Zip World Days Out Review

’I’m going to start praying to God, and I’m not religious!’

Silver Hedgehog Niece

Introduction

null

It is one of our favourite times of the year, a day out with my niece and nephew to celebrate their recent birthdays.  Previous years have included day trips to Millennium Point, Iron Bridge, the National Space Centre, Alton Towers and the Monkey Forest After seeing a You Tube video for the UK’s newest coaster ride (operated by Zip World) at a disused colliery in Wales, myself and JJ borrowed the kids for the day and set off to Wales.

Zip World Tower Visit Experience

null

Booking Zip World activities is easy.  Zip World have multiple sites in Wales, and their website clearly shows all locations and activities (branded ‘adventures’).  The booking screens displayed the times and dates available and once selected, payment was taken in full.  An email arrived asking us to sign online waivers, having been to a Zip World before, I knew it saved time to complete this before our adventure.

The evening before our trip, Zip World sent me a text recommending that I allow for extra time due to roadworks.  Google maps was showing roadworks in Wales close to Zip World, so we added an extra half hour on top of this estimate, just in case.

Getting to Zip World Tower from the middle of Staffordshire is around a three-hour drive.  It is a straightforward route along the M5 and M50 and then local A roads.  To get to our destination we needed to travel along the Heads of The Valley Road AKA the A465.  Currently a long stretch of this road is under reconstruction, meaning reduced speeds and narrow lanes, it took about 25 minutes to pass through them.  We arrived half an hour before our time slot, glad we had allowed the extra time in the journey.

Pulling into the large free car park, we could see three buildings in front of us, one housing the coaster, a welcome building, and a restaurant.

We followed a check in sign at the side of the car park that allowed us to walk along a fenced path alongside the car park, however, there was a locked gate at the end of the path, meaning we had to climb through the fence into the car park and head into the welcome centre, luckily it was quiet, so no cars were moving around the car park at this point. The welcome centre held a small collection of Zip World gifts, a check in desk and two kiosks of an indeterminable nature.

As we had completed the waivers online, it was a simple case of providing email address, stepping on scales, and receiving a wristband marked with your weight (for safety reasons).  The attendant explained the location of the coasters, the bistro and mentioned they have extra adventures available today and we would receive ten percent off if we wanted to experience any after the coaster.

Tower Coaster

After a quick loo stop, we ventured around the site to the Tower Coaster.  I could see three carts stopped on track with people sitting in the cars waving.  Not wanting to fear the worst after our 3-hour trip I followed the family into the entrance of the coaster building.  Inside all the carts were lined up and a Zip World employee was frantically pressing buttons on a computer screen.  The lights on the carts flicked on and off as he tried to reset the system.  After about 5 minutes another employee came across and told us that they had a technical fault and asked us to leave the building and come back in half an hour.  Where would we go?  What is wrong?  I thought.  There was no further direction and JJ looked a little panicked.  The staff seemed completely blasé about it.  The fact that it was a sweltering day around 33 degrees, and we had simply been told to go way did not sit well with me.  I grabbed a passing staff member and said, “We have just been sent out of the coaster as its broken.’’, the staff member asked back ‘’Is it broken?’ oh, if they don’t fix it, you will get a refund.’’ I said ‘’We have just travelled three hours to get here. ‘’ The staff member replied with ‘’Are you stopping local?’’ and was completely bemused when I said ‘’We have driven here for the coaster, we are not stopping local.’’ he replied with ‘’Most people come here for the Zip line, the coaster is a side hustle and not the main thing, you could do the zip line instead, I think its about £55 each.’’ I was taken aback by this non-caring attitude, it was as if they never have thought that people would take a day out to their location, just for the coaster.  Once of the reasons we did not book the Zip was not knowing if the kids would want to do it, and one of our party has a slight fear of tall zip lines.  Quietly seething I walked away, and we all decided to get out of the midday sun and grab some food in the bistro, all the time thinking if they give a refund, I want compensation for the £60 of fuel I put in to get us there!

The Bistro is in a heavily renovated former coal mine building, with remnants of its mining past still visible.  It was displaying a hygiene rating of four leading me to wonder what was wrong with it, as it was not the full 5 stars.  As is the trend since Covid, the Bistro is electronic ordering only – meaning that you must order via a QR code on the table.  Handily the table had a paper menu to choose from, but I was surprised to find out that all the options on the menu were not available on the online ordering system.  Still angry at the coaster situation this only added to my frustration.  Once ordered, the food and drink arrived promptly.  It was well cooked and portion sizes where fine. I had the minted lamb burger, and my only criticism is that it was a bit too salty.  While we were eating, we saw another customer raising his voice at one of the young employees, discussing missing drinks and food.  Just like my earlier interaction the employee did not seem fussed and wandered off to obtain the missing drink, with no rush or care in the world. What is with the staff I thought to myself?

