Alistair Bushe and his family enjoyed the thrills and spills of the Co Meath theme park
For as long as I can remember, theme park rides, you know those ones that hurtle you straight down from a great height at what feels like 150mph, have been a no-go for me.
Yes, I was one of those odd kids who went all the way to the world-famous theme parks of Florida, like Disney and Universal, and resisted all attempts to get me on a rollercoaster. Alton Towers? I was purely an observer there too, and even some of the child-friendly rides at Peppa Pig World near Southampton last summer had my knees shaking.
I have two innate fears in life. Rollercoasters and crocodiles, in no particular order. A list of wildlife at Tayto Park’s zoo in Ashbourne, Co Meath revealed an absence of the latter but plenty of the kind of terrifying rides that I’ve contentedly viewed from afar since I emerged ashen-faced from a seemingly innocuous ride at Funderland when I was 15.
But when our family arrived at Tayto Park, Co Meath on a cold but bright day during Easter week, I could feel the net closing. My younger son Jude is only four and I was confident, given his current aversion to heights, that he wouldn’t be grabbing my hand and forcing me onto the Cú Chulainn Coaster, Europe’s largest wooden rollercoaster, any time soon. But my six-year-old Jacob was a different proposition. He made clear that the Cú Chulainn Coaster, which looms, almost Mount Everest-like, over the theme park, was going to be a step too far. But the Viking Voyage ride? Yes, that was going to be right up his street.
I tried various diversionary tactics. It’s too cold. We don’t have a poncho (you get absolutely drenched at various stages of the ride). Sorry Jacob, I’m not sure you’re tall enough to be let on this ride (he was).
I had comprehensively lost the argument, and a purchase of ponchos later, we took our seats on the adventure water ride. What came next was more thankfully more enjoyable than terrifying, well at least until the moment we went back to front and, hands in mouth, we hurtled down a steep incline backwards.
About 15 minutes later we emerged, like drowned rats, but otherwise unscathed. The advice is get a poncho, but don’t expect it to offer you enough protection from the 1.7m litres of water on the ride.
Of course once was never going to be enough but the sight of us soaked to the skin was enough to deter my wife from joining Jacob on another Viking voyage. Up we went again...
There is certainly plenty here for the thrill-seekers. Rides named Power Surge, Endeavour and Air Race all looked suitably terrifying from a safe distance, but there is plenty for children of all ages.
The Eagle’s Nest area, complete with steam train, newly-opened Nissan Driving School and numerous other rides, is great for young children while the playground is the biggest, and best, I’ve ever seen. Sit back, rest up with a cup of tea and watch your kids explore it for an hour. The trickiest thing will be getting them off it.
The zoo has a great array of animals, and it’s far from arduous to get two tired kids around.
On the whole this is a brilliant day out. There are plenty of restaurants on site, and kiosks for coffee stops; picnic tables are also dotted around the complex, should you wish to bring your own food.
The park is well signposted and easy to get around, the staff are friendly and helpful and there are so many different attractions that will appeal to different children.
The best and cheapest option seems to be to be a buy a wristband on entry, which should save you money in the long run.
It was Easter so we were not surprised to witness long queues, particularly for the Viking ride, the climbing wall and the rollercoaster. You’ll need your children to be patient, particularly if you’re visiting in the summer months.
Importantly, it’s easy to get to from north of the border. It’s about 90 minutes drive from Belfast, the majority of the journey dual carriageway and motorway.
At junction 9 at Drogheda come off the M1 and from there it’s another 20 minutes or so.
On Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13 Tayto Park will host a special Clubs Weekend, where clubs across Ireland can enjoy a special discounted entry and unlimited attractions for €18 per person.
Tayto Park is online at www.taytopark.ie and on social media at: @TaytoParkIreland Twitter: @TaytoPark Instagram: @TaytoPark