Bolliger & Mabillard, Intamin, Arrow Dynamics, Gerstlauer. If you know these names, then chances are you’re already a fan of rollercoasters. From the mid-eighteenth century wooden carts to the high-tech, high-g experiences you’ll find at major theme parks, we’ve always had a special fondness for the roller coaster.
But whether you’re a budding thrill-seeker looking to try a new thrill after lockdown or an experienced coasterhead aiming to experience them all, we’re going to take you through the best rollercoasters in the south west.
Where: Thorpe Park Duration: 1:15 Maximum speed: 59mph G-force: 4.5
Great for: seasoned thrill-seekers
The UK’s only Wing Coaster, The Swarm opened in 2012 at Thorpe Park in Staines-upon-Thames. With a maximum speed of nearly 60mph it’s a thrill ride widely considered to be one of the best in the UK. Alien-themed trains (the eponymous “swarm”) glide into the abandoned church that serves as the station menacingly, leaving underneath the overturned police incident trailer that serves as the control room for the ride.
Five inversions as well as a zero-g roll mean that there’s plenty packed into this 75-second thrill ride, including the world’s first “wingover” on a wing coaster, leaving you dangling upside down before diving toward the ground. Gliding through an apocalyptic landscape, you’ll soar over, under and through billboards, crashed aircraft and more – and you’ll definitely want to go back again.
Where: Thorpe Park Duration: 1:00 Maximum speed: 80mph G-force: 4.8
Great for: speed-lovers
The fastest roller coaster in the UK, and the second tallest after the Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Stealth stands as one of the best coasters in the UK. Securely restrained, you’ll brave the anticipation of the launch procedure as the brake fins retract and the red lights illuminate. Then, with just a few seconds warning, you’ll face forces nearly five times that of gravity as you accelerate to 80mph in just 1.9 seconds.
Barrelling more than 60 metres into the air, enjoy the world slowing down for just a moment as you crest the “top hat” and plummet back to earth. A brief airtime hill gives you a moment of weightlessness before you slow down for the station – and terra firma. This is a perfect ride for seasoned thrill-seekers – especially those who don’t mind heights!
Where: Chessington World of Adventure Duration: 2:30 Maximum speed: 45mph G-force: 4
Great for: fans of classic coasters
The only coaster of its kind operating outside of North America, Vampire holds a somewhat legendary status amongst roller coaster followers. Opening in 1990, it was designed by John Wardley – who went on to design Nemesis, Saw: The Ride, Colossus and The Smiler, all cult names on the UK roller coaster circuit.
That said, it’s much more of a family coaster – great for teens riding their first “proper” roller coaster. With no inversions and lacking the intensity of rides like Stealth and The Swarm, it’s an altogether gentler affair – but not without its thrills. Riders soar over guests walking past The Gruffalo River Ride, and flying between the treetops – which feel closer and tighter to the ride than any other in the UK – mean it’s still exciting, and well worth a return visit.
Where: Thorpe Park Duration: 1:45 Maximum speed: 45mph G-force: 4.2
Great for: lovers of living life upside down
Colossus was Thorpe Park’s first major attraction and is going strong nearly 20 years after first opening. When opened, it held the world record as the first roller coast with 10 inversions; this was only broken 11 years later when The Smiler opened at Alton Towers in 2013.
The ride turns you upside down in a variety of ways – from high-speed vertical loops to a series of heartline rolls just feet above the ground, a rare experience that leaves riders wanting more. It’s a great mix of high-speed thrills and unique elements that accounts for the ride’s continuing popularity, and why visitors come back again and again.
Where: Chessington World of Adventures Duration: 2:00 Maximum speed: 45mph G-force: 3.7
Great for: riders who don’t get dizzy easily
Dragon’s Fury stands as one of Chessington’s most popular rides. Unlike almost every other ride in the country, Dragon’s Fury spins as it goes – riders joining three others, facing in two different directions. This means that every ride is different, as you’ll never face the same way through the ride each time you experience it!
Remarkably fast, the coaster is full of surprises to keep riders entertained, but the lower g-forces and lack of inversions make it a great option for kids and grandparents who’re looking for that balance between the fun and the family-friendly.
Where: Paultons Park Duration: 1:45 Maximum speed: 30mph G-force: 3
Great for: pre-teens who want to explore roller coasters
Paultons Park holds a rather privileged position, being able to supply most children who visit their first experience of a “proper” amusement park – complete with roller coasters. Cobra is one such roller coaster – built by Gerstlauer, creator of the legendary Wild Mouse rides.
The low height restriction means that even younger riders can enjoy it, and the quiet, smooth ride means that after the initial rattle of the chain lift, all you’ll be able to hear is your own screams as you bounce over the bunny hops and hurtle through the cobra’s lair.
Where: Blackgang Chine Duration: 2:30 Maximum speed: 35mph G-force: 2.3
Great for: family coaster fans
Another great family coaster, this one comes with some seriously spectacular views. Set only a little way back from the edges of the cliff, on a clear day you have incredible views of the beach at Ventnor and far out to sea.
Being a relatively compact coaster, you’ll swoop in and out of the track, completing two loops before coming the ride ends, plunging from nearly 40 feet above the ground (and 400 feet above the sea) back to earth.
With the number of theme parks available on the network, there’s plenty of opportunity to discover your thrill-seeking side after lockdown lifts. Planning your first trip post-lockdown is easy – we’ll tell you how to save money on your tickets, and about the huge selection of railcards and savings that you can make when you book in advance. Plus, we’re keeping our trains cleaner than ever – check out our coronavirus travel hub for the latest information.