While in the Bistro, I paid  visit to the toilets.  They could not be described as clean; it was obvious a lot of people had been in since the last cleaner.  JJ tells me that one of the women’s cubicles was out of order.  She knew because it had a scruffy A4 sized note with the words ‘Out of Order’ written on it four times.  It looked like the type of note a 15-year-old would write when made to write lines in detention! The entrance doors were also full of sticky fingerprints – yuk.  The men’s loos did not fare much better as many men seemed to have misjudged the distance between the massive urinal and the floor and my nephew complained that the tap water was too hot and scalding.

After lunch and still fearing the worst, I ventured out to check if the coaster was back on and I could see empty carts flying round the track being tested!  With that I grabbed the gang, and we went to the coaster and yes, the staff had managed to clear whatever fault it had, I could relax a little now.

While waiting our turn JJ noticed that they were letting two people onto a cart.  This was odd as Zip World Website clearly say’s that over 9’s would be individually seated.  When it was our turn, I asked the attendant if my nephew and JJ could go on together and the attendant gave a quick look and said ‘’looking at them, that will be fine’’.  This contradicted the website, but it made the kids happy, so we went with it.  When it was my turn, the attendant thanked me for coming back, as she had noticed me in the queue earlier  ‘’No problem.” I said thinking to myself ‘what else would I have done it’s not like I’ve travelled 3 hours or anything! Yes, I was still bitter about this morning’s experience!

The coaster is simply a 1km track on a hill, with no real theming other than the carts having a mining style to them.  A simple over the head lap bar keeps you in, and the cart is controlled with a joystick –  push forward to speed up, pull back to slow down.  ‘’Once ready push forward to go full speed.’’ said the attendant.  I pushed forward and what followed was around 60 seconds of pure fun!  The coaster twisting and turned along the track, whizzing through small tunnels and supplying a superb view of the surrounding hills as I careered down the track.  This was one of three runs included in the price and I was tentative in the speed control.  At the end of the run, I met up with the others and everyone had a massive grin on their faces.  Job done I thought, and I could relax and fully enjoy the day.  The second run went smoothly, and my niece and nephew had swapped to sit together.  We all decided to go faster for the third and final run so stick pushed firmly forward I rocketed down the track, it was an exhilarating experience.  At the end of my final run, we all met back up.  The kids were laughing, I asked what’s funny, and they said that the control handle on the cart had fallen off and the kart went full speed down the track!  My nephew seemed quite excited by this and when I enquired if he was ok, he simply replied with yes that was insane with a big grin on his face.  We mentioned the broken handle to the staff, and they said they would check it out.  JJ also enjoyed the Tower Coaster and when asked if three goes was enough ‘no she said, it should be five.’ I suspect that she would have stayed on it all day if they would let her.

So, with coaster adventure over it was time to decide what to do next.  Do we book onto the zip wire or do we go exploring a waterfall about 20 mins away from the site.  Having seen the zipwires both my niece and nephew seemed excited to go on.  It was decided my nephew and JJ would go on the smaller Tower Flyer – a series of 3 small zipwires perfect for younger ones or those who aren’t up for the larger zipwire.  Myself and my niece would go on the bigger zipwire called Phoenix.

Phoenix

We walked back to the welcome centre and booked the adventures; this was a little chaotic as the next available Phoenix session was in 15 mins time and the Tower Flyer would be just over an hour and a half later at 3pm due to a large group taking part.  So, booking in all done myself and niece walked round to the kit room and after a short wait were ushered in.  After a small safety briefing, several instructors helped us into our harnesses, helmets and safety goggles, double and triple checking all was ok.  Then we loaded ourselves onto a waiting minibus and started our ascent up Rhigos mountain range to the first of the two zip stations ‘Big Tower.’

At this point it is worth noting that Phoenix is the world’s fastest seated zip line, with 4 parallel lines and has 2 separate zip zones.  Something my niece was not aware of (and I am still not sure she knows she has been on the world’s fastest seated Zip!)

During our ascent, my niece looked out the window and realised that we were headed to a zip station higher up and that there were two zips to complete, she exclaimed ‘’I’m going to start praying to God, and I’m not religious!’’ at the sight of a zip line stretching down over a rather large lake. When we finally arrived at what felt like the top of the mountain, we were confronted with a platform that has been built into the side of the hill, the start points of Phoenix.  We walked up to the platform and the instructors welcomed us and went through the procedure of attaching us to the line.   Once attached, we had to assume a seated position, at this point my niece was a little nervous but the instructor was excellent and reassuring.   After a radio safety check and a countdown in from three in Welsh, the platform door slid open, and we started our decent on the Zip line.  The first zip was a long decent over the Llyn Fawr reservoir.  The view was spectacular, and I could see for miles.  Just as I was enjoying the view I ran out of line and the braking system did its job perfectly.  Once unhooked it was a short walk to little top tower (the second zip).  This time though we had to walk up flights of stairs, a tough task given how heavy the harness was.  Once at the top the procedure was the same as before, get clipped onto the line, safety checks, countdown, go.  My niece now knowing what to expect launched out of the tower at breakneck speed, I curled up my legs to try and catch up, but to no avail, she had stormed ahead.  This zipline was shorter and faster than the first, (this must be the part that is the world’s fastest).  The zipline cut though some woods so no scenery to take in, it was just zoom and finish, once back on the ground I caught up with my niece and she simply looked back up the mountain and said “We did that!’’ With that she ran to JJ and her brother to tell them all about it.

