Tayto Park: Eight spud-tacular things to do at Mr Tayto's theme park
The chips are up...
It may sound like a joke - but our No.1 theme park is based on a potato, and a tasty one at that, says Eva Hall.
Tayto Park, situated in Ashbourne in Co. Meath, stretches across 55 acres with attractions that cater for kids of all ages, as well as adults.
The talk of the park is, of course, the brand new Cú Chulainn rollercoaster - Europe's largest, and now Tayto Park's biggest draw. Independent.ie factor 50-ed up and took a ride, before picking the park's Top 8 things to do.
1. The Cú Chulainn Rollercoaster
Decked out with Irish flags behind a giant statue of the Irish legend himself, this 46,000-foot-long rollercoaster is a sight to behold. With a speed of 100km per hour and a drop zone of 31 metres, Cú Chulainn is not for the faint hearted. But the thrill of being on Ireland’s largest rollercoaster, especially being aware that you’re one of the few thousand lucky enough to ride it in its early stages, is enough to make you want to queue up again! The round of applause from the fantastic Tayto Park staff when you pull up is a nice touch.
2. Sky Walk
We strapped into our harnesses for this one, choosing from a low, medium or high level. So as not to lose face next to the 11-year-olds in our group, we chose high. We instantly regretted this. Our motto of 'don't look down' turned to dust when we quickly realised we had to look down to find our footing on the rope bridge - which is about 60 feet off the ground. Some carefully placed steps and a few expletives later, we managed to do a loop of the extreme obstacle course comprised of wooden pods, tight ropes, and rope bridges.
3. Zip line Extreme
30-feet long and 60-feet high, the zip line in Tayto Park is billed as Ireland's largest. With a wristband or two tokens, you can zip line across the park and back. Those with long tresses must wear hair nets, and open-toe shoes are not allowed (they helpfully supply Crocs for those with sandals). As with the rollercoaster, long lines can form at the Zip line due to its popularity, but even after a 45-minute wait, it was worth it. Great fun for all ages zipping across the park and you can see all attractions from a height, too.
4. The Zoo
The zoo has an impressive collection which includes an Amur tiger, an aardwolf, American bison and meerkats. Younger kids will love being able to pet the African pygmy goats, and adults can take pictures with the snowy owl. Expect to be bowled over by the cuteness of the tiny corsac foxes, who love nothing more than to come over and say hello.
5. The Lodge restaurant
Picnics are permitted throughout the park, and there are various food and ice cream stalls, but The Lodge offers an array of foods in a comfortable seating area. On the menu during our visit was turkey and stuffing, leg of lamb, chilli beef with all the trimmings, as well as fish and chips. Adult meals are priced at €11.95. Kids have a choice of chicken goujons or sausage and chips, as well as soups and salads. Chocolate cake was the dessert of choice all round.
6. Tayto Factory
Adults will feel a wave of nostalgia walking through the factory corridors where the walls are plastered with Tayto through the years, from the first packaging in 1954 to the assortment of flavours - from classic Cheese & Onion, to some that didn't make the cut in the noughties, like Crispy Sausage, launched in 1965.
Quotes from Mr Tayto himself line the walls, including his dreams of always wanting to open a theme park based around the famous crisps, where people can have the 'craic'. Windows along the way let you peek inside the making of Tayto, from filling packets to quality control.
7. Gift shop
Who knew Mr Tayto's head could lend itself to SO much memorabilia, from chocolate to pencils to t-shirts and umbrellas? The whole family is catered for in the gift shop, with pencils from €1, fudge sweets from €4 right up to the stuffed buffalo, which is available in the zoo gift shop, and costs €2,449.
8. Eating Tayto (of course)
When in Rome, and all that... As well as the various Tayto-themed sweets for sale in the gift shop (including cheese & onion chocolate bars), one of the most popular foods on site are the Twister Chips, which is one potato cut into a spiral and deep fried to give the illusion of several Tayto on a stick. These cost €3 and are delicious. Wristband attendees get a free packet of Tayto on arrival, and all attendees, be sure to