In a nutshell
This is a cute little amusement park, part of a chain of three that are themed on the Jonathan Swift book, with a lovely laid-back vibe and aimed at families with children under the age of 13. There are plenty of rides to suit everyone, ranging from gentle ones for the smallest “Lilliputians”, lots offering a mid-range of excitement, plus a log flume, junior rollercoasters and a few higher-adrenaline rides to keep tweens happy. There are shows for little ones, loads of themed play zones, and special events and activities at certain times of the year. It has a separate indoor splash zone for £7 a session (£2 accompanying adult) and a NERF zone (foam guns; for over-sixes, £7).
The original park, in Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, was built in 1978 by Ray Phillips (hearteningly, the family still owns the chain) as a model village for his children. It sits on the site of a Victorian rollercoaster, or “Switchback Railway” as it was then called. As a nod to this history, there’s still a ride called Switchback so the area’s theme-attraction past lives on.
Best thing about it
I’ve been a few times and have never had to battle huge crowds nor suffer the endless queuing that seems to be de rigueur at big-name attractions. As an added bonus, it is possible to leave the car for free in the Gulliver’s dedicated car park (not always the case at higher-profile venues). If it’s possible to have a stress-free experience at any theme park, this is the place to go – and no one needs to pay extra to jump queues for the best rides.
What about lunch?
There are several outlets serving hot and cold food, ranging from burgers, pizzas and jacket potatoes to sandwiches and salads – and prices are very reasonable: a child’s burger meal costs £3.95, including drink and fries. But the website positively encourages folk to bring their own picnics – there are lots of places to sit and eat. And on one cold day, no one minded us having our own lunch in the dining hall.
Easiest by car as it’s off junction 14 of the M1 and well-signposted. Otherwise, it’s a train to Milton Keynes, then the number 300 bus from the town centre, or a taxi trip.
Value for money?
Definitely – tickets cost £19.95pp on the gate, but are £3 less if booked two days ahead online, and very small children get in for free.
Exit through the gift shop?
No, but there are quite a few small outlets selling sweets and merchandise dotted around the grounds.
10.30am-5pm in the summer holidays, 10.30-4pm at other times; park closes during some of the winter months; gulliversfun.co.uk
9.5 out of 10 – I’m a fan.
• The other Gulliver’s theme parks are at Matlock Bath and Warrington