Tower Flyer

We headed to the Tower flyer at our allotted time of 3pm, ready to get kitted up with harnesses and helmets.  Unfortunately, due to a large group being on the flyer before us we had to wait for them to finish before we could go on.  After about 30 minutes, the instructors arrived and apologised for the delay.  Luckily, there was only 4 of us on our flyer experience so we wouldn’t have to wait for everyone else to go first.  We were each given a helmet and a harness to put on, the instructors assisted us and made sure everything was tight.  We were given a mechanism to hold which would eventually be used to clip us onto the zip wire itself.  Once kitted out we walked across to the start point, a zip wire tower with a line of 115 metre length.  As we were walking across, my nephew said, “We will let them 2 go first, if they fall off, we aren’t doing it!”  We let the other two people go first and watched them whizz safely across the courtyard of the site.  It was then our go; we were carefully clipped onto the line, and everything was triple checked by the instructor.  I glanced round at my nervous looking nephew, and we jumped off the platform and whizzed along the zip.  After a slightly bumpy landing on the next platform, we made our way up some stairs to get ready for the next zipline which is 80 metres in length.  My nephew was a bit more confident this time and we jumped off the platform together, this one felt faster than the first!  Next onto the last zip, a lower bouncier ride, we decided to race on this one, and yes, I was beaten by an 11-year-old!  After completing the final zip, it was back to the start to give back the equipment.  The two instructors we had were super helpful, even though they had obviously had a busy and sweltering hot day, they were grateful to end with a small group.  The experience was enjoyed by us both (although I preferred the coaster myself!!)

Zip World Tower Cost

null

We visited  11th August 2022 and paid for the ticket ourselves.

Cost of our visit,

Our family day out to Zip World cost us….

Fuel to cover there and back cost £60.00

The coasters cost us £100.00 (4 x£25.00)

The Tower Flyer cost £33.60 for 2 people (inc 10% discount)

Two Phoenix cost 2 X Phoenix £88 (inc 10% discount)

Food and drink in the Bistro £45.95

Total Spend £ 327.55

Considering that theme parks like Alton Towers cost on average £40 per person then it is safe to say that a trip to Zip World Tower is not priced to be a family friendly day out.  At around £350  (including service station food enroute) It is a wallet busting day out.

Zip World Tower Overall Thoughts

null

I have thought long and hard at Zip World’s pricing, and at first glance it’s expensive. The coaster alone cost £25.00 per person for only 3 runs.  Compare that to Alton Towers that that currently costs £36 – £42 per person (advance payment depending on date) and provides a full days entertainment, so you can see how Zip World seems expensive.

It is clear that Zip World Tower are not aiming for the family day out market, but have their sights firmly set on those who are after a unique experience and adventure and are willing to pay for it.  Unfortunately, with high prices comes high expectations, and on our visit to Zip World Tower it highlighted some easily fixable shortcomings with the visitor experience – clearer direction when something goes wrong, some staff could have more a more customer focussed attitude, facilities such as toilets should be 100% clean and working.

Zip World Tower’s strengths are the Zip Line adventures, once on them, the respective staff members were excellent and showed what Zip World Tower was all about.  The Zip experiences were just that, a unique exhilarating experience that fully justifies the cost.  Where else allows you to fly across lakes?

I realised that not only did this give the kids an amazing life experience but also provides certain bragging rights and that is priceless. Perhaps the staff member was right, and the coaster really is a side show?

Zip World Tower misses out on our ‘Must Visit rating’ but does gain our ‘Recommended’ rating for those wanting a Welsh adventure in the mountains.

The Silver Hedgehog: Rating

Value For Money - 7
Visit Experience - 9
Attraction Facilities - 7

7.7

Recommended

I realised that not only did this give the kids an amazing life experience but also provides certain bragging rights and that is priceless.

Find Out more about our ratings here

Credits

Words Garry and JJ

Editor JJ

Photos Zip World, JJ and Garry

Meet Garry

An office worker by day and blogger by night. Garry is the creator and writer of The Silver Hedgehog.  A Sci-Fi geek (don’t mention Terry Pratchett or Isaac Asimov unless you have a spare hour) and avid film fan (noted for watching Titanic 8 times at the cinema 🤩).  Enjoys writing reviews and blogs in his spare time, and is waiting for the day he gets paid for it!

Twitter @garry_llew

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments