It’s rare that we get a day of sunshine here in the UK. A rare opportunity to go to the beach, to chase down the ice cream man like you were the next Usain Bolt and to ride through giant flaming wicker man effigies at 44mph.
Alton Towers kindly invited us down to their resort to review the brand new Wicker Man ride which launched to the public in March. This brand-new addition to the park replaced the rather nostalgic log flume ride. A ride I rode many times as a child and even as a much older 22-year-old child back in 2013, dressed in a Flash costume for a friends birthday.
Four years in the making the Wicker Man ride is the first wooden roller coaster to be built in the UK for 21 years and it brings a world’s first to the table. Wicker Man is the first ride in the world to combine wood and fire together for a really unique experience.
I know what you’re thinking. Wood and fire don’t exactly make the best combination unless you’re roasting chestnuts, but the ride has been carefully designed so that the pyrotechnics are all contained and safe. Take a look at my VLOG below to see the ride up close and personal. I want to say huge thanks to Thrill Rides UK for allowing me to use their POV footage of the ride in the video.
Work began on the coaster in January 2017 with Greater Coasters International (GCI) leading the construction. The wood for the coaster (all 7,500 tonnes of it) was sourced from Pennsylvania and if laid out end to end would equate to 30km of timber! 1.8 million screws and 65,000 bolts have been used to secure the structure. As I reel off these facts I feel sorry for the poor guy who had to count out each and every single bolt. I really hope he got a free Alton Towers entry pass, for life!
Below you’ll find a quick time-lapse video of the ride being constructed. It’s great seeing everything come together. It’s crazy to think that over 1000 people worked on this ride but when you see and experience the finished product for yourself. I’m sure you’ll agree that the hard work has paid off
The giant wooden structure stands at just under 60 ft. featuring a human head on one side and a ram on the other. The ride consists of three trains in total with 24 passengers per train and the rides maximum speed is 44 mph. The Wicker Man features 3 drops, 2 tunnels, and 3 passes through the burning effigy.
Walking up to this ride is breathtaking. Even in the daytime. The ride is so photogenic from every angle. Every bit of theming is catered around the back-story that Alton Towers have forged together. The actual story isn’t in any way shape or form linked to the Wicker Man movies. This was initially what I thought the ride was associated with the second the name was revealed. The story actually revolves around a secretive, feral community called the Beornen. Living in the surrounding areas of Alton the Beornen have shunned modern technology and society. They have their own religion, language and rune alphabet and believe that by setting fire to a Wicker Man effigy, it will give them a sense of eternal well-being and enlightenment.
This ritualistic belief and styling is mirrored in every piece of wood, drape and theming that wraps around the queue line as you approach the pre-show. The queue line perfectly wraps around the ride meaning that even on a busy day where the wait times are long, you’re never short of things to look at. You’re certainly never short of a photo opportunity. The Wicker Man ride is easily the best looking ride in the park. It looks so menancing yet still blends into its surroundings perfectly. Fully immersing you in its storyline. Even better, the signs and the staff members add to the experience. The signs give an eerie and foreboding sense of direction. In addition, the staff members are dressed head to toe in very rustic outfits that compliment the rides aesthetic and cinematic presence. A wink and nod to The Flume is still at the Wicker Man site by keeping some of the original theming (the rocks) close by. I rather liked how the park went from a water-themed ride to a fire orientated ride. Very elemental, very mythic. Hats off to you Alton Towers!
My review is strictly no spoilers so the pre-show is a secret you’ll just have to find out for yourselves. When you make it to the front of the queue and step into the building ready for boarding, the interior styling is wonderfully detailed. From subtle touches as the stone styled floor and the cocooned wicker interior. I thought this was such a great way to transition you from exterior to interior as the show begins.
As you take a seat in the custom cars fearing the iconic rams head at the front, the lap bar comes down. What I instantly noticed when sitting down was just how comfy the seats were. Cushioned and comfy so no matter how scary the ride was at least my buttcheeks were safe!
With it being a wooden coaster, naturally, we had to ride it more than once. The first time we were in the middle, the second time we were straight at the back and the third time (after the VLOG was shot) we were close to the front. My what a difference it made! Riding in the middle was a great experience, it was as balanced as it was thrilling. The second we jumped in the back it was a whole different kind of experience. It felt as thou you were being thrown into every corner and being dragged along. Sitting at the back was the most thrilling out of all three positions. Being at the front allowed you to experience the speed to it’s fullest, but no matter where you sit you’re going to have a thrilling time.
The ride instantly reminded me of The Runaway Mine Train. Especially the part of the ride where the train banks into a corner through the Rapids tunnel. The intense force of that corner is the best part of the entire ride and the Wicker Man takes that corner and throws it into every bend in this entire experience. The pacing of the ride is intense, there isn’t a dull moment and the sound effects and smoke effects really throw you into the story as much as you’re being thrown into the rides incredible banked turns, Zero G camel humps, bunny hops and twisted track.
Every single time the ride came to its conclusion. I wanted to go round again! The lift hill right at the beginning is so relaxing and that’s the rides scariest trait. You look at it from the exterior in addition to casually ascending up the lift hill and you think, Nah, it’s going to be your run of the mill wooden coaster. The second you hit the tunnel at the top of the lift hill and start your journey you instantly regret being lulled into a false sense of the security. I rather loved this as I tied this experience in with the storyline we had been told moments before. But I guess you’ll just have to find out for yourselves what that story actually is.
After the ride is over you are guided through the gift shop. What I thought was awesome was that they were selling customized pieces of leftover wood actually taken from the ride during construction. I remember years ago after Universal Studios dismantled the Back to the Future ride, pieces of the ride went into the public hands. Some of those pieces are now worth a fortune! Granted they are more detailed pieces of theming than just a plank of wood in addition to being from a well-known franchise but all the same, owning a piece of a ride is a great memento for a prop and memorabilia collector such as myself.
As I walked away from the ride I couldn’t help but turn around just to glance at the structure once again, it’s breathtaking. Even better, I’d love to come back later in the year at Scarefest when the public can ride the rollercoasters in the dark. With the theming, pyro effects and smoke effects of the ride, I can’t think of a better rollercoaster in the UK that would look as good as this in the evening.
Wicker Man is one hell of an addition to the park. A ride I severely underestimated as a ride that would ‘look great but not ride so great’. Boy was I wrong! Thank you to Alton Towers (and especially Lizzie in PR) for inviting me down for this unique and truly wonderful experience. I will certainly be coming back very soon!
For more information on the Wicker Man ride and to book your tickets to Alton Towers resort please CLICK HERE