn more in a year than you ever will in a lifetime. As a Bradford City fan, Carl is rather fond of this place. It’s got good beer, football memorabilia everywhere and all the best matches on a massive screen in the bar, what more is there to want?
Anyway, we paid £150 for a night including tickets to Alton Towers. It was comfortable and they did a mean club sandwich in the bar. There were no complaints from us, especially compared to the Alton Towers hotel prices. It was about a 40 minute drive away from the park though, even though the website advertises it as much closer.
Alton Towers Trip Report – Day one
The last time we visited we were a tiny bit disappointed by the general upkeep of Alton Towers. Everything just looked a bit sad and tired so we were hoping that Wickerman might have injected a bit of life into the park again.
As I said before, we normally hop on the monorail but we were keen to be the first in the gate like the geeks we are, so we bypassed the long queue and walked up to the park. Well, if I hadn’t noticed my post-marital weight gain before then, I certainly did by the time I got to the gate. It wasn’t a long walk – no more than 15 minutes – but it felt like a never ending one.
That was probably the first sign that this wasn’t going to be a typical trip. We got into the park soon enough and made a beeline straight for Wickerman. We noted the facelift that’s been given to Towers Street – it looks great – and were feeling super excited for the day ahead.
When we arrived the queue was mega so we decided to head elsewhere and come back when it inevitably got quieter. We’ll add here that it was pouring buckets and as beautiful as Wickerman looked we didn’t fancy waiting around for three hours in the pissing down rain. The theming of the area is fantastic though and we both walked up to the structure feeling pretty speechless. Without a doubt the best in any of the parks we’ve visited in the UK.
So we headed to The Smiler and managed to get a ride on that and Oblivion with minimal wait. We then headed over to the Dark Forest in time for the opening of Rita and Th13teen. We did Th13teen first – we love this ride! – and then made the fatal error of queuing for Rita because the wait didn’t look too long. We were wrong, obviously. Surely this ride will leave the park soon? It wasn’t experiencing any downtime but it takes forever to load and the queue is so bloody boring.
A trip on the Skyride for the ariel views of Wickerman (sad, we know) later, and we were back at the entrance. We checked the app and saw that Wickerman was only a 60 minute wait so we took our chances. In the end it was only about and hour and a half between joining the queue and watching the pre-show which, considering the ride went down a few times in-between, wasn’t too bad. Our full thoughts on Wickerman are below but let’s just say, it was well worth the wait.
By this time we were starving so we picked up some food from the little food stalls near Wickerman. A hot dog for Carl and a surprisingly tasty chicken wrap for me. The number of decent food outlets is still disappointing but it was good to see these ones open again.
After a quick ride on Duel – unusually for us, Carl won this time! – we finished the day in Forbidden Valley. Sadly Nemesis wasn’t running so we went to Galactica, which proceeded to breakdown the second we joined the queue. This is an average ride at best and since a 10 minute queue became an hour-long wait, neither of us really enjoyed the ride in the end. And with that our day was done, it was back to the hotel for a few drinks, some more football and a bite to eat.
Alton Towers Trip Report – Day two
We were even more keen on our second day, arriving at the very front of the gate about an hour before park opening. We were feeling super smug about being the first in, only to be bustled to the back of a different queue by a staff member who said they didn’t have the man power to open all of the gates. Not so smug now.
When we finally got in we headed straight for Spinball Whizzer. We joined the queue pretty much as the ride opened and it didn’t look too long. Well, it was. This must be the slowest moving queue in theme park history. It took about 45 minutes. The ride was fun, but we wouldn’t wait that long again.
From then we did pretty much the same as the day before, with the added bonus of one of our favourite rides at the park – hex. It was great to get back on this again as it was closed on our last visit. The little facelift it’s had looks great too.
We avoided Rita like the plague after the previous days’ experience but did get another good ride in on Th13teen. We decided to head back to Mutiny Bay for lunch, I was after another of the delicious chicken wraps, and when we finished it looked like Wickerman was only on a 45 minute queue. The time was pretty accurate and we were very excited to get back on it again.
