Reviewed: Skeleton Cove
After months of anticipation and waiting, opening weekend of the new pirate adventure land âSkeleton Coveâ Â at Lightwater Valley finally arrived, and UK Park News were in attendance to review the newly added area, as well as soak up the gorgeous spring sunshine!
Skeleton Cove boasts 5 new rides including a Pirate Ship, a Huss Breakdance & an Inverted Ship, in addition to the newly re-themed catering outlet âHungry Harbourâ. The area is themed throughout; Lightwater Valley have done a fantastic job here â with rocks, boulders, ship wrecks & pirate-style buildings; guests are left feeling worlds apart from the rest of the park.
Skeleton Cove even has its own soundtrack, with bespoke audio for each attraction, which were all produced in-house by the parkâs newly appointed Marketing Assistant Simon Edward. Simon has done a superb job here, and you’d be no fool to think that the Cove’s audio was created by an external specialist media production company! Listen out for him when youâre next on-park, or listen to our exclusive bespoke excerpt here:
Rides & Attractions
The Black Pearl
“Avast! Fasten ye harness and hold on t’ye cockles – we be settin’ sale upon The Black Pearl. The sea’s be rough and ye be lucky to return with your snivvleingÂ carcassÂ in one piece.”
The Black Pearl is a Weber Traumboot attraction which was purchased from the now closed Loudon Castle theme park in Scotland, as were all of the rides in Skeleton Cove. Guests are seated in rows of five in a similar fashion to a standard pirate ship, and are secured by a snug lap-bar restraint.
On the first swing, the ship manages to almost make a full inversion â which, if youâre not expecting it can be quite a surprise. One of the unique things about this attraction is the fun & humour of watching guests sat opposite you as the ship makes its first full inversion. The Black Pearl always carries a mix of people and you’re never far away from someone looking scared half to death as they’re suspended upside down momentarily.
UK Park News decided to head to the vessel for the first ride of the day – there were no queues so we stepped aboard and headed towards the back of the ship. Sitting on the outer seats gives for a more intense ride experience. We enjoyed our journey on the Black Pearl and think it is a great addition to the park, and without a doubt it offers a fantastic ride experience. Our only criticisms with the ride are that the ride program only offers two full rotations/inversions; one in either direction â meaning the ride cycle felt a little short. Secondly the back-drop themeing on the ride (the same as when it was at Loudon) whilst pirate-esque, doesn’t quite match the high standard of the themeing elsewhere in the Cove, and therefore looks somewhat out of place.
Passengers must be over 1.4m (1.3m accompanied by an adult).
‘Y’arrr it be wise when ye step aboard them Powder Kegs to not be messin’ around, if ye choose not to be careful, ye be going off with a bang and spinnin’ outta control, yeÂ mangyÂ scoundrel!’
For some of the UKPN team, the Huss Breakdance is one of our favourite flat rides. Itâd been a few years since our last spin, so we were particularly looking forward to the Powder Keg experience!
The ride is situated in front of The Black Pearl, on its own permanent concrete pad-stone, with well themed queue-line and perimeter fences. The ride entrance also has some excellent themeing with pirate outbuildings and marineÂ artifacts. Guests are seated two at a time in one of the four gondolas per arm â the ride having 3 arms in total. As the main ride begins to spin, the gondola platform spins in the opposite direction, similar to the motion of a teacup ride. The Gondolas however, are mounted on a free hinge at a slight angle, so as the ride picks up pace, each gondola begins to spin, twist & turn randomly, generating some impressive G-forces.
Passengers must be over 1.4m (1.3m accompanied by an adult)
The Flying Cutlass
“She be a fine vessel The Flying Cutlass y’arrr, an’ she be swingin’ ye to and fro on a high sea adventure â ye be sure to hold on to ye pirate hats, peg legs and an’ eye patches! Ye been warned!”
Just what every pirate adventure land needs â a traditional swinging Pirate Ship which most of the family will be able to enjoy! When Lightwatever Valley announced last year that they were selling âThe Waveâ (the Valleyâs previous pirate ship) we were a little bemused.
However, it soon transpired that the park had purchased a new swinging ship from Loudon Castle, since this was more cost effective than attempting to relocate their existing, aging pirate ship.
The ride is situated at theÂ oppositeÂ side of Skeleton Cove and is the furthest ride away from The Black Pearl. TheÂ FlyingÂ CutlassÂ is again nicely themed with real rope queue lines and lanterns.
Passengers must be over 1.3m (1.1m when accompanied by an adult).
“Strap yeself in, it be a bumpy ride ahead on Skull Rock. Land lubbers not be welcome ‘ere, so scram ye stinkin’ scallywags!”
Skull Rock, aptly named thanks to the huge skull-shaped rock which resides in the middle of the attraction is aÂ Zamperla regatta ride. Passengers travel in pairs and are seated in a small boat and are secured by a lap bar, each boat is attached to an arm which is connected to a hub that rotates. The ride begins to rotate and the boats travel around in a circle, running on a track with hills and troughs, creating a feeling of riding waves in the sea.
