Tayto Park is less than an hour away from our home in central Dublin, and given that, the reader may legitimately question why it took us until mid-August to make our first pilgrimage of the year to what is widely regarded as one of the finest wooden coasters in Europe. The main reason, as is perhaps predictable, has been money; there simply hasn't been enough left in the kitty after our various adventures in other places. In an ideal world we'd have budgeted for annual membership, which would allow us to visit several times over the course of the season, but at present this option is only available to families with two adults and (at least) two children. Furthermore, the price does not include ride wristbands, which must be purchased separately.
We picked up three fellow enthusiasts from Dublin Port shortly after noon and drove from there to the park. A number of road closures from the Ironman Triathlon and the GAA World Games forced us onto a somewhat scenic route through the north inner city, but traffic moved smoothly enough allowing us to arrive at the park just after lunch time. The main parking lot was completely full, but we were directed into an overflow area which in any case was just two minutes walk from the entrance.
The park has made some substantial investments for the 2016 season, including six new rides, all of which were supplied by Zamperla. The family area has been augmented by a Mini Ferris Wheel, a Rockin' Tug, and a Merry Go Round, and the area targeted at thrill seekers has gained a Power Surge, an Endeavour, and a WindstarZ, the latter two being new concepts making their European premiere. Other changes include the addition of an animatronic Ice Valley walkthrough, western town theming for the Steam Train Express, a reworked Factory Tour, and The Show by Fossetts, a thirty-five minute circus performance offered four times daily.
We began our day with two laps on Cú Chulainn, which had a wait of just ten minutes, a very respectable time for a Sunday in the middle of the summer. It was being achieved in the main by efficient two train operation with no messing around, a huge improvement over some of the better-known parks we've been to this year. The ride comfort level seemed if anything slightly better than last season, presumably because the structure has had a chance to fully break in. There was still a minor shuffle in the over-banked turn next to the station, but it was considerably less dramatic than I remembered.
Our second stop was at the Factory Tour, which looked remarkably sparse compared to previous years. The brightly coloured pictures and information boards that had adorned the walls were gone in favour of a much more restrained set of images showing Mr Tayto surrounded by pipework and barrels of flavour. The one addition was projected scenery on the floor, showing moving potatoes and crisp packets; otherwise the setup felt like a step back from what was there in previous years. On the plus side, however, the slightly rancid election song had been switched out in favour of some background sound effects, likely to the relief of regular adult visitors!
After a meal break we decided to try the Grand Carousel, and to be honest this felt a bit disappointing when compared against some of the beautiful antique models that travel the fair circuit in this country. On the positive side, the various fiberglass horses appeared to have been cast from a number of different moulds, and the colour scheme on each was quite different. There was also a row of smaller animals presumably to allow a lower minimum height. On the negative side, there was no barrel organ or indeed any sound system at all; the only vague hint of appropriate music came from speakers buried in the nearby greenery whose volume level was too low to be heard on board. The operations were also pretty slow; it should not have taken almost ten minutes to unload and reload a ride of this type.
From there we continued into The Show by Fossetts, which turned out to be quite a lot better than anticipated. The troupe had clearly taken previous feedback about their interminable performances at Winter Funderland to heart, cutting the length of individual acts by at least fifty percent while also increasing the efficiency of scene changes. The show had two segments that I'd not seen previously: a hilariously nervous Italian performing aerial somersaults from a trampoline, and a knife-thrower whose performance concluded with some impressive sticks on a moving target.
I chose to sit out both The Rotator and Power Surge, as my tolerance for spin rides is somewhat lower than I'd like, but joined the group for Endeavour, which can be thought of as a modern adaptation of the classic Enterprise with inverted seats. The ride seats forty-eight guests at a time, and though a few rows were out of commission today that nevertheless gave an impressive potential throughput of around 750 guests per hour, a pretty high figure for a flat ride. The ride sensation was smooth, forceful, and not too aggressive; once up to full speed the ride delivered good lateral forces and a little airtime over the top, and the programme length was just right.
I'd have liked to have ridden the Windstar too but our friends had to get back to the ferry and decided the coaster took precedence. As such our day finished as it had begun, with two highly enjoyable laps on Cú Chulainn.