For some reason, the UK is scared of getting wood. Why exactly? We don’t know, however we do suspect it has something to do with the fact that for most people their only point of reference to allow them to form an opinion are the old rickety things at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Whilst they may seem like great rides to enthusiasts, the general public do seem to assosiate the Blackpool woodies with pain or danger. For this reason it seems that UK parks see wooden coasters as a risky investment – but this could be about to change.
Europe already houses a selection of the world’s finest woodies – ranging from Troy at Toverland to Balder at Liseberg. Whilst it is easier than you might think to fly out to these parks, it’s a timely and often costly exercise. So when Tayto Park in Ireland announced that they were building a huge wooden coaster for the 2015 season we got very excited.
The ride, named the Cú Chulainn Coaster, has been manufactured by the Gravity Group, the company behind the famous “Voyage” ride at Holiday World and features the new Timberliner trains (which, unlike standard wooden coaster cars, have wheel assemblies that can steer and provide a smoother ride). Over 800,000kg of yellow pine was used in the construction, 100 tonnes of steel and over 700,000 bolts – producing a ride with a 32 meter drop and a track length of 1082 metres. All very impressive statistics, but what we really wanted to know is how does it ride?!
Luckily we didn’t have to wait long to find out. Being members of the European Coaster Club, we received an invitation to visit the park on Thursday 4th June 2015 for the Media Launch of the ride, ahead of it’s offical opening on Friday 5th. A quick visit online and we’d booked our flights, £10 each way with Ryanair – it really is that simple. After what seemed like the shortest flight in the history of the world and a 15 minute drive in a hire car we arrived at the park and were faced with an incredible view of the new coaster.
To be totally honest, we were a bit skeptical that the ride would be any good. In photos it does appear as though it’s a fairly plain layout without much emphasis on airtime or twists. What we didn’t expect was to be proven so wrong. The Cú Chulainn Coaster is awesome.
Right from the moment we entered the queueline there was something magical about it, perhaps hightened by the fact that the wood was so new that anything you touched caused a storm of sawdust to appear. Everything looked so fresh and new, even down to the shiny red trains. Speaking of the trains, they’re strange little things! They almost look like they’re made out of Meccano, and at first feel as though the lapbars are going to pin you in too much and ruin the airtime. Again, we were proven wrong on this!
So, after taking your seat in the 24-seater train and being locked in with a lapbar that swings down from the side of the car, the train begins to climb the lift hill. The first drop is amazing, very steep and smooth without that jarring feeling a lot of woodies have at the bottom of a drop as the train’s wheels slam back down onto the track. The drop leads into a tunnel with a hidden airtime hill, which at the speed you’re going gives substansial ejector airtime and sets the tone for the rest of the ride. In pictures it may look like the track is just a giant figure 8 but you’d be wrong to assume that. This coaster has so many unique and exciting moments packed into it, and lots of airtime.
The inversion? What Inversion? There was a lot of talk about the Cú Chulainn Coaster having an inversion, with some sources even claiming the whole ride was “inverted”. Unfortunately this was just a bit of a marketting tool, the ride doesn’t actually feature any inversions but does have an overbanked turn. To be honest, this turn was probably the only disappointing part of the ride, as it was a little rough and “shunty”. Don’t get me wrong we enjoy a good shunt but it did disturb the McDonald’s breakfasts that were still digesting in our bellies. We were led to believe that this roughness was being worked on and that the overbanked turn shunt should hopefully be a thing of the past soon – there was actually work being carried out on it after our preview session ended.
The ride was due to open the next day, Friday 5th June, but in the end didn’t actually open until Saturday 6th – why exactly we don’t know, but it is assumed that it was to allow for finishing touches to be made to the ride.
Tayto Park’s new coaster is very very good. It’s smooth, it’s fast, it has lots of sudden changes of direction, airtime and it feels like a really long ride. Is it the best woodie we’ve ridden? No, but it comes close. Is it the best woodie within easy reach of the UK? Definitely. Fingers crossed that the ride is well received and that it nudges UK parks into considering wood themselves. Interestingly we did see management from Drayton Manor at the media day talking to the Gravity Group – take that as you will – but it’s promising.
The rest of the park is great! It’s small and attractions are currently quite limited, but it is clear the park is heading in the right direction. As well as the coaster, Tayto Park also opened eight other attractions this year including a Zamperla Air Race and “The Rotator” – a 360 looping swing ride. We strongly recommend that you visit and see the park for yourself. Really, it’s easier than you think to do in a day or as part of a weekend trip. We’ve plenty more to say but don’t want to ramble on too much, please do leave a comment with any questions.