Top 5 UK Flat Rides
Photo by THORPE PARK Official
Theme parks across the world are most famous for rollercoasters- but they can’t carry a line-up by themselves.
Flat rides, or ‘flats’, have been around since the early 17th century and became a staple of fairgrounds, amusement parks and later theme parks across the globe. Today, we’ll try and count down our top 5 flats in the UK. We’re only counting currently operating rides, so no Rameses Revenge or Slammer- and no Black Buccaneer, as it’s technically being replaced by a new ship (sorry Chessington). We’ll be ranking these based on the criteria we used in our Nemesis Inferno Ride Review yesterday, which were:
– Queue and facade
– Physical ride experience
– Theming (including audio and atmosphere)
– Operations (reliability, capacity and throughput)
– Suitability (sense of belonging in the area and park as a whole)
In this series, we won’t be breaking each ride down category by category or giving them marks out of ten. It’s all about five to one!
On a final note before we get started, we’d like to one day try and create a top five from across the world- but first we’ll need to ride a few more for ourselves! This list is pure opinion and disagreement is encouraged.
5. Samurai- Thorpe Park
If you’re looking for a nausea-inducing experience, you might not do better than Thorpe Park’s Samurai. This Mondial Topscan carries riders around 60 feet in the air and flips them unpredictably while spinning. The ride offers great views of the abandoned Logger’s Leap and the neighbouring Saw- but enjoy the vantage point while you can, because within a few seconds you’ll be hurled upside-down and swept away again.
At its best, this is one of the most intense flat rides in the UK (keep your eyes open and you’ll probably be fine), but lately it’s been running on reduced settings. That fact isn’t enough to take it out of the top five in my eyes- Samurai still offers one of the most thrilling non-coaster experiences around. It’s not hard to see why Chessington felt this one wasn’t family-friendly enough for their young audience…
4. Apocalypse- Drayton Manor
When it comes to the best drop tower at a major UK theme park, most debates will whittle it down to Detonator and Apocalypse. I picked the latter for this list, but it was by no means an easy call. The Intamin Giant Drop has stood at Drayton Manor for almost two decades and still stands up to scrutiny as one of the best of its kind out there.
With five towers offering unique views and sensations, this 177-foot giant towers ( pun intended) above the rest of the park, generally the first ride guests see upon arrival. It was the first drop tower in the world to offer a stand-up option, and while it may not be as forceful as it’s Thorpe Park counterpart, the choice it offers riders is what gives Apocalypse the edge. Its iconic appeal is what gets it in the top five flat rides in the country.
3. Vortex- Thorpe Park
You’ll probably notice that this list is dominated by two parks. On reflection, that was how things were always going to go, given how much stronger the flat ride lineup is at Thorpe Park than anywhere else in the world. Magic-carpet-gone-mad Quantum and the previously mentioned Detonator were both unlucky to miss out, but I couldn’t leave out my personal favourite flat in the country (even if I am a bit biased). That brings us to Vortex.
I vividly remember my first experience on a KMG Afterburner, a traumatic eight-year-old ordeal that I never thought I’d repeat, let alone love. Years later, on my first visit to Thorpe Park, I fell in love with Vortex. From the winding, tension-building queue that snakes right beneath the ride trajectory, you’re held in a pen group-by-group before boarding the monster. If you get lucky, get a spot on the right seat, it’s something magical. As a slow, uncertain spin snowballs into ferocious swinging, the airtime on offer is just fantastic. I know it’s not the tallest, nor the fastest, nor the most intense frisbee in the country (we’ll get to that). But is it my favourite? You bet.
2. Maelstrom- Drayton Manor
Remember how two sentences ago I said we’d get to a ride that was taller, faster and more intense than Vortex? Well, we’re there. I know, that was quick. Being an Intamin Gyro Swing, Malestrom isn’t the same model or even make as Vortex. Yet, in many ways, it feels like a big brother. Technically, Maelstrom is barely the taller of the two- just half a metre bigger- but boasts a sizeable reputation.
This 2002 installation is such a fan favourite that I’ve even heard people say it’s the main reason they go to Drayton Manor at all. With guests facing outwards rather than opposite each other, views of the park and surrounding area are a huge bonus too.
1. Rush- Thorpe Park
As we reach the end of our list, I think I’m happy with my decision. No ride immediately jumped out at me to claim the title of best flat in the UK, but Thorpe Park’s S&S Screamin’ Swing feels like a worthy winner. It’s also the only entrant in this list that still makes me nervous in the queue.
Nearly fifteen years after opening (to replace, strangely enough, a ferris wheel), Rush is still considered a leading attraction in its category. With room thirty-two riders per cycle, the fact that it still gets huge queues- up to an hour on peak days- is a testament to its popularity. The intense feeling of literally rushing through the air, towards the ground and back up again, combined with the weightlessness of reaching the top of each climb adds up to a frantically thrilling ride. Constant alternating between forward and backward movement only serves to enhance the feeling. That’s what makes it, to me at least, the best flat ride in the UK.
Do you agree with our picks? Comment your thoughts below and tell us what your #1 would be. Thanks for reading!