On Park: Skeleton Cove, Lightwater Valley

Visit: 17th April 2011

There was plenty look forward to over the closed season with four parks opening newly themed areas. Among them, Lightwater Valley was to build Skeleton Cove, one of the biggest developments in the history of the North Yorkshire attraction.

The new area has been steadily growing on the site of the old Go Kart track at Lightwater Valley over the past winter.

As we wandered through the park, along the wooden walkway next to the Falls of Terror, it quickly became evident that the feel and the landscape of the park had dramatically changed.

In 15 years of visiting Lightwater Valley, no addition has ever had the same effect. It stuck me that during this time, the park has usually replaced old rides with new ones in a way that the landscape of the park remained the same.

For instance, with the departure of Viper, the exact same area was filled with Eagle’s Claw. When Beaver Rapids departed, the exact same spot became the home of Grizzly Bear, before the arrival of the Wild River Rapids.

I’ve always felt at home when visiting Lightwater, it’s certainly a park that I have visited more than most. The drastic changes to a large area of the park were slightly unnerving. That said, we quickly realised that the changes have not only provided Lightwater with five great new rides, they have also allowed the park to revitalise a tired looking area.

Last year’s Raptor Attack saw the park head in a whole new direction in terms of what enthusiasts insist on call ‘theming’. Sewer Rat became an adventure through an abandoned mine where Raptors now rule. The ride became an instant hit and was hailed across the enthusiast community. It’s fair to say that this year’s attractions are following in the same vein.

Skeleton Cove has an interesting mix of rides and attractions. They range from the high thrills of the Black Pearl to the kid’s Pirate Swinger. The Powder Kegs, Skull Rock and Flying Cutlass make up the line up.

Towering over almost everything else in the park, the Black Pearl is without doubt the area’s centre piece. Its imposing presence and seemingly impossible movements have ensured that the ride has become the park’s new focal point. This particular ride has a rich history and it was great to be able to ride it once more. Black Pearl is an absolute slam-dunk for Lightwater – I just hope that its tacky backflash will be banished into Davey Jones’ locker at some point in the future.

Also for thrill seekers is the Powder Kegs ride. This is the ride that cements the park’s reputation as a haven for flat ride fans. Huss Breakdance rides are now rare in the UK, so it’s great to see one in the Skeleton Cove line up.

The family market is fully catered for with the Skull Rock and Flying Cutlass rides. Skull Rock is a fun circular ride where young scallywags can board their own vessel and brave the waves in Skeleton Cove.

Last year was final year for the park’s Wave pirate ship, fans of swinging ships have been presented with a similar ride, the Flying Cutlass. While providing a fun experience for the younger sailor, the ride cannot live up to the ride that it effectively replaced. The Wave’s wonderful woodland setting and cascading waterfall at its base are sorely missed when aboard the Flying Cutlass.

Kids not quite ready to brave the park’s Skyrider attraction will love the Pirate Swinger ride, located beneath the mighty Black Pearl.

A small merchandise shop and two scenery areas make up the rest of the cove. Various pirate-esque music and themed audio can be heard throughout the area, once again demonstrating the park’s commitment to ‘the little things’.

Skeleton Cove is a wonderful addition to a flourishing park. There are however a few niggling things that would have added a little more ‘wow’ to the new area.

Costume characters would be a welcome addition and would really bring the area to life – perhaps this is something the park will implement on the busier summer days. The path system within the area would allow any character easy access to guests queuing for each ride. A water feature of some description would also bring the nautical theme full circle.

The niggling issues aside, Skeleton Cove is a solid addition to Lightwater Valley and has once again raised the bar in terms of theming and detailing at the park.

I’ve managed to avoid talking like Captain Hook thus far…I guess it’s only right that I finish off with a line or two. I can only conclude that Skeleton Cove ‘Tis a fine collection of pirate booty and would wish the park smooth sailin’, an’ fair winds t’ ye!’

To see how Skeleton Cove came to be – check out Valley Mania’s construction blog.

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