There’s a famous saying about all good things coming to an end, and there’s another saying about every dark cloud having a silver lining. Both proverbs were at the forefront of my mind today as I made my sixteenth and almost certainly last visit to Tayto Park ahead of its relaunch next year with a new identity that probably won’t involve root vegetables. While I’ll be sad to see the demise of the inimitable Mr Tayto, I’m excited for the future – not least the two major roller coasters that are already under construction.
Today’s trip was unusual by my standards, in that I was visiting with in-laws and their children. This made for a much more relaxed pace than I’m used to; over the course of eight hours in the park I managed a grand total of three coasters and two shows, and while the kids managed to clock up a few other attractions (Climbing Wall x2, Driving School x2, Pony Rail, Playground) it definitely wasn’t a ride-heavy day.
On entering the park we headed directly for the junior area in the hope of getting there before the multitudes. That decision worked out pretty well, in that we were able to get directly onto Ladybird Loop, a figure eight spinning coaster from SBF Rides. Visually the ride is well up there with the best-themed examples of the genre in existence, standing head, shoulders, and giant mushrooms above most of the competition (with the possible exception of Kuhddel Muuuhddel). The ride experience is generic and the cycle could have done with an extra lap or three, but it’s fair to say that I was the only one on board thinking such things; everyone else seemed to love it.
Some time later we made our way to Dino Dash (#3031), the first installation of a brand new family coaster design from Vekoma with a track length of 254 metres. When the ride was first announced I thought it a surprising choice for the park, given that it wasn’t going to be radically different to the existing Flight School – but I’ve since realised that a major selling point is its lower minimum height of just 95cm. Today there was a queue of almost ninety minutes, indicating rather strongly that a second family coaster was needed to meet demand. The wait was all the more remarkable given that (unlike its neighbour) the ride isn’t included with junior wristbands; one suspects this to be a deliberate decision to upsell more visitors towards all-access tickets.
The ride stands on the land formerly occupied by Dinosaurs Alive and Ice Valley, a pair of walkthroughs that were added to the park in 2015 and 2016. The decision to retire these was probably the right call; while both were interesting, they were not the sort of thing that the average visitor would want to return to on a regular basis. Models from both have been repurposed as theming for the new ride, and can be seen both within the queue and the track area. I noticed a few additional theme elements in the mix too, including dinosaur warning signs and a soundtrack that reminded me very much of the Jurassic Park movies.
Earlier this year I spoke to the ride’s designer Tonny Schonewille while researching an article for First Drop. Our conversation was centred primarily around Phoenix, but I dropped in a quick question about the layout that has since become Dino Dash and two clones that are under construction in China and Poland. He told me that Vekoma had decided that it was time to upgrade their family coaster product using their latest engineering techniques with the hope that the result could be smoother and more dynamic than what came before. I’m pleased to report that both goals have been achieved in style; Dino Dash is flawlessly smooth from start to end, and represents a worthy replacement for the older models that have been a feature of parks around the world for more than thirty years.
The layout is designed to be family friendly. There are no big drops, and in fact the descent from the lift hill has been divided in two with a banked turn in the middle, presumably to make things less scary for younger visitors. Once up to speed passengers experience a gentle airtime hill followed by a series of low turns that have a cumulative run time of around twenty seconds. This is a bit on the short side, so to solve that all dispatches are for a two-lap cycle.
The ride is a fantastic addition to the park and from an experience perspective it is faultless. That being said, I would like to see improved capacity on future installations. A twenty-seat train running two lap cycles equates to a best case throughput of around 500 passengers per hour, and a more realistic figure is well south of that. To solve for this I reckon Vekoma should look at either a sliding boarding platform or a turntable mechanism to allow one train to be loaded while the other is out on course. if Pinfari could do this on a Big Apple in the late 1970s then it really shouldn’t be that hard to accomplish on a more modern machine.
On a completely different topic, I’m pleased to report that The Lodge Restaurant is back to its former glory now that Covid restrictions have been removed in Ireland. There was a lengthy queue to get a meal even at 2:00pm, but it was worth the wait for a top quality turkey and ham dinner (Merry Christmas everyone) sold at a very fair price.
A trip to the World of Raptors show allowed us to reacquaint with Rodney the Secretarybird. The presenter today asked people to keep their hands down so as to not lose fingers, making a point of saying that human flesh was bad for the birds. We also attended The Show by Robert Fossett, a circus performance with a cast of four that was respectable if not quite to the level of the previous Fossett’s Circus performance found at the park. I rather suspect that there’s a story (and not an altogether happy one) behind the provenance of this act, given that Robert Fossett Circus Production Limited was set up last year even as the original company continues to flourish.
The last ride of the day was my thirtieth circuit on Cú Chulainn, soon to be superseded as the park’s signature attraction. Today the operators were running two trains, though it’d be remiss of me not to record they were not keeping things moving efficiently; the arriving train spent at least two minutes in the brake run on every single dispatch, which was a bit unfortunate given a thirty minute queue. Leaving that aside, however, the ride quality today was perfect, with the only slight issues being (as ever) in the not-an-inversion over the base of the lift hill.