16th October 2021
This park was known as Tayto Park at the time this trip report was written.
Tayto Park has spent much of this year advising guests to pre-book their visits online. Quite a few days were completely sold out during the peak summer months, and while mid-October was never going to be as busy I decided in the interests of safety to make a reservation ahead of time. I had a gift voucher left over from the previous Christmas, and while it wasn’t enough for two full-price tickets that presented no problem; I was told that I could pay the difference on arrival.
As ever the day began with Cú Chulainn, where we selected the second row from the back. The park’s signature attraction is nominally seven seasons old, or more realistically six and a half given very limited operations during 2020, and given that it was a very pleasant surprise to find the Gravitykraft machine running in as-new condition; there was no perceptible degradation at all. I didn’t see any obvious signs of fresh track either; if anything was done for this year it was done remarkably carefully with suitably faded wood. As ever the only slightly dodgy moment in the layout was the usual bounce in the not-an-inversion, which I’m guessing will remain in situ until the inevitable Rocky Mountain conversion in a decade or two.
One curiosity of the operation this year was the requirement to remove face masks when riding. This policy makes a certain amount of sense from a purely technical perspective, in that a loose face mask falling onto track could potentially cause the train to valley. It’s worth contrasting it however against policies seen elsewhere; masks were required on most coasters during my trip to Denmark in 2020, and they were also mandatory on indoor rides at Universal Studios Florida a few short weeks ago. I know a few people who would categorically refuse to remove their masks – though it’s fair to say that none of those are likely to be somewhere with lots of people for a while yet. (As a fun aside, health authorities the world over recommend that you remain partially masked when living secretly in an opera house.)
Our second stop was at Viking Voyage, my first opportunity to ride the park’s flume since opening day back in 2017. Today the ride was missing its atmospheric soundtrack on the lift hills, though I’ve since learned that this was a technical issue with the power amplifiers that has since been resolved. It was good to finally see the finished product; the plastic sheeting mentioned in my old report was gone in favour of sculpted stonework that looked absolutely great. The ride quality was excellent, too; the curved drop worked well, the backward drop worked well, and so on – all in, the experience was top notch. The only warning I’d throw out for the unwary is that this flume is much wetter than similar rides elsewhere; we were very glad that we’d invested in ponchos.
If there was one slight negative today it was the food service. The Lodge restaurant has been reduced to a takeaway in order to comply with Covid regulations, and I’m sorry to say that the selection has similarly gone downhill – instead of the traditional carvery I’d hoped for the selections were limited to things like fish and chips. The quality was fine, but it was a definite step back from the norm. I’m assuming this to have been a temporary aberration that will end when the world goes back to normal. I know from previous conversations that the park takes pride in its food offerings, and I am conscious that serving steak with gravy in a takeaway box is not entirely straightforward.
After eating we enjoyed a very pleasant two lap cycle on Flight School. Tayto’s current family coaster is not extreme in any way; rather, it’s thirty seconds of pure fun. Today I noticed that some of the plants inside the ride envelope have been sculpted to look like aircraft, showing an attention to detail that is really great to see. Any park can take a family coaster and place it on bare concrete, but it takes effort to make a ride look good – and Tayto has done that in fine fashion.
A construction site was visible from the top of the lift hill, and closer inspection at ground level determined it to be for Dino Dash, the premiere of a completely new family coaster design from Vekoma. The new ride’s headline statistics are more or less identical to the existing Flight School, though the design on paper at least looks to be somewhat more aggressive – making it a good next step for those building up to Cú Chulainn. Though I’ve got no inside knowledge here it seems likely that at least some of the park’s existing animatronic dinosaurs will be repurposed as theming; time will tell. Vertical construction had yet to begin today, but we did spot a pile of track visible in the distance from the bison viewing point.
After an excellent front seat ride on Cú Chulainn we made our way into the Raptor show, added to the park for the 2017 season. This was surprisingly good, and well worth the time. The performance opens with Ireland’s only secretarybird strutting around the arena before ritually stomping on a fake rubber snake. This is followed by a series of other avians flying around; an owl, a vulture, and a number of storks. This would ordinarily not be my thing, but the presenter did a masterful job in making the show interesting. (Readers anxious to avoid aerial bombardement should sit towards the front rather than the back of the arena; you have been warned.)
We took a quick lap on the Steam Train Express before heading to the exit.