The little-known theme park near Yorkshire that's perfect for families and has no queues

The summer holidays are upon us and, like many parents, I'm constantly searching for activities to keep the children entertained without emptying my wallet.

Theme parks are a favourite choice for the summer break, but they can often be an expensive outing. Moreover, during the peak of summer, they're usually teeming with visitors, resulting in you paying a hefty sum to spend most of your day standing in queues.

We've visited numerous theme parks, from Alton Towers to Drayton Manor and several others, and I always leave feeling somewhat let down. I've found that such places tend to incite tantrums, at least with my two children.

They become overstimulated, the parks are too crowded, there's too much happening, too many people around and I invariably leave thinking we would have had a more enjoyable day simply visiting the local park.

Just the tickets alone will cost you a minimum of £100 for a family of four, if not more, and once you've factored in food, drinks, ice-creams, and inevitably being fleeced in the gift shop, you've spent a small fortune. So, when I discovered that there's a lesser-known theme park on the Yorkshire border, tucked away on the fringe of the Peak District National Park that offers just as much fun but is designed in a way that it never feels overcrowded, I was eager to give it a try.

Diplodocus Falls at Gulliver's Kingdom
Diplodocus Falls at Gulliver's Kingdom -Credit:DingRawD/Wiki Commons

My children are fans of amusement rides, but they detest waiting in line. Gulliver's Kingdom in Matlock Bath has received high praise on Tripadvisor, with visitors noting the absence of large crowds allows for more frequent turns on the rides compared to larger, more popular parks. It's not on Teesside's doorstep, taking around three hours to get there from our region, but that is quicker than Alton Towers.

We decided to see if Gulliver's Kingdom lived up to its reputation and embarked on a day trip. After a car journey of approximately an hour and a half from Huddersfield, we arrived in Matlock Bath.

As we entered the park, we noticed that the parking lots were arranged on various levels along the steep incline. The parking areas were incredibly crowded, leading us to park at the very top lot. The number of cars initially made me doubt whether our day out would be relaxing. However, my concerns were alleviated when we reached the entrance and were able to walk straight in.

Upon arrival, we were informed by the entrance staff that the log flume was out of service due to a technical issue. This was disappointing as it was the ride we had been most excited about, but we soon discovered there was plenty to keep us occupied. Gulliver's Kingdom is clearly designed with younger children in mind. While there are no headline-grabbing rides, there is ample entertainment for the little ones.

I took my kids to the overlooked theme park near Yorkshire border that's built into a hill - and we didn't queue once
I took my kids to the overlooked theme park near Yorkshire border that's built into a hill - and we didn't queue once -Credit:Megan Shaw

I was concerned that my eldest child, aged 9, might find it dull, but he appeared to thoroughly enjoy himself. Our adventure began with the crazy barrels as the first ride, which was such a hit that the kids wanted to go on it again. Thanks to the quiet atmosphere and the accommodating staff, they were able to enjoy a second round.

We then moved on to the Drop Tower, which my eldest couldn't get enough of - he went on it at least four times. This was a major plus point as usually, long queues at other parks make multiple rides impossible. Next, we all hopped onto the Chair Lift in Adventure Land. It was not only fun but also provided us with a panoramic view of the entire park, helping us decide our next stop.

The Chair Lift proved to be an efficient way to navigate the hilly park, along with the travellator which was a hit with the kids. The steep walks between rides could be challenging for those pushing prams, but for us, it was a great way to clock in some steps. Despite the number of cars in the car park, we never had to queue for more than a couple of minutes - a blessing when you have an impatient three year old constantly asking "is it my turn now?"

My eldest (9) loved the Riggers Revenge zip line course, which is fairly new, it races you along the edge of the hillside, giving you a thrill as well as incredible views of the Derbyshire countryside. And so did my partner. You have to be at least 110cm tall to ride it, which meant my youngest couldn't go on it, but even if he had been freak-ishly tall for his age, he'd never have had the bottle! Much like his mum.

The log rollercoaster was a firm favourite with my youngest, who loved the twists, dips and turns. We all went on this together at least three times back to back. The pirate ship in Smuggler's Wharf was a huge hit with everyone too. Both kids also loved the Crows Nest Quest area which featured high ropes and rock climbing for the older ones and a mini version for the smaller ones, which my three year old loved.

As well as the rides there are parks and play areas dotted around as you walk from each attraction and ample places to stop for a bite to eat or a drink. The unique layout means you barely cross paths with other families and nothing is overly busy. We stopped off for a bite to eat grabbing a toastie, two hot dogs, four drinks and four ice creams and it came to around £25 - which we thought was fairly reasonable.

You always expect to pay a little more in places such as these, and had we been more organised, we could have easily saved money by bringing a picnic as there were loads of places we could have set up camp. My general thoughts were the park was great value for money, the kids really enjoyed it, I didn't bankrupt myself and I didn't leave feeling like I needed a spa weekend to recover.

It's a little dated in areas and could certainly use a lick of paint, but there's some great rides to appease younger children. Teenagers would probably be less impressed but there's no denying it caters brilliantly to its target audience. No, it's not Alton Towers, but nor is the price tag. The prices are really reasonable if booked online in advance, it's £19 for adults and children and tots under 90cm are free.

Alternatively you can get an afternoon pass which means you get three hours between 2pm and 5pm for £12.50 per person, which is a great option if you don't want a full day and three hours would be more than enough to see everything. Overall, it was a really nice day out that was fun for the kids, stress-free for the adults and didn't break the bank. So if you're looking for a day out that ticks all the boxes this summer, I'd definitely recommend giving Gulliver's Kingdom a try.

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