Best Dark Rides In The UK

As much as it's coasters that are my first love of theme parks, I'm also a huge dark ride nerd! So it always irks me when time after time I hear enthusiasts moaning that 'we need a good dark ride here in the UK'. Are you blind?! Look around, there's TONS of great dark rides all over the country. No, they're not on the level of the likes of the Disney and Universal dark rides but they're definitely not anything to be sniffed at and they all have a certain charm that only British theme parks can achieve. Here's my favourites:

Derren Brown's Ghost Train - Rise of the Demon
Like many of you, I bemoaned the use of VR in theme parks as much as the next enthusiast. But I've always been a big horror fan and the idea of incorporating horror, VR and dark ride elements intrigued me to say the least! Let's not talk about the 2016 incarnation of DBGT, however the update for 2017 really hits the nail on the head! The VR is creepy and creates a tense atmosphere, the live effects in the dramatic scenes but the piece de resistance is the mysterious 'final scene'. I won't go into too much detail, but I can say I spontaneously burst into applause when it was over. It's camp, spooky, silly fun, a nod to the Ghost Trains of yesteryear but with a modern twist.

Hex: Legend of the Towers
Alton Towers 
The true goth of the UK theme park scene - no attraction oozes atmosphere like Hex quite does. The actual ride hardware is really nothing to shout home about, as other versions of the same ride type in other parks can attest to, but the real genius of Hex comes with how the storyline is executed from the moment you walk through the ride's doors. The weird thing is, the ride should be boring. It's essentially room after room of exposition. But somehow it pays off. The music, the smells, the lighting, the video, the theming, the way it blends with the real legends surrounding the actual Towers themselves. The use of real local folklore brings proper gravitas to an already imaginative narrative and knocks it out of the park. A lesson in how to make the most out of your ride hardware.

Wallace and Gromit's Thrill-O-Matic
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
If ever a ride has been more perfect for Blackpool it's this one. I've always argued that to 'get' a lot of the attractions at the Pleasure Beach you have to be British and never has this been more true than of Wallace and Gromit's Thrill-O-Matic. Not only does it make an excellent job of updating an ancient ride and giving it a new lease of life, it's probably the most perfect fit for a theme park in the UK in recent years. To me, Blackpool Pleasure Beach is about kitschy British family fun and what is Wallace and Gromit if not that? It's bursting at the seams with nostalgia and has everybody bouncing along and grinning every time I ride. You ride in a giant SLIPPER for god's sake, what's not to love?

HoBs PiT
Pleasurewood Hills
OK, my perspective on this one is a little bit warped as I only rode it during Halloween, and I'm told they make it 'extra scary' during this season. Even so, I was seriously impressed at how this fab little terror of a dark ride is so unassumingly hidden away in a cute little family theme park like Pleasurewood Hills. The use of modern ghost train tech like screens and 3D is blended perfectly into the well themed attraction and it's actually quite gory and graphic at times. The live actors are perfectly gruesome and the rickety ride carts leave you feeling extra exposed, adding another layer of terror. Excellent modern take on the funfair Ghost Train.

Over The Hill
Adventure Island
I remember when this was announced and how upset I was. I'd always loved Beelzee Bob's Trail, the first ghost train type ride to sit on this patch. But I needn't have worried, Over The Hill is an excellent dark ride! Imagine if a Tim Burton fanboy designed a ghost train, and you can get a pretty good idea of what's going on here. There's also a pinch of Haunted Mansion in there but all strung together with Adventure Island's very niche stylistic choices and sense of humour. And the ending, I won't go into too much detail, but it's a great little gag and very ambitious and innovative for a park so small. Even if it is a little ropey, you can easily forgive it when you realise this is all created by a tiny family owned park on the Essex coast.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach
I always umm and ahh about whether Valhalla really counts as a dark ride, but today I've decided it is because I want to gush about how fab it is. It's easily one of the best dark rides in the world and realistically has no business living at somewhere like Blackpool Pleasure Beach. How it even came into existence is a complete anomaly. On top of being an excellent stand alone thrilling water ride, the detail and epicness of the theming elevates it to the next level of excellent. The pounding Viking soundtrack, the use of elements, the giant props, the constant dousing of water. The whole thing is ridiculous and is an attraction I'm very proud to have in my country.

Tomb Blaster
Chessington World of Adventures
Yes, yes, we all know Terror Tomb was the far superior dark ride. But that's gone now and it's time to get over it. And actually, I don't think this update is half bad at all. The giant sets and show lighting mean Tomb Blaster is quite enjoyable even when you're not shooting scarab beetles. There's actually quite a fab sense of 80s adventure films in the ride - inspired by Indiana Jones with the spooky mummies and tattered skeletons. Some parts of it are still genuinely creepy and make me jump and there are some great trick show effects on top of all that. Another example of how well the UK can do dark rides and a remaining nod to the 90s legacy that kicked it all off.

Spirit of London
Madame Tussauds London
An often forgotten attraction when discussing British dark rides, and rides in general, the Spirit of London clearly takes inspiration from the infamous Disney dark rides, even down to the use of an Omnimover type ride system. The scale of this ride alone makes it impressive enough, it's absolutely huge and the detail is incredible, but honestly would you expect anything less from an institution like Madame Tussauds? It's a great way to explore the history of London, like a museum come to life, London's greatest hits all come together in dark ride form!

And that's just skimming the cream of the crop, there are countless more noteworthy dark rides in the UK, so I'd implore you to take a moment to appreciate what you have on your doorstep and enjoy it for what it is. There's definitely a certain 'flavour' when it comes to British dark rides that can't be experienced anywhere else in the world!

Talk later xoxo,