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Reviewed: Lightwater Valley

Reviewed: Lightwater Valley

Introduction

Lightwater Valley is a family theme park based near Ripon in North Yorkshire. The park currently attracts approximately 320,000 visitors per year which is increasing year on year with a peak of 340,000 visitors in 2009 (a 12 year high) – a good indication that the park is in a strong position within the UK theme park sector. The ongoing success of the park is down to an ever increasing marketing budget and the commitment to install at least one new attraction each year.
2010 has seen the introduction of two new attractions – Raptor Attack, the extensive re-theme of Rat Ride (indoor, subterranean coaster) and Whirlwind – a travelling Top Scan.

 

Website & Pricing

Skyrider

Skyrider

The Park has a well positioned website in search rankings, coming within the top 10 results when searching for “UK Theme Parks” within Google. The website itself (www.lightwatervalley.co.uk) is a clean and well presented site with easy access menus to all areas you’d expect to find on a theme park website. The front screen advertises the park’s two new rides for 2010 Raptor Attack and Whirlwind with links for more information. There’s also fast links to food options while on park, making it easy for the family to plan ahead, in addition to special offers on ticket prices and all other information you’re likely to need in advance of your visit.
UK Park News takes a look at the Pros and Cons of the website:

Pros:
- Clean, fresh and well designed site – pleasant place to be online.
- Easy to access site – very easy to quickly find the required information.
- Clear areas for Theme Park, Shopping Village & Bird of Prey Centre.
- Access to official social networking sites from every page (Facebook, YouTube etc).
- Dynamic news feed on every page – the latest news which is actually updated regularly.
- Plenty of information & photos on all attractions. Videos of 2010 attractions.
- Dedicated kids/children’s area.

Cons:
- No interactive park map (.pdf downloadable document only)
- Kids area is still under development towards end of July.

In summary, we find the website to be a great success and it certainly competes with those sites brought to us by the large corporate parks. It’s a pleasant place to visit when on the internet with a broad range of information which is easily available and accessible.
The prices for the park are as follows (July 2010):

 

Gate Prices
Over 1.3m in height £19.45
Under 1.3m in height £16.95
Under 1.0m in height Free
Senior Citizens/ Disabled/ Only 2 carers £10.95 per person
Family ticket for 3 £49.50
Family ticket for 4 £66.00
Family ticket for 5 £82.50
Family ticket for 6 £99.00
Family ticket for 7 £115.50
Family ticket for 8 £132.00

 

Website Prices
Over 1.0m in height £15.95 per person

Food near Entrance

Food near Entrance

After a quick search online for cheap Lightwater Valley tickets, we also found additional discounts at www.lastminute.com. Finally, the park run regular Special Offers and during our visit in July The Valley were running a great offer where tickets were available for only £11.95 when presenting an E-Shot voucher which can be downloaded from the Lightwater Valley website or the Official Facebook Page.
For those people pre-booking and paying £15.95, we feel this is excellent value for money
- with extra savings made for family tickets Рa family of four turning up on the day can access the park for just £66 and enjoy over 175 acres of Yorkshire parkland and experience over 40 rides and attractions. Extra charges apply for the Bird of Prey Centre, however this is priced reasonably at £1.50 for theme park visitors and includes access to over 50 birds of prey, daily flying shows and talks, and conservation projects.
Overall the value for money achieved when visiting the park is excellent and when considering entry throughout July was just £11.95 when using the official Valley Voucher, the value is outstanding.
As you’d expect gate prices are higher for those turning up and paying on the day, however if turning up as a family or group, savings can still be made with family tickets.

 

Rides & Attractions
The park have invested in two new attractions for the 2010 season – the first offering being the re-theme of the 1987 Schwarzkopf Wildcat coaster now themed around an abandoned mineshaft infested with hungry Raptor Dinosaurs aptly named “Raptor Attack”.

Ultimate 2nd Drop

Ultimate 2nd Drop

The second is a travelling Mondial Top Scan (similar to Samurai at Thorpe Park) which has been installed on the old Hornets Nest site – this attraction is currently being leased by the park, with a view to buy at the end of the season if it becomes a success. More details on the 2010 attractions can be found in the “New for 2010″ section including.

