A Guide to Alton Towers
What You Need to Know
- Alton Towers dates back to the 15th century and the Staffordshire site only became home to a theme park in 1980.
- Thanks to its location right by the motorway, Alton Towers is easy to get to from the north of England, the Midlands and North Wales.
- The park is one of the most popular UK attractions, especially among thrill-seekers, thanks to its enviable collection of world-class rollercoasters.
- Despite its reputation as a haven for adrenaline junkies, Alton Towers also boasts acres of landscaped gardens as well as numerous gentle, child-friendly rides.
- The summer months are the best time to visit if you want some sun, but this is when the queues for rides tend to be longest.
- Other top times to visit include during the October ‘Scarefest’ or in May and June, when Alton Towers also puts on evening concerts and fireworks displays.
- Consider making a weekend of a visit by checking into one of the hotels situated in the grounds of Alton Towers.
Alton Towers Overview
The Alton Towers of today would be virtually unrecognizable to the Earls of Shrewsbury who owned the estate, formerly known as Alverton Lodge, from the 15th century right the way through to 1921.
Straddling an impressive crevice, the estate began to take its current shape in the early 18th century when the 15th Earl began to oversee the completion of the impressive gardens, for which he sourced rare plants and trees from across the globe.
It was only in 1921 that the aristocrats sold the grounds to a private company, who opened them up as a public park, though both the gardens and the home soon fell into disrepair once the visitors stopped coming as they were requisitioned during the Second World War.
In 1980, Alton Towers was opened as a Theme Park, with the Tussauds Group taking over a decade later and transforming it into one of Britain's tourist attractions. Eventually Tussauds was also bought out by private investors, though the policy of introducing a major new ride or attraction every year or two has continued, enabling it to stay one of the world's most exciting destinations for thrill-seekers.
Divided up into around a dozen distinct zones, including Adventure Land, Mutiny Bay, Forbidden Valley and Katanga Canyon, the theme park now also boasts a hotel and even events and conferencing facilities, allowing business to be mixed with pleasure.
Getting to Alton Towers
Alton Towers is located just outside the village of Alton in Staffordshire. This midlands location means it is pretty much easily accessible from anywhere in the country, with Stoke on Trent just 16 miles to the east and from there major motorway links both north and south.
Most visitors tend to be from the Midlands, the north of England or North Wales, with rival Thorpe Park preferred by those living in the south. However, it is possible to combine a long trip to Alton Towers with a visit to nearby Manchester or even Liverpool, while good deals are also available for those who stay the night in the grounds.
Why Visit Alton Towers?
As far removed from the quaint and picturesque stately home it once was, Alton Towers instead is more like an American-style adrenaline-fuelled mega-park. Indeed, in many ways the Staffordshire attraction goes one better, boasting the world's first inverted roller coaster (Nemesis), the first vertical drop roller coaster (Oblivion) and the world's first roller coaster for which passengers' feet are freely suspended (Air).
Not content to rest on its laurels, Alton Towers is always pushing the boundaries when it comes to white-knuckle rides, giving visitors a guaranteed thrill and sense of one-upmanship over their friends heading off to Orlando.
That said, for all its over-the-top rides, the old saying that there is 'something for all the family' is completely true. Sitting alongside the loop-the-loopers are traditional children's attractions, such as pirate ships and merry-go-rounds, and even those who find these too nerve-wracking are able to get away from the noise and excitement and relax in the landscaped gardens.
Additionally, having been developed over many years, Alton Towers still maintains a special character not felt in most other theme parks, while a series of cable-cars and monorails ensure that the next roller coaster is just a matter of minutes away.
Excellent pre-booked queuing systems, a wide variety of food outlets and plenty of family areas also make it easy to see why the park's popularity shows no sign of wavering.
When to Visit
Alton Towers is open to the public between the beginning of March and the end of August. As you might expect, weekends, the height of summer, as well as the Easter school holidays are peak times and, as such, queues are at their longest.
Aside from outside peak times, other good times to visit Alton Towers include towards the end of October, when the annual ‘Scarefest’ is held, as well as in May and June, when the attraction plays host to a series of live concerts by leading pop music stars.
Prices and Admissions
As of 2011, admission to Alton Towers costs £19.80 per adult and £12.00 per child between the ages of four and 11. However, there are a number of special offers you may be able to take advantage of to save money on your trip. Booking online, for example, will save you 20 per cent, as will purchasing a family or group ticket rather than individual tickets. Additionally, you may also want to consider investing in a Merlin Pass, which gives you discounts on entry to a number of the UK’s top attractions, including Warwick Castle, Thorpe Park and, of course, Alton Towers.
Note, however, that, while there are no age restrictions for entering Alton Towers, height and/or age restrictions are in place on some of the rides. For instance, to ride some of the more-extreme attractions, children need to be of at least 1.4 metres in height.
- To learn more about special offers on tickets to Alton Towers, visit the official website.
- For a cheaper day out read our guide to free London attractions.