Rollercoaster Ranking – Blackpool Pleasure Beach
I first visited Blackpool in October 2014 and it has become an annual pilgrimage ever since. There’s something about the laid back atmosphere, the sheer quantity of attractions and the ridiculously cheap wristbands that sets the place apart from all the other UK parks for me. While I have little love for the high hassle, low reward experiences I get from the rest of the British theme park scene these days, with the Pleasure Beach there really is no excuse and nothing to lose.
I had very different tastes back on that first day, having not yet embarked on the wonderful world of what I do now. For some reason I remember declaring Infusion was my favourite (steel) in the park and was the only one of the group to really enjoy Grand National. Having suffered through at least another 15 Infusions across the world since then, there is nothing but regret tied to that memory. I regret Nash for a different reason that we’ll come on to shortly.
The only thing that hasn’t changed is Valhalla. It was then, and remains to this day (2020 overhaul permitting), one of my favourite dark rides for the sheer ferocity and insanity of what’s involved. The real reason for the pilgrimage always hinged on the chance to subject our bodies to copious amounts of abuse by repeatedly riding the wettest ride in the world, in a t-shirt, in November, on the North West coast of England. I still plan to visit before the end of this season (2020 permitting), but things won’t be the same without it.
Nothing else in the park could ever touch those experiences, particularly as the rollercoaster lineup ain’t great, to be honest. I change my mind on the middle grouping of these all the time, though I will attempt to read between the blurred lines and rank them today, again, as I need something to fill the gap in the park page for this fantastic place. Here we go.
I love a violent ride and I really liked this one the first time. Possibly the second time? I can’t remember which year it tried to kill me but I can vividly remember everything else about how horrible those moments were. Everyone experiences things differently and I’d just like to emphasise that none of the following is exaggerated in any way.
As soon as we took the first drop, the train began to negotiate the entire track with such terribly specific (possibly even resonant) jolts that I could literally feel my internal organs bouncing up and down out of sync with the rest of my body. It wasn’t just painful, it was deeply unpleasant. I have never felt anything quite like this before or since and it was so jarring that I truly believed it might have ended my hobby, right there.
I could only assume at the time that the ride had caused a serious medical issue and insisted that we sat in the nearby cafe for a long while, as I contemplated what had just happened and how terrible my insides felt. A terrible thought crossed my mind several times – if any ride does that to me again, I’m done with this whole game, there is no alternative. Thankfully, so far, I’m good.
For that reason I currently consider Grand National the worst rollercoaster in the world by a colossal margin. There’s tons of rubbish out there and I’ve done a lot of it since, but the worst they can ever do to you is something temporary and, if I was coerced, I would ride them all again, for a laugh.
Not Nash. Not ever. I just can’t take the risk.
There we go, a complete 180 from my first visit, the top two are now the bottom two. Infusion isn’t actually too bad for a Vekoma SLC and it’s the only one I’ve ever ridden more than once, but it is just that, an SLC. When having to do new ones for the +1 is a chore, why would I ever bother with the local one again?
The smallest wooden coaster in the park. It’s cute with those miniature trains, but it doesn’t really do much.
Everything from here onwards has that distinctive Pleaure Beach charm, a combination of rarity and vintage…ness. Nothing else in the world like Steeplechase exists right now and for that reason alone I’ll never say no to a lap. It’s not a particularly comfortable experience, the seat backs can be rather unforgiving in the bumps, but I do love a good race and it’s always tremendous fun to get into the spirit of the ride, physically and verbally willing your horse forwards. Come on!
The oldest woodie in Blackpool is an inconsistent beast for me, currently tapering off as the years go by. It has provided me with some great airtime in the first section of hills and I always love the completely unbanked section of laterals, but the rest of it is very hit and miss. I want to go back to the days when everyone rode it standing up, waving canes and wearing top hats, like the video in the station.
Sitting in the back seat of this old Arrow hyper still puts the fear in me, though like with Big Dipper it seems to become more unjustified as time goes on. Taking the first drop from this position is notorious for the almost dangerous sensation of being whipped round the twist and nearly hitting your head on the support structure, but that’s about the only thrill that it can offer me these days. The remainder of the layout is a hilarious example of how far modern ride design has come as the train negotiates straight lines, the most shallow camelbacks known to man and a few big corners. It used to be brutal, now I just laugh as the big softy trundles and bounces along.
There seems very little reason for this ride to do so well, it just feels special. The whole execution is very dated and clunky but also charming and quirky. Revolution makes the humans do all the hard work by climbing to the top of the stairs. This gravity isn’t enough though, we’ll have to launch you forward with a crude block on wheels.
Being launched into a drop has it’s perks in the airtime department, if only the train allowed you to experience it with a little more comfort. Of course it gets better backwards, the anticipation steps up a gear and I find myself enjoying it almost a bit too much.
On paper this one ain’t good either, but Avalanche is actually a strong example of the ride type on a global scale. Having now ridden them all, the pacing on this one is top notch, it just keeps building and building, getting more intense as it goes. I’ve only more recently been riding it solo and with only one possible restraint position for the trains, Avalanche really tries to kick me out of the car with some surprisingly out of control moments towards the end.
My favourite woodie in the park these days is the orange eyesore. Streak has remained the most consistently thrilling for me over the years, sitting comfortably in the middle of good classic wooden airtime and not sucking all other sensations out of the ride by shaking itself to pieces. It also helps that the seats are like a sofa.
I’m not going to pretend like I was a huge fan of this before they removed it. The news was a shock, but it didn’t particularly bother me. I do now have the slightest sense that the Mouse would have appealed more to the tastes of current me, rather than the me that rode it in the past. The experience was vicious as anything and would leave seatbelt marks imprinted in places you wouldn’t think were possible. Wild Mouse was the best coaster in the park when it existed, but that wasn’t saying much. I respected it. I never truly loved it.
And the trade off was oh, so sweet. We got a Mack launch coaster on our own shores. I still can’t quite believe it’s a thing.
By far my favourite coaster in the country, the only one I actively seek out annual rerides on (at a minimum) and still can’t get enough of it. Can’t wait to be reunited at the end of the month.
Will it be another 20 years ’til the next one?