Alton Showers (of fun)
Alton Towers: that’s that theme park that everyone always goes on about isn’t it? It certainly is, and it’s a British staple of getaway entertainment to say the least. When it’s not popping up on Groupon with some sort of reduced-price entry or being made fun of in various British comedy shows, it’s acting as one of the main theme parks that you can go to in the UK to experience thrills that go beyond tea drinking and bad-teeth having (if the American view of Britain is anything to go by). This Thorpe Park-rival is a resort in itself, offering everything from a waterpark to the craziest of golf, from a spa to treetop adventures and even a Cbeebies attraction. It is the rollercoasters we’re interested in however, so let’s take a look at what Alton’s famous resort has to offer in terms of track-based thrill-makers.
Not Far From Sheffield, and other Tidbits
A bit of general information about Alton Towers to begin with. Alton Towers is a holiday resort located in Alton, England. It is most famous for its Theme Park, which is marketed as a haven for adrenaline junkies due to its admirable (for Britain, anyhow) selection of thrilling rides. Alton Towers also has a spa, a waterpark, something called Cbeebies Land, and even something it calls – sigh – “Extraordinary Golf”. These are great things to do with the family of course, but if you’re young and in need of a thrill (that won’t potentially land you in trouble with the law), then the rollercoasters of Alton Towers are going to be your best bet.
Coasters Away from the Coast
When you’re resting in places like the Splash Landings Hotel or one of the many themed rooms (many of which have gotten some fairly positive reviews on Tripadvisor for their value and quality), any real “adrenaline junkie” is going to want to be hitting the theme park to take a look at the rollercoasters.
There are nine true rollercoasters altogether in the Alton Towers theme park. There are more rides and attractions than this of course – flat rides such as The Blade and Ripsaw as well as water rides and dedicated children’s ones – but these are more for those that aren’t massively into serious thrill-rides; the faint of heart and of course the younger visitors. Here at Coastercrazy.co.uk, I’m only interested in the true rollercoasters, the ones that people travel across the country to experience.
The Big Hitters
Let’s start with the most worthwhile coasters that I experienced during my time at Alton Towers, and where better to do so than the famous/infamous Nemesis. This is the one you’ll have likely seen on any adverts for Alton Towers on TV. It was once the main poster boy for the theme park and for good reason: when it was first built it was Britain’s first inverted rollercoaster, and voted 9th best in the world in the Mitch Hawker Steel Coaster Poll in 2013.
The reason that Nemesis has developed such a reputation is that it is 2,349ft in length, 43ft tall, and reaches a top speed of 50mph. Its stats aren’t that impressive when compared with the international big boys (such as Kangda Ka or Takabisha), but for the UK it’s a fairly impressive specimen, consistently receiving good reviews from visitors as well as from within the industry.
Personally, dive/vertical-drop rollercoasters aren’t my cup of tea whatsoever, but I applied the when-in-Rome mentality to Alton and had a little go. Let me tell you now that in spite of the false claim that Oblivion was a vertical-drop coaster (when in actual fact its drop is 87 degrees and not the required 90 of a vertical drop), this 3 degree difference doesn’t make a difference when you’re actually on it. The top speed of 68mph and the angle of the drop results in 4.5 Gs of force, which even for seasoned coaster fans is quite the experience.
The third of what I call Alton Towers’ “Big Three” is Air, a steel flying-type coaster that puts riders in a prone position so that you actually feel like you’re flying. The ride involves passing very close to the ground and other surroundings. The ride is 2,760ft long with a top speed of only 47mph, but the position you are in when you’re riding it makes it yet another unique experience, and makes you realise why Air is referred to as one of Alton Towers’ “Secret Weapon” rides.
Last But Not Least
Alton Towers is more than just the big three coasters. There have been some recent additions to the park such as The Smiler, which is the world’s coaster with 14 loops, holding the record for the coaster with the most inversions in the entire world. Thirteen (stylised TH13TEEN ) was also the world’s first vertically-based free-drop rollercoaster (I found the 5-second freefall in complete darkness to be most impressive).
Other coasters include the launched rollercoaster called Rita, the Sonic the Hedgehog-themed Sonic Spinball, and Octonauts Rollercoaster Adventure situated in Cbeebies land. These are milder coasters in comparison to the above, but still serving their purpose in a family-oriented theme park. Let’s not forget the timid (by today’s standards) Runaway Mine Train, which is now Alton Towers’ oldest rollercoaster having been built in 1992 (RIP Beastie).
A Thrilling Experience
In all, my experience at Alton Towers was mainly focused on enjoying the rollercoasters rather than swanning about the spa or living it large in Cbeebies land (seeing as I have no children anyhow). I found that there is a reason that Air, Oblivion, and Nemesis are part of the main attractions for visitors – they are simply the best rollercoasters that the park has to offer. The others mentioned were very enjoyable of course, but seemed to be lacking the novelty and thrill factor of those three. If you’re thinking of going along, you’ll see what I mean, but visiting the Alton Towers website might be a good bet to see what other facilities the resort has to offer in addition to the rollercoaster rides.