Top 10 Vintage Theme Parks & Rides in the UK

Adventure Island Southend, Essex Coast

Adventure Island Southend, Essex Coast

Old Dreamland Ballroom poster formerly on display in the Margate Museum

Old Dreamland Ballroom poster formerly on display in the Margate Museum

The Wild Mouse, Flying Machines, Waltzers, Dodgems, traditional wooden roller coasters, ghost trains and more – these are the classic fairground rides that many of us grew up with and they’re making a big comeback across the UK in the context of all things vintage. If you’re on the hunt for vintage sights and scenes in the UK, then the British seaside, piers and theme parks are where to head!

Dreamland Margate, a theme park overlooking Margate’s huge sandy Blue Flag beach thrilled visitors for decades and recently reopened its doors to the public again for a first glimpse of the restoration programme well under way. Dreamland has been awarded further funding and the trust anticipates developments will be complete by Easter 2015. It seems locals and visitors alike in the UK continue to be thrilled by classic fairground style rides. The resurgence of enthusiasm for vintage theme parks is similar to the affection held for other British vintage attraction favourites like steam railways and model villages. Here’s iknow’s top 10 classic family theme parks, piers, rides and vintage wonderlands, many of which are family businesses run by the same family for decades.

Dreamland Margate, Kent

Dreamland Margate, Kent

1. Dreamland Margate, Kent Thanet Coast

A classic Grade II Listed amusement park with restored rides to include the park’s famous Scenic Railway built in 1920, River Caves, a Wild Mouse and a 1930s Flying Scooters ride, one of only two in existence in the UK! Full opening is planned for 2015.

2. Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre at Lifton, West Devon

Situated just east of Launceston, Dingles is home to the National Fairground Collection and a magical step back in time with vintage rides here including the ancient Rodeo Switchback thought to date back to 1880! Other rides include Gallopers, Dodgems, a Ghost Train and a 1930s Super Chariot Ride.

3. Wilkie Adventureland Funfair New Brighton on The Wirral

Wilkie Adventureland in The Palace on Marine Parade is a family run fun park with a history stretching back to 1912 in seaside favourite New Brighton. Currently seeing a resurgence in popularity with families, the park with its distinctive pastel Deco style frontage is still run by the Wilkie family. Classic rides including the Scrambler, Dodgems, The Waltzer and Circus Train.

The Waltzer on Clacton Pier, Essex Coast

The Waltzer on Clacton Pier, Essex Coast

4. Clacton Pier, Essex Coast

A fun fantastic pier packed with classic fairground style family rides including a Waltzer, Dodgems, Helter Skelter and a full force Twister. First opened in 1893, Clacton Pier has always had a fun fairground theme. From the early 1920s to 1973 there was a huge Steel Stella roller coaster right on the pier.

5. Adventure Island, Southend, Essex Coast

First opened as a theme park in the late 1970s, there were seaside sunken gardens on the site of the park prior to the theme park’s construction. Rides and activities here right next to the world’s longest pier including Roller Coasters, Dodgems, Flying Jumbos and Adventure Golf.

6. Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancashire Coast, North West

A famous theme park in the UK, packed with some vintage treasures including Pleasure Beach’s oldest ride and one of the oldest rides still in operation in Europe, the Flying Machines or as it was known when it first opened here in Blackpool in 1904 – Sir Hiram Maxim Captive Flying Machine. Other vintage favourites at Blackpool Pleasure Beach include the Rock Caves and the 1950s Derby Racer and Wild Mouse Rides.

The Flying Machines at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

The Flying Machines at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

7. Pleasure Beach, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk Coast

Great Yarmouth’s Pleasure Beach Scenic Railway first opened in 1932 and other popular vintage rides include a Gallopers dating from 1954. A selection of Retro Rides here include a Twister, Waltzer, a traditional 1930s wooden Roller Coaster and swinging Pirate Ship.

8. Drayton Manor Theme Park, near Tamworth, Staffordshire

Founded in 1949 by the Bryan family, Drayton Manor is set in 280 acres of parkland and lakes and is a fantastic inland family theme park with classics including carousels, Wild West shoot outs and favourite Buffalo Roller Coaster.

Brighton Pier, Sussex

Brighton Pier, Sussex

9. Blackgang Chine, Isle of Wight

Thought to be one of Britain’s oldest tourist leisure attractions, Blackgang Chine was founded by the entrepreneur Alexander Dabell in 1843, and has been thrilling visitors since the Victorian era. 2013 is the Park’s 170th Anniversary year! Step into magical fairy, fantasy and dinosaur lands with winding path and hidden corners, all set around the 500 foot deep gorge in the cliff face with pathways down to the Chine and beach. The descendants of Alexander Dabell still run this unique theme park near Ventnor on the Isle of Wight.

10. Brighton Pier, Sussex Coast

Brighton’s historic Palace Pier has a real vintage feel, packed with classic thrill rides and traditional rides including Waltzers, a carousel, dodgems and the fabulous ‘Horror Hotel’!

Michelle is an experienced travel writer with iknow and has travelled extensively across the UK, Spain, Portugal and the USA. When she’s not busy writing for iknow she enjoys spending time touring museums and art galleries and seeking out the best independent shops in Manchester and Leeds.