Finding thrills in the UK

There are no active volcanoes in the UK, which is great, though it does mean Brits have to go abroad to try the new and bizarre sport of Volcano Surfing. Brits will also struggle to find a good place for Skijoring, where you put on skis and get pulled along by horses or dogs. While these both sound amazing, there are plenty of other ways to get an adrenaline rush in the UK. Here are a few you might not have tried:

Driving a supercar

In 2007, a man was jailed for ten weeks for driving a borrowed Porsche at 172mph down the A420 in Oxfordshire. He should have just paid for a supercar driving experience, where he could have done the same thing, but legally and more safely, on a racetrack.

If sports cars aren’t your thing, at some driving tracks you can race JCBs, or drive monster trucks, articulated lorries, and even fire engines.

Where to do it: York, Wigan, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Caving

Last year, Werner Herzog blagged himself the best caving experience of all time – he got permission to explore the Chauvet Cave in France, which contains 32,000-year-old paintings, the oldest in the world.

Watching Herzog’s film is the only way you’ll get to see inside Chauvet – it’s closed to the public. However, there are plenty of picturesque caves to explore around the UK.

Where to do it: Yorkshire Dales, the Peak District, Sutherland (Scotland).

Hostage rescue

If your friends are a bit bored with paintballing, why not buy them a hostage rescue day gift? You’ll be trained in weapons and tactics, and then have to plan and carry out the rescue, using replica weapons.

You can also do ‘spy days’, which involve sniping, electronic surveillance and driving stunts.

Where to do it: Milton Keynes.

Flying lesson

This is understandably exciting for the participants, but you’d think it would also cause a real adrenaline rush for the teacher, because you’re driving the plane, and you’ve never driven a plane before. Fortunately, they also have a set of controls, so it’s safe. In some ‘flying experience’ sessions, you’re allowed to do barrel rolls, loops and other aerial acrobatics.

Where to do it: Gloucestershire, Bristol, Cardiff.

Barefoot water skiing

The name is something of a contradiction, as if you put skis on your feet, they are no longer bare. Still, it sounds fun – you get pulled along by a boat while standing up. As you don’t have skis, you need to go pretty fast to stay above the water. In March 2011, a barefoot water skier set a new world record – 153mph. He was being pulled by a helicopter.

Where to do it Ringwood (Hampshire), Lydd (Kent).

Coasteering

The coastal equivalent of parkour, coasteering involves scrambling up cliffs, across rocky ridges, over obstacles, and through caves, as well as a fair bit of diving and swimming. It’s good exercise, adrenaline-filled, and done on remote beaches, so any embarrassing slip-ups are less public than if you were doing parkour.

Where to do it: Devon and Cornwall are full of great spots.

The Top 5 Theme Parks in the UK

 The UK may not have a climate to match that of theme park hotspots such as Florida and California, but thrill-seeking residents and visitors are still spoilt for choice. Nearly 30 amusement parks have survived the economic gloom of recent years, with visitor numbers at the most popular parks on the rise. With a number of major new attractions due to be installed in the near future, the industry looks set to flourish for many years to come. The top parks are on a par with those anywhere else in the world – and 5 of the best are highlighted below.

5. Legoland Windsor

Aimed at families with children aged 2-12, Legoland Windsor features the least intense selection of attractions of any park on the list. Kids will be in their element here, able to fulfil dreams such as driving a car (Driving School), captaining a boat (Boating School) and dousing flames (Fire Academy). For older visitors, the Atlantis Submarine Voyage ride offers the chance to view a wide range of aquatic creatures from an underwater vantage point, and The Dragon roller coaster is fun for all ages.

Don’t miss:

  • Miniland – famous landmarks from all over the world are recreated in miniature using millions of Lego bricks. A new Star Wars-themed section will open in 2012.

4. Chessington World of Adventures

Located close to Legoland Windsor, Chessington World of Adventures caters for a slightly older age group. While several of its thrill rides were moved to sister park Thorpe Park after the two were brought under the same ownership, it still offers a diverse line-up of attractions. This includes curiosities such as the Bubbleworks indoor boat ride, which sees guests travel through a soap factory, and the surreal walk-through Hocus Pocus Hall attraction. For those after white-knuckle thrills, the Vampire and Dragon’s Fury roller coasters fit the bill without crossing the boundary into pure terror. The park is also home to a zoo and a Sea Life centre, both of which house a variety of exotic creatures.

Don’t miss:

  • Tomb Blasters – few laser gun rides can match the setting of Chessington’s, which sees riders battling the undead in a stunningly detailed “tomb”.

3. Flamingo Land

While parts of Flamingo Land resemble an old-fashioned caravan park (and indeed, its camping site is still a major part of its business), the park has developed into one of the UK’s leading visitor attractions. Like Chessington, it is home to a zoo, in this case one so expansive that it is worth a full day’s visit in itself. It also has an impressive line-up of rides and shows, including roller coasters Mumbo Jumbo (which briefly held the record for being the world’s steepest coaster) and Kumali (a twisting, turning suspended coaster).

Don’t miss:

  • Velocity – the UK’s only motorbike launch coaster sees guests straddling bike-style vehicles, and is the tallest and fastest ride of its kind in the world.

2. Thorpe Park

Thorpe Park’s owners, Merlin Entertainments Group, have billed the park in recent years as “the nation’s thrill capital” and this is an increasingly fair description. Almost every ride aimed at young children has been stripped out of the park, and its line-up is now packed full of roller coasters, thrill rides and water rides. The coasters are some of the best in the UK, including the heavily-themed Saw – The Ride (based on the horror movie franchise), Nemesis Inferno (based around a steamy volcano) and Stealth (which sees riders blasted up a near-vertical slope). Bring a change of clothes if you plan to try out the water rides – the Tidal Wave attraction, in particular, more than lives up to its name.

Don’t miss:

  • The Swarm – Thorpe Park’s new attraction for 2012 is the first “Wing Rider” coaster in the UK, with guests dangling over either side of the track as they swoop through a post-apocalyptic landscape.

1. Alton Towers

Far and away the most popular theme park in the UK, Alton Towers is well worthy of its status. Built around a genuine gothic mansion which provides a stunning visual focal point, it is spread across an enormous 800 acre site that also houses extensive gardens. It features a wide range of attractions for every age group, and it is near-impossible to see everything in a single day. If you’re short on time, be sure to check out the innovative roller coasters Air, Oblivion, Thirteen and Rita, and don’t miss the underrated Hex: The Legend of the Towers, housed in the mansion itself.

Don’t miss:

  • Nemesis – opened in 1994, Europe first’s inverted roller coaster still regularly features at the top of “best ride” lists all over the world.

Wherever you are based in the UK, there is almost certainly at least one theme park in the near vicinity. With Alton Towers plotting a new roller coaster for 2013, and other parks likely to follow suit, the excitement on offer should only continue to grow.

Nick Sim covers theme park news, reviews and guides for his own website, where you can find a range of money-saving deals including Alton Towers 2-for-1 vouchers.