The park is home to Europe’s Longest rollercoaster – The Ultimate, which is a fantastic accolade and a great attraction to have on any park’s CV’ it really puts the park on the map. In total the park has 5 roller coasters; 3 thrill coasters and 2 kiddie coasters:

The Ultimate – Europe’s Longest Roller Coaster at 7442ft:

The Ultimate offers quite unique roller coaster experience, while it is known for being a pretty rough coaster, it is still great fun with some excellent air time, and great views of the gorgeous North Yorkshire Parkland from the top of the two lift hills. Sitting at either the front or rear of the long trains brings two very different experiences – for us we preferred the ride at the back, as it gave some huge airtime when whipping the train over the top of the two lift hills, along with generally a faster more exciting ride, albeit even rougher.

The first section of the coaster involves some long straight sections where your ride photo is taken, along with an opportunity to spot one of the many hidden wood-whittled bears that have been strategically placed around the park. Park management told us there are around 20 of these bears hidden around the park, and guests can play a game to count them throughout the day to see if they spot them all!

The second part of the coaster takes place in the dense woodland with high banked turns, great airtime opportunities, tunnels, helixes, and if you’re lucky a fly-by view of a few rabbits along the way. This is the most exciting part of the ride, especially when at the back and particularly towards the end of the day when the trains run noticeably faster.

The Ultimate

The Ultimate

The park offers a variety of other rides and attractions which caters for all age ranges, including:
Twister – A spinning wildmouse coaster
Wild River Rapids – A travelling wet ride.
The Eagle’s Claw – KMG Afterburner
The Wave – Pirate Ship
Grand Prix Go Karts – Petrol Go Karts
The Ladybird – Fun Kiddie Coaster
Vintage Cars
Amazing Maze

There’s also the Bird of Prey Centre and Shopping village for those in the family that don’t want to experience the thrills and spills of the park!
Looking at the Rides/Attractions page on the Lightwater Valley it is easy to identify the types of rides the park has thanks to each being categorised into its own section:
Jaw Droppers – White Knuckle/Adult Rides
Whipper Snappers – For those youngsters not quite ready for the big rides
Nippers – For the little ones

Overall, the park offers an excellent variety of rides for people of all ages, but perhaps the only thing the park is missing is a coaster that has an inversion. There was once a double looping coaster at the park called Soopa Loopa which was removed in 1994. Hopefully, we can see the addition of such a coaster within the next couple of years; the park certainly has enough space & permission for development either on the old site of Soopa Loopa or on the area behind the Wild River Rapids.

 

New for 2010

Whirlwind

Whirlwind

The park has invested heavily in its attractions for 2010 bringing two new rides; a Mondial Topscan and the re-theme of Rat Ride. UK Park News takes a detailed look at both:

Whirlwind

At UK Park News, we’re huge fans flat rides and “Spin ‘n’ Spews” so when we heard that the park had a Topscan lined up for 2010, we were very excited. The ride is currently leased by the park, with a view to buy it at the end of the season, if it turns out to be a success.
Our first query about the ride was whether the park would actually run it on a decent ride program – very often parks install some excellent attractions but guests are disappointed with a short or unexciting ride program on flat rides.
We needn’t have worried though – when watching Whirlwind for the first time, it was easy to see the difference between it and its rival Samurai at Thorpe. The ride is still operated manually, that is – there is no automated ride program, which we think makes all the difference. Whirlwind offers a very intense, fast and exciting ride experience, which in our opinion is second to none when it comes to Top Scan rides. After riding a “proper” top scan experience, Whirlwind is now one of my top flat rides of all time.

Raptor Attack

When I first heard about Raptor Attack, I was confused over where the ride was to be located. This was until I realised that this attraction was a re-theme project of the original “Sewer Rat” or “Rat Ride”, which excited me instantly. I’ve always been a big fan of the smooth ride experience of Rat Ride, and the unique way that you have to clamber down the sewer to the subterranean station.

Raptor Attack Entrance

Raptor Attack Entrance

We’re not going to give the details of the ride away in this review (our trip report contains spoilers) but UK Park News were very impressed with the quality of the re-theme project and it’s attention to detail. What sets the ride apart from its 2010 competitors is the way the park have managed to continue the theme/experience of the attraction from the queue line right through to the ride exit/photo/shop area. This is something that parks often forget to do, but Raptor Attack continues to offer surprises to guests right up until you exit into the retail shop area. The animatronics in the ride itself are also very impressive, though if we were to be picky, we could say that it’d be nice to see little themeing/features in between the Raptor sections in the ride itself.