By this time it was really wet and cold. Nemesis was back up but the wait was massive so we decided to head back home. Our first ever trip to Alton Towers without a ride on the beast, we still can’t quite believe it.
To finish Carl is going to give his views on Wickerman and we’re both going to sum up our ‘fab five’ and our ‘disappointment’ of the trip!
Carl’s Wickerman review
We’re both sort of new to being theme park enthusiasts. We’ve always loved theme parks but when we met in 2015 the obsession & geekiness that had laid dormant in the both of us started to come out.
When news of SW8 and Construction MMXVIII came out we were both pretty giddy to be following the entire construction of two new rides! Alton Towers and Blackpool Pleasure Beach are our two of our favourite places and major new rides for both parks got us extremely excited. I was looking forward to Icon more, as it just sounds immense and I’ve only ever been on a few wooden coasters (all at Blackpool ironically) and, well, they hurt. So I was intrigued by Wickerman but more excited by Icon.
Fast forward three years and having just seen the entrance to Wickerman for the first time in person, the only word we could both find was, simply, wow.
I mean have you seen this thing? The Wickerman structure itself is just amazing. The smoke and fire effects and the wavy queue line that gives you incredible views of the ride alone were enough to get us both excited. This might be a bit weird, but the noise of the coaster going round the track in such a small space really got me giddy while I was queuing! I mean like, I’m ready to take on the world excitement.
It took us around 90 mins to get to the pre-show the first time we rode it. It rained a a lot of the heavy stuff and there were a few periods of downtime, people even left the queue, but it’s still the most I’ve ever enjoyed a queue for a ride.
As for the Pre Show – well, I’ve never seen anything like it. When we were at Busch Gardens last year we had fast passes for Cobras Curse so we sadly didn’t get to see the pre-show for that which looks unbelievable. I won’t give any spoilers but I thought the Wickerman pre-show was epic! To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect but I didn’t expect that, if that makes sense?
Now onto the station. It looked great and when some guy with a scary voice told me to ‘take heed’ I couldn’t believe we were about to get on the ride.
Again, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t been on it yet but whole ride is brilliant! Its taken over The Smiler – don’t mock me, told you I’m new to the enthusiast thing – as my number one UK coaster pushing Nemesis to number three at the same time.
Not much more to say other than Take heed… and go RIDE THE WICKERMAN YOU FOOLS!
Carl’s Fab Five
- Wickerman – see the review above, no more needs to be said!
- The Smiler – shut up, I love that thing.
- Th13rteen – it get’s better every time I ride it, great to see the electricity effects working on the second day too.
- St George’s Park hotel stay – awesome, it’s like football porn!
- More things open – last time we went to Alton Towers in 2016 a lot of stalls and food places were closed so it was good to see a lot more open during this visit.
My one disappointment…
Only one train on Nemesis! Seriously? From what we understand the other one isn’t in good shape. So fair play, don’t use it under any circumstances until its safe to do so. But they’ve had all winter to get a new train, even if it’s a temporary one. One train on one of the most popular rides in the country is just ridiculous.
Charl’s Fab Five
- Wickerman – just an amazing experience, my favourite UK ride now by some way.
- Getting back on T13rteen – I just love this, such a fun ride and a great experience.
- The chicken wrap – I’m a bit of a foodie and was truly dreading another abomination from The Burger Kitchen so this was a welcome surprise.
- Hex – flipping great to see this back to its best.
- Having a glass of vino in the Welcome-Inn – I’ve never had a glass of wine in Alton Towers before, and I love a glass of wine, it was a great little location for it. I just wish it had been sunny!
My one disappointment…
The operations were a little rubbish on a couple of the rides and there still isn’t enough variety in the food for my liking. I miss the Mexican Cantina.
Overall, despite the weather and some frustrating operational issues, we had a great couple of days back at Alton Towers. It was great to ride Wickerman so early on in the season and to get back on some of our favourite coasters in the UK.
Have you ridden Wickerman yet? What do you think?