Thorpe Park has changed a lot in the past few years, and I am impressed.
I have visited Thorpe Park a few times in the past, and I have to say, I have never been impressed. In fact, I have been left subdued and disheartened, each and every time, due to various reasons, ranging from long queue times, to frequent ride breakdowns, and seemingly everything in between.
However, on my most recent visit, I combined it with an overnight stay at the on-resort Thorpe Shark Hotel, and I’ve had the best two days I could have imagined. To say the park has improved is an understatement – they’ve done much, much more.
Thorpe Park is located a few miles away from Staines-Upon-Thames, which has fantastic transport connections to Central London, and the rest of the country. There is a regular shuttle bus from the Train station, so access to and from the park is nice and easy.
As you approach the park via the main roads, you can see the various coasters, namely Stealth and The Swarm, in the distance. It definitely builds the excitement when you can see how close you are!
Upon arrival at the park, you pass under a rather unique entrance archway, in the form of twisted rollercoaster track, emblazoned with the Thorpe Park logo, which is a nice feature. It spans the width of the road entrance, and makes it really easy to see that you’ve entered the property. There are plenty of signs directing you to the various different areas of the Car Park – Coach Park, Car Park, Hotel Guests, Drop Off point, etc. Once you find a suitable space, you’re only moments away from the main entrance plaza.
The park opened at 9:30, and queues had formed before this in advance, in front of the turnstiles. When you arrive at the front, simply scan your ticket, if you already have this (Print at Home tickets, or any barcoded ticket can be scanned straight away, without needing to speak to a member of staff, which makes it really quick and easy). There is a separate Annual Pass gate, so if you do own one of these, you can gain access slightly quicker.
Once through the turnstiles, you’re in the park, and are free to enjoy your day! There is a lengthy bridge from the entrance plaza to the Dome, which reminds you, Thorpe Park really is an “Island like No Other” – it’s completely surrounded by lakes! It is a really unique environment, and during the summer months (and even the colder parts of the year), you’ll see a whole host of watersports taking place in and around the lakes, which makes for an interesting watch!
The Dome is home to a Restaurant called Fin’s, various different retail outlets, both internally and externally, and a large seating area. I have reviewed Fin’s separately, so make sure to check that out! There is also a large screen, which during the day displays up to date queue times, and during the evening, various entertainment to keep the young ones entertained. On the lower floor, you’ll find lockers for stashing your belongings during the day, and toilets.
When it comes to the ride offerings at Thorpe Park, you really are spoiled for choice. There are five main roller coasters, and a selection of “flat” rides. Not each attraction has inversions, or “goes upside down”, so they suit most people. My partner is not a huge fan of being spun around, so avoided the flat rides, but the roller coasters were completely fine, and we enjoyed them throughout our two day visit.
The Coasters consist of Stealth, The Swarm, Saw: The Ride, Colossus, and Nemesis Inferno. There is also Flying Fish, which deserves an honourable mention, despite it not being a thrill ride.
Stealth launches riders from 0-80mph, and 205 ft in the air, in TWO SECONDS, from a standstill. To say it’s a thrill is a HUGE understatement! It’s thoroughly exciting, and I love every second of it – even if it’s over relatively quickly! I was disappointed to hear that it was out of action for my first day, and would be down for the second day too, due to essential maintenance taking place on the ride. However, it reopened at 4pm on our second day, so we managed to get a ride on it before the park closed! I was super happy at this, as I had already accepted the fact it was not going to open. The staff were advising that it would not open that day, so it was a massive thing for them to get it open, something they deserve to be applauded for! The dedication of the maintenance and engineer / technical guys and girls is something guests do not often appreciate, so big thumbs up to all involved in getting Stealth working!
Colossus is a ten-inversion roller coaster, which sends riders plummeting into loops, and inverting four times in a row, just feet from passers by! It’s a spectacle to watch, and even more of a spectacle to ride! Whilst I do enjoy the ride, it’s to be noted that it is not the easiest to get in and out of, if you’re a bigger person. The restraints are rather restrictive, but by no means majorly uncomfortable. Each to their own, but they do feel rather snug, to say the least. All in all, a solid attraction.
Saw: The Ride, is an exhilarating coaster which takes you up a vertical incline, and throws you into a 100 degree drop – which is MORE than vertical! It’s full of twists and turns, and follows the theme of the film franchise – Saw. Internally, inside the station building, there are various pieces of theming, all of which add to the atmosphere of a sinister place. Screens throughout play videos of Jigsaws Puppet (as seen in the film, with the spiral cheeks), which just make everything seem eeeeeery. I personally like to be on the second car in the station, as when they dispatch, you get to see Jigsaws Puppet interact with the riders just after the station. He comes rolling down and stops to speak to riders – see if you can spot him!
Nemesis Inferno is a personal favourite of mine – much like the sister coaster up at Alton Towers, it’s non stop full from the very first drop out of the station. I was pleased to see that the effects were in full use on every single ride over the two days, with lighting and smoke in use in the indoor section. It may seem simple, but it definitely added to the experience – speeding through an orange mist before hitting the lift hill and ascending to the top, before dropping down over the plaza full of people below. I also got a huge nose full of the scent of freshly cooked chicken at this point, which was thoroughly pleasant.
The inversions are superb and forceful, and I have no bad words to say, at all about the ride! Staff were dispatching fast, and getting the queue moving appeared to be a priority, as I’ll mention later.
The Swarm is perhaps the most interesting coaster for me, as we got to climb it in a VIP experience after park close! I LOVE the ride, and could not wait to ride it again. The first lift hill is HUGE, and as you are sat on either side of the central track, with nothing below you, the feeling of being so exposed as you hurtle around the track is fantastic! There are plenty of near misses and interactive theming, so watch out for those when you ride! The helicopter blades spin, the fire engine shoots fire, and there are various water jets around the water section. I also love how the track goes directly above the station “building”, as it’s a massively interactive part of the ride – riders on board get to see the guests waiting to ride, and vice versa. All in all, my all time top ride at the park.
The flat rides, as mentioned, range from spinning rides to swinging, and even dodgems, so there is plenty for all in each group to participate in. Nobody has to be left out, as there is something for everyone.
For the younger guests, Dodgems and I’m a Celebrity are a personal recommendation, as both are family friendly and enjoyable, with I’m a Celebrity being a surprise for myself, as I had no idea what it entailed. Needless to say, it’s a laugh and a fun experience, finishing with something we all love – but I will not ruin the surprise!
I made use of Fastrack during my two day visit, and I cannot recommend them enough, There are a multitude of different offerings, ranging from top end, unlimited riding on all rides, to single ride tickets. If you just want to minimise the queues for the coasters, no problem, there is a ticket just for that! It’s completely up to you, and there are more than enough choices to suit everyone. The staff at the Sales and Information booths are always happy to discuss your options and provide advice on when is best to ride and make use of them.
For me, they made the visit so much more enjoyable, as they cut down our queue times by a large amount. We would not have managed to ride Stealth without the use of Fastpass, so for us, they were a godsend.
It should also be noted that the staff within the Fastpass department are hugely accommodating. I met and spoke to Chantelle, a VIP and Fastrack team leader, and over the two days, she managed to assist me with my queries and fastract tickets, resulting in a fantastic two day visit to the park with little queueing involved. This not only improved my view of the park, from my previous bad visits, but also, as we live 200 miles away, allowed us to make full use of a park we seldom get to visit. For some, getting to ride Stealth may be something they take for granted, if they live close / visit often, but for us, it was something we do not get to do often, so Fastrack for this was hugely helpful – thanks Chantelle for personally assisting us with this!
There are also some fantastic gift shops on the park, namely the Derren Brown Ghost Train gift shop. Whilst the attraction itself is not open (at time of writing and visit), the shop was. It may seem an odd thing to be open, but the merchandise is superb and looks to be of good quality. A personal favourite of mine is the levitating train which rotates whilst magically suspended in mid air. It is quite a spectacle, and I want one for my living room! On my next, maybe I’ll grab one, if they still have them – they were limited edition!
There are many eateries throughout the park, and stands to purchase drinks, with the option of an all day refill on soft drinks, which during the hotter summer months, is a super useful thing to make use of, as it cuts down the cost of drinks massively. I tried the Hot Chocolate next to Tidal Wave, and made the error of walking to the right just as the boat hit the water – and I got a little wet. All part of the experience, ‘eh?!
