Alton Towers Revisited

Just in case anyone has been wondering where I have been over the last couiple of days, we spent the weekend at the Alton Towers theme park in Staffiordshire.

Moody cable cars at Alton Towers

Given that Alton Towers is over a 100 miles from London we set out shortly after bedtime (OK about 6am) so that we could make the best use of the time we had. After picking up our friends and a fumble in the glove compartment for a CD we hit the motorways to the strains of Roy Orbison, T.Rex and some calming Motorhead. About midway there the mist came down and the road started looking a bit like that sequence in The Monster Club where the hero drives into a village of the living dead.

Here there be zombies?

Then as the road ahead cleared we got stuck behind a bike club run that seemed to go on for miles.

Monster Bike run somewhere in the midlands

After the bikers peeled off the M1 we made good time to the slightly steampunky Alton Towers Hotel. Despite the rapid check in we had to go to the Splash Landings hotel to collect our park passes  which struck me as a bit pointless considering that this time we had booked the whole bundle as a package. Having said that the service at the Alton Towers Hotel is nothing short of brilliant, the staff all seem genuinely eager to please and don’t exude that phony customer care attitude that you get in so many corporate hotels.

Since we visited the theme park only last year, nothing much had changed, our youngest companion had a great time being whirled around, dangled upside down and hurtling around roller coasters with her dad. Mab and I stuck to enjoying the grounds,

Alton Towers stately home

which seem to be home to some of the most obese grey squirrels I have ever seen along with some very confident ducks.

Pretty little duck

jackdaws and chaffinches, who clearly know that there certainly is such a thing as a free lunch so long as you hang out at a theme park fast food outlet.

Chaffinch

As far as the food outlets go there is quite a good choice at Alton Towers. We had lunch at the Pizza and Past Buffet where you can eat as much freshly prepared pizza as you can for a tenner. It’s surprisingly good. There are also a number of bars scattered around where you can have a pint (£3.80), which is a nice change from the Magic Kingdom where we were told by a waiter that he mouse doesn’t drink, not that I was going to buy one for their pretend mouse in the first place!

Anyhow after a few rides on the cable car and a wander about we returned to the hotel for a rather good meal in the Hidden Garden, which considering we all had starters and two of us had steak  was pretty good value at £95 for four, including a bottle of Californian Pinot.

The following morning Mab and I eschewed the regular monorail to the park and took the nature walk from behind the hotel into the park.

The Alton Towers Nature trail

It’s about kilometre through the woodland to the park and quite magical in the early morning autumn mist. Since our young companion and her father were happy being terrorized on the rides we took the opportunity to explore some more of the grounds and descended into the valley beneath the cable car where some of the original features of the stately home’s ornamental gardens can be found including this rather fabulous pagoda.

garden folly

Returning to the park we had about an hour to spare before venturing off, so after a quick drink in the pirate themed bar it was off to the Sharkbait Reef Sealife Center to have a look at the fish. Like a lot of people I’m fascinated by sharks and Sharkbait reef has not only a shark tunnel, but also an open pool full of small sharks and rays.

Thornback Ray

Curious thing is that as we lean over to look at the fish some of the sharks and rays have taken sticking their heads out of the water to look back ay us. One of the sharks, a smoothound, can even do that thing that dolphins do when they rear up out of the water and judder backwards. I’d love to see a really big shark do that, but maybe not quite so up front and personal!

Our weekend break cost £290, including two-day passes for four and an excellent breakfast buffet. As before we did the Australian thing and all crammed in one room.

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