Skull Rock is ideal for the younger members of the family as it offers a fairly gentle ride experience, although if the ride was run a faster speed setting, which these types of rides usually are, it’d offer a more thrilling experience by providing guests will a little airtime or “bounce”.
Passengers must be over 1.1m unless accompanied by an adult.
“Them pirate sprogs ‘ave to be startin’ somewhere, let it be Pirate Swinger, Savvy!”
It’s nice to see that Lightwater Valley have catered for the little pirates amongst us. Pirate Swinger is a junior chair swing ride, quite gentle in its nature but lots of fun for the youngsters. There’s even a pirate at the helm of this attraction, sporting his eye patch and hooked hand.
Passengers must be between 0.9m and 1.4m in height.
In the past Lightwater Valley Theme Park have been critcised for lack of themeing throughout the park, with rides added without any particular themeing approach. This began to change last year in 2010 when the park debuted “Raptor Attack” – a retheme of the long standing indoor coaster “Rat Ride”. The park invested heavily in the attraction to create an accompanying story, in addition to adding themeing elements throughout.
The bar had now been set for the park, and the challenge was on to maintain this standard on future developments. Skeleton Cove is a fantastic themeing achievement; as you enter the area you are greeted with a myriad of themeing elements. You can walk through a skull rock arch, saunter by a pirate village & outbuildings, sit alongside a full size shipwreck and more – we even spottedÂ bullionÂ set into the rocks around the park!
All the area/perimeterÂ fences are constructed with either new orÂ reclaimedÂ timber and shipping rope, along with lanterns in queue lines. If you’re in Skeleton Cove be sure to look out for finishing touches such as the parrot sat on top of one of the buildings!
There is however, a side effect to all this hard work and top quality themeing. As the park introduces more themed attractions such as Raptor Attack and Skeleton Cove, it becomes easier to see the shortfalls in the other areas of the park. When we spoke with Ashley Young, he told us that going forward, the approach will be to tackle each area of the park one at a time to bring it in line with the quality of Skeleton Cove & Raptor Attack.
If you want something to eatÂ in betweenÂ sailing the high seas upon The Black Pearl, then Hungry Harbour is the place you need to moor your vessel! The establishment has been rethemed & renamed, previously known as “The Riviera”. There’s actually been a lot of work completed here as you can see in the before and after images below. The work includes:
- Cladding the outside of the building with wood, decking and new signage.
- Refurbished floor.
- Painted artwork on the interior walls.
- Themeing added inside.
- New tables and chairs.
The transformation is quite stark – and it is a vastly improved dining experience than before. There are a couple of niggles here however – the first being the ceiling. No themeing attempt has been made with the rather
bland appearance when you look up. It’d be nice to see something to breakup theÂ monotony of the tent ceiling; either with some cargo/fishing nets, or even with some white fabric to mimic the look of a ship’s sales. Paul Walker, the operations manager did tell us however that there is some work still outstanding for Skeleton Cove, so who knows – further improvements may yet be made.
The food outlets themeselves inside Hungry Harbour remain the same, and as yet the park do not serve Fish & Chips here, which surely should be the dish of the day in Skeleton Cove?
Here’s Hungry Harbour in 2010 when it was known as “The Riviera” – we think you’ll agree Hungry Harbour is a much nicer place to dine:
We can safely say we’re very impressed with Skeleton Cove, and it is sure to be a huge success with families over the 2011 season and beyond. Guests entering the area will feel as though they’ve been transported to a far away pirate adventure land, and can brave a variety of exciting new rides. The clever use of themeing and brilliant audio throughout the Cove make for an authentic experience.
The only areas we feel need improving on are Hungry Harbour’s ceiling and The Black Pearl’s backdrop, though it may well be that the park have plans to improve these areas as the season progresses, we’ll have to wait and see. It’d also be nice to see some pirate characters roaming the Cove – we feel this would add to the overall guest experience, and is relatively inexpensive to organise on busier days. However, the park did play host to one of the best magicians we’ve ever seen – Paul Roberts.Â Watch as he turns Lightwater Valley park maps into cash for UK Park News, right before your eyes!
The area is a brilliant move in the right direction for the park – appealing to a mix of family and thrill seekers, whilst adding to the park’s growing flat ride lineup, which is becoming ever more impressive. Who knows, we may even see this installation of a new signature coaster at some point in the future (hopefully)!
If you’re looking for a fabulous day out for you and your family, be sure to visit
Lightwater Valley this year – Skeleton Cove is an experience thatÂ mustn’tÂ be missed and remember, Lightwater Valley is also home to Europe’s Longest Roller coaster The Ultimate – over 1.5 miles in length! UK Park News also recently highlighted in our recent pricing study, that Lightwater Valley was proven to be the best value park in the UK. Â