I was also lucky enough to experience a VIP Coaster Climb of The Swarm after park close on my second day, and I cannot begin to explain just how amazing the entire experience was. I had been in contact with Chantelle (mentioned above), in the weeks leading up to our visit, and I was prepared to climb to the top – or so I thought. When we arrived on the first day and saw The Swarm in person, we remembered just how high it is! The nerves kicked in, and I dropped Chantelle an email that evening. The next morning she had met me at breakfast in Fin’s bar, and put our minds at rest with some reassuring words. We were really happy to meet her, and LOVED the interaction that morning, as it made us feel much happier to proceed.
The climb itself started with a visit to the Operators cabin of The Swarm, which sits in an upturned trailer above the station. The train passes directly underneath, and from above you really can see every inch of the station. The huge amount of cameras around the site can all be monitored from this cabin and multiple monitors show live feeds of the cameras – nothing can escape the operator! There were lots of flashing lights and controls in this cabin, and I loved exploring it! Chantelle went through what each and every button do, and even took us back down into the empty station to explain various functions etc.
Once we were harnessed up, which are super secure, and involve twisting your body in order to get it all connected (which in itself is hilarious), we were connected to the bottom of the lift hill rail and started the walk upwards. It only took around ten minutes, and was really not difficult at all. We were concerned that it would be daunting due to the sheer height of the ride, but it really was a doddle. We stopped at the halfway point, and I was surprised at just how little time it had taken to reach it. There is a camera at this point, so it’s a good point of reference.
Once we got to the top, Chantelle offered a multitude of information about not only the theme park, but the surrounding area too. She pointed out Wembley Arch, Heathrow and The Shard, to name but a few. Her knowledge of Thorpe Park, Merlin, and theme parks as a whole was impressive, and I loved that she has a true passion for what she does, and it really did show when she was discussing things at the top of this giant structure! We were talking openly, and almost forgot just how high we were, which I liked! It’s remarkable just how relaxed a member of staff can make you, when not so long before, we were nervous!
The descent was easier than I thought and took less time than the climb. I was saddened to reach the bottom of the lift hill, as it marked the end of the experience – or so I thought. Upon entering the station, an engineer called us over to show us the workshop, something that is rarely ever seen – I was really impressed with the willingness of the staff member to do this! He discussed what they were doing that evening (Stress tests of a row of seats on The Swarm), and I got to tell him how impressed I was (am) that all the LED lights within the ride trains themselves STILL work, many years after the ride was built and launched. He explained this was thanks to his colleague, as he takes a pride in ensuring it all works flawlessly. They do a fantastic job, and it’s worth mentioning that they did not have to invite us into the workshop, as it was not a scheduled part of the experience. They did so willingly, and I cannot thank them enough. I have filled in a STAR card, and passed on to the various people that need to be aware of this gentleman’s actions, as it’s something he needs to be commended for.
Alas, the climb came to an end, and Chantelle walked us back to the entrance to the park. We were saddened to leave, but left with a parting gift from Chantelle herself – a THORPE PARK bag with trinkets and goodies, and a special VIP card with a handwritten note inside. When we opened it in the car, me and my partner were somewhat surprised and touched, as it felt really personal and special, which we felt throughout our entire stay.
I must give special thanks to the following people, who were fantastic throughout the entire visit, and made it all worthwhile:
To Jordan M, Social Media Executive, for resolving our queries prior to arrival.
To Chantelle F, VIP and Fastrack Team Leader, for being on hand whenever we had queries, in the run up to our visit, and also during our visit – To reply to work emails at 10pm at night = a fantastic member of staff, and a true asset, not only to Thorpe Park, but to Merlin Entertainments as a whole.
To Jordan, Waiter at Fin’s, you did a good job and were polite and attentive during our visit. A STAR has been left for you.
To Hayley D & Amy, Marketing / PR, thank you for being so hugely accommodating in everything.
To the male member of staff that was running around assisting ride hosts in getting Fastrack sorted on Nemesis Inferno and other rides, when it was getting busy. I didn’t catch your name, but you were dressed smartly, so I presume you were operations/management. You offered support to your staff rather than barking orders. ++ to you.
Thank you to everyone above, and to all the members of staff we encountered during our visit. You all made it worth the 200 mile journey, each way. I cannot wait to return and ride Derren Browns Ghost Train this summer!