After decades in the doldrums, over the last few years people have been flocking to the piers, funfairs and pleasure beaches of British seaside towns. As Gareth Rubin points out in the Guardian:
From Essex to Yorkshire, Somerset to Cornwall, bookings are up and up, sometimes by more than 500% over the past few years. In 2015, Brits made 19.4 million trips to the English coast, a 10% increase on the year before.
The exodus to the British coast is likely to be even bigger this summer, with the fall in value of the pound making foreign holidays more pricey.
So if you like your fish and chips with a side order of toe-curling thrills, here’s a selection of resorts in England and Wales, with funfairs and pleasure beaches to make you squeal.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s attractions can be dated back to 1896. The seafront of this town in the north-west of England has a collection of stomach-churning rides, gentle carousels and an original 1930s roller coaster. Blackpool itself isn’t known for its clement weather, but if you’re rained off the beach, there’s the world-famous Tower, circus and waterpark. Best of all? If it rains for more than three hours, you get a free Rainy Day Return to the Pleasure Beach the next day.
Rivalling Blackpool for old-school charm is Dreamland Margate, which opened in 1921 and which we visited last summer. Nestled on the easternmost tip of the Kentish coast, the seaside funfair has been through hard times, with a trip into receivership last year. Undaunted, it battles on, with every sign that its cool, retro redesign by Mark Hemingway and a new pricing structure will bring in the punters. We hope so: it’s a stylish mass of all the rides you would expect from an old-school funfair – dodgems, a ghost train, hall of mirrors, a helter skelter and the UK’s oldest rollercoaster. The food is good value, and afterwards there’s the wide, sandy beach of Margate to explore.
If you prefer your beaches a little quieter, then Pensarn, in north Wales, could be for you. No vintage roller-coaster at this pleasure beach. Instead, there’s a simple round of penny slot machines, a shop selling candy floss, a cafe, and a promenade for a stroll. Of all the vintage pleasure beaches mentioned, Pensarn’s is probably the most ‘genuine’ – ie, it’s been untouched for decades.
You can read more about Pensarn Pleasure Beach in this post by Mini Travellers.
The best of the rest
Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach
This funfair on the Norfolk coast boasts rides for both thrill-seekers and toddlers, a 4D film and a rollercoaster which people have ridden since 1932. Norfolk and neighbouring Suffolk are good places if you’re looking for weekend breaks for families. Holiday companies often offer breaks that include a pass to Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach.
Barry Island has been entertaining the youth of south Wales since 1929. Anyone who watched hit comedy show Gavin and Stacey will be familiar with its penny slot machines, as well as the gloriously colourful waltzers, big dipper and fun house. A brand new ferris wheel opened in 2017.
Botton’s Pleasure Beach in Skegness, Lincolnshire is blessed with a wide range of funfair rides and attractions, like the pirate boat, and ‘cups and saucers’. You can watch a video from blogger Zena’s Suitcase on her family trip to Skegness here. This year, Skegness will host the SO Festival, the largest free family-friendly outdoor arts festival in the UK.
Other UK coastal resorts are also on the up – like Whitley Bay, near Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, where £36m was recently pumped into the regeneration of the seafront. There’s never been a better time to be beside the seaside. Just read this post by Mummy Travels if you need convincing.
Where have I missed? And which is your favourite pleasure beach?
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This is a collaborative post. All views are my own.