Overall the attraction is immensely enjoyable with some truly excellently themed areas – the park told us that they had to remove part of the themeing (a TV screen with a “mine worker” telling people to turn back) as youngsters thought it was real and were getting upset and scared. This is testament to the success of the whole ride experience. For us, we found that Raptor Attack offered a better experience than some 2010 attractions that cost millions of pounds – it goes to show that you don’t have to spend ¬£10m or ¬£15m to have a successful (or better) attraction. Well done LWV.

 

Food & Beverage/Retail Sales

Riviera Food Court

Riviera Food Court

Food options are always an important part of the guest experience in any park. Whilst on park, we spoke to management about the types of places to eat in addition to checking the park map and looking at the various places to eat around the park. Eventually we decided to take the healthy option and have a burger/hot dog and chips with a drink near the main entrance.

I had a quarter pounder with cheese and chips with a diet Coke and Matt Cooper (our News & Research Editor) had a hot dog. The food here was priced at around what you’d expect to pay at a theme park – my meal was ¬£5.99 and Matt’s hot dog was around ¬£3.50. The meal deal that I had was fairly good value for money, with a good sized portion of chips and a tasty burger, though the chips weren’t the best I’ve had being a little cold and limp. Matt’s hot dog was tasty but rather small for the price.

Looking around the other places to eat, we noticed the park actually offers a really good selection of food, and more surprisingly lots of different venues in which you can eat. We ate at a take-out burger counter, but perhaps we’d have been better visiting the Pub in the Wood – an idyllic wooden pub full of character – not what you normally find residing in a theme park. There’s also the conservatory over near The Ultimate, and the food court near the Vintage Cars – here you could have deep filled Jacket Potatoes or a Pizza Meal. Back over near the entrance there’s also a nice little cafe which offers more home-cooked meals, if you’ve the time to sit down and enjoy a “proper” meal.

The park also has various retail shops dotted around the park, with opportunities taken to place shops at ride exits. Whilst as a coaster/park enthusiast I find this a bit tedious going through the obligatory shop – it’s good to see a smaller park focusing on an additional revenue stream by means of offering ride photos and retail opportunities. We’ve seen other small parks that simply don’t offer any ride photos, even on their major attractions, so it was nice to see this on just about all the attractions at LWV.

Overall the food/retail areas of the park are successful – but we’d definitely like to see more customised Lightwater Valley merchandise available in the retail shops. Currently the park do have a vast amount of varied stock, but these are mainly generic items and there are only a few lines that show off the park’s name and/or logo, which is a shame.

 

Guest Experience/Staff Interaction

UKPN & Vallygators

UKPN & Vallygators

During our visit to Lightwater Valley, we spent most of the day with Sales Manager Andrew Watson who was excellent – extremely friendly and very chatty making us feel right at home fro mthe off. When introducing us to the ride ops and maintenance engineers, we could tell that these people were genuinely happy to talk to us, nothing came across as false or put-on. We did spend some time without park management present, and generally everyone was very pleasant – perhaps its due to the size of the park or the number of staff, but it certainly gives a feeling of a friendly family environment, which is seldom found in many parks.

There were no negative experiences when dealing with any of the park staff or retail outlets – everyone was very friendly and in some cases funny, which added value to guest experience by making people laugh and enjoy themselves further.

 

Family Focus

There’s no doubt that Lightwater Valley is a family orientated theme park – if you visit solely for high octane thrill then you will be disappointed. There’s plenty on offer for all age ranges, and the park doesn’t appear to have any kind of yob culture, which can be seen in a lot of parks. We didn’t witness any antisocial behaviour, shouting or queue jumping, which are things that can often ruin a great family day out.
There are plenty of facilities throughout the park including plenty of places to eat in addition to picnic areas for families on a budget. There were also lockers available at the main entrance for people in need of additional storage.
The entry fee and prices throughout the park are very good value, making a day out for a family of four a very affordable option.

 

Conclusion

Pub in The Wood

Pub in The Wood

So, what do we think of the park when taking everything into consideration? We love the Valley! Anyone visiting the park with their family is set to have a fantastic day (weather permitting) with the park offering a bundle of different attractions for everyone to enjoy at a fantastic price. Each year the park makes an effort to bring something new for guests, which is nice to see from a smaller park.

Lightwater Valley appears to be going from strength to strength despite a difficult time for the worldwide economy, and the bosses at the park continue to spend big money in ride development and marketing each year. The only thing we’d like to see is the installation of another long term big coaster to add to the park’s line up; either something with loops or something made of wood!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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