Reviewed by Emma Wasson
When we arrived at Lightwater Valley in Ripon, North Yorkshire my tickets were waiting for me at the reception desk, where I was given a warm welcome to the park. It was in the office that my husband noticed the Guinness Book of Records certificate displayed on the wall and the staff explained that Lightwater Valley hold it for the longest rollercoaster in Europe at 1.5 miles long, which of course intrigued my husband and meant that we definitely had to go on this ride during our time at the park.
Being a theme park there are a huge number of staff required to man the whole operation, and each member of staff that we had any dealings with during our day at Lightwater Valley were not only polite and friendly but many went that extra mile to help make our day special.
All members of staff were extremely safety conscious and double checked each car or seat before every ride took off and ensured that our children were strapped in correctly.
The only small issue we had during our day was after my husband and I had rode on The Ultimate rollercoaster and had forgotten to look at our pictures. When I returned half an hour later the lady, (I think she was called Kira), refused to look back through the computer for the photo. However after both our children had ridden on the Raptor ride with my husband and we had purchased both photos, the guy behind the counter, who was very helpful explained how easy it was to look for past photos and persuaded us to return to The Ultimate and ask to view the photo again. We did and it was a different member of staff, who was only too willing to look through the past photos, and she found our photo easily and we were then able to buy this one as well. I really liked the deal where you bought one photo at £5 and then subsequent photos on all of the photo rides across the park for £3.
The park itself is spotlessly clean, there is no rubbish or litter lying around with plenty of rubbish bins throughout the park, and we continually saw members of staff changing these bins throughout the day. We used various toilets as we walked around the park, some of which had obviously been there for many years and were looking a bit tired, however all of these were in a clean and tidy state.
Lightwater Valley is a large park, and there are rides and areas of the park that have clearly been around for some time and are in need of some TLC, however there are many new parts of the park, which have seen recent investment, such as Angry Birds Activity Park and these areas have been cleverly thought out, and are modern and up to date.
The park itself although spread out, is walkable, and all the rides are easily accessed. However you can take the train, as we did around to the other side of the park, and this goes round in a large loop taking you back to the entrance of the park, and is also an enjoyable ride in itself.
We were very lucky with the weather, as although it rained slightly at the beginning of the day, it then remained dry with sunny intervals, which obviously makes a huge difference to the overall experience with the majority of the rides being outdoors. It did remain cold though, as even though we weren’t brave enough to try out the water rides, there were plenty of people who did and were soaked through, but they didn’t seem to mind one bit.
We have 2 children, aged 8 and 6 and who were very excited about spending the day at Lightwater Valley. We have visited the park once before during February half term. However in February, only a small proportion of the park was open, mainly the smaller rides closest to the entrance so we did not know what to expect from the rest of the park. However my daughter is just becoming a little bit braver and tried out the Skyrider, (high swings) in February and had been talking about this ride for days before arriving at the park and therefore being closest to the entrance it was the first ride she went on with my husband. She loved it every bit as much as last time and was desperate to try out some different rides. My son, feeling a little less brave headed for the indoors Angry Birds Space, which he absolutely loves. This is an enclosed barn which houses a large climbing frame which wraps around the edges of the building. They also have 2 large TV screens with Angry Birds’ computer games, which my son headed straight for. You can also grab a coffee or snack here too, however the lighting is very dark inside, which adds to the atmosphere for the children, however it put me off spending a long time in there. This area is linked to 3 rides aimed at the younger children, which are also undercover. My son went on a couple of these and enjoyed all of them. Luckily the park was not too busy and he did not have to queue for anything. I really like the fact that there is a small proportion of the park which is undercover as there is somewhere for the children to go in the rain and it also shelters the youngest riders from the sun as well.
We then took the train to explore the rest of the park which we had not seen before. We were the only people on the train and the train driver asked if we had a camera, which we did and he took our family photo on board the train. This was a lovely touch and we chatted to him for a few minutes whilst we boarded the train and rode round to The Ultimate rollercoaster, where we alighted. The train driver showed us where we could picnic and wished us an enjoyable day.
As we were next to the longest rollercoaster I knew I would have to give it a go, however since becoming a mum I am certainly less brave than I used to be, but to ensure I didn’t change my mind whilst in the queue we used our fast passes and were sat on the rollercoaster heading up to the first big dip before I knew it. It was certainly an experience where your tummy left your body at several points during the ride. I opted to close my eyes as we came down the huge inclines as I certainly wasn’t brave enough, my husband on the other hand kept his eyes firmly open and enjoyed every minute of it!!
We then had our picnic, which we’d brought with us, and there are plenty of places to enjoy your picnic around the park, with plenty of tables and grassed areas and of course the lake to sit and relax. There are also many eateries located at different points around the park, should you wish to buy your food on the day.
After lunch my son decided it was his turn to be brave and tried out the Raptor ride, which is essentially a rollercoaster in the dark. He’s just turned 6 and is not a massive fan of the scarier rides. He made it round, and even though he was terrified, he was very proud of himself that he’d been on a grown up ride. This then prompted my daughter into wanting a go, and I think she was just as frightened, however we are now the proud owners of both pictures of scared looking children on their first proper rollercoaster ride.
We then tried out the skate karts, a customised skate board you essentially sit on and steer using your own body movement around a short course, this was a lot of fun but quite scary as you pick up speed quite fast. This was a popular ride, and the limit of 3 go’s per person was enforced as there was a constant queue of people wanting to give it a go.
We then went on the Ladybird rollercoaster, aimed at children 5-9, and after completing 4 laps in one go, as there was no queue, my son was a bit scared and I was very travel sick so we left my daughter and husband to have another couple of go’s themselves, whilst my son went on the dragon boats. This is aimed at the under 5’s and is a very gentle ride that just goes round in a circle.
We then tried out Skull Rock, Pirate Swinger and the Wave Rider a mini pirate ship, and the kids loved them all. However my daughter was wanting a bit more adventure and tried out the powder kegs with my husband, which she enjoyed so much they stayed on 3 times as there wasn’t a queue. We then opted for the Buffalo Express a short train ride round a small track, which the kids loved. They then spied the flying camels and had a couple of go’s on these, you are able to make your camel rise into the air as you go round the ride, and my daughter was the first to get her camel high into the air.
My husband then tried out Black Widows web, where you sit in a pod on your own, with all pods attached to a central wheel. This then sets off at a fast pace and spins you round until you are completely tilted vertically and then it lowers the pods again. You are not strapped in during this ride, it’s just the sheer force of speed that keeps you in your cage. My daughter, with her new found courage then went on the ride with my husband and absolutely loved it.
We then took a pleasant ride in a Swan pedalo around the lake next to the real swans, followed by a relaxing couple of turns on the Lightwater Wheel, where you get an excellent view of the whole park and surrounding countryside from the top of the wheel.
The kids had been pestering to go to the Angry Birds Activity Park all afternoon, which we then headed towards and after another couple of turns on the smaller rides and the Carousel, we let them have their wish. It wasn’t too busy and the kids could run around going from one climbing frame or slide to another and had a fantastic time. This newer park of the park is brilliant and our kids absolutely love it.
We then just had enough time to head into the Falconry centre to have a quick look at the birds of prey and the snakes. The lady was just feeding the birds of prey their chicks and explained to us why they have to eat the whole chick and not just a piece of meat. We had also seen a programme about junior vets on CBBC where they were attempting to catch the rheas, so we also went to have a look at these. Then on our way home my daughter begged to have another go on The Skyrider which she remained on until they closed the ride at 5pm.
The only downside is that to exit the park you have to walk past the Angry Birds shop and other market stalls selling Lightwater valley merchandise and sweets, and we were then pestered by our son to buy him an Angry Bird’s soft toy. However I do understand why these are shops are positioned where they are.
Once you exit the park, it is a really short walk back to the car park, where we ended up buying some candy floss and then headed off home and within 5 minutes of leaving the park both of my children and my husband were all asleep, proof of a thoroughly enjoyable day out.
If you pay on the door for a day, a family ticket for 4 will cost you £96.00 (booked online would cost £78.40), which is obviously a very expensive day out, considering you will probably spend more once you are in the park. Whether this is on food, games, merchandise, as there are plenty of shops throughout the park selling soft toys and presents for you to buy. However it doesn’t have to be this expensive as you can save money by pre-ordering your tickets on the internet in advance, and taking a pack up and snacks. We were kept busy for the entire day and the children loved it and can’t wait to go again, so even though not a cheap day out it is certainly worthwhile and if it’s a nice day I would definitely recommend it to other families. My children slept really well after being entertained outdoors all day, which is always a bonus.
We arrived at the park around 11am with 2 very excited children (6 and 8) and came away at 5pm with 2 very content tired children, we were kept busy and occupied all day. There is so much to do for children of our age, it’s impossible to fit it all in one day. It was perfect as it wasn’t too busy and we felt we didn’t have to rush round, and our children were able to have multiple goes on many of the rides. I would have loved to have tried the water rides, and look forward to doing this when we go back on a warmer day.
Not only did we have an extremely good day out, my daughter also developed a little more confidence and was so proud of herself that she had tried out the scarier rides and couldn’t wait to tell her friends back at school on Monday all the rides that she’d been on. It’s great that there is such a good mix of rides in close proximity to each other, as it kept both children and my husband happy all day, it’s perfect.
All of the staff should be commended, especially as it was quite a cold day, everyone was pleasant, friendly and chatty which makes a huge difference to your overall experience.
Tickets: £23 (over 1m in height), £28 (over 1.3m in height). Book online and get tickets for £19.60.
For more information or to book tickets visit www.lightwatervalley.co.uk.
Lightwater Valley Theme Park, North Stainley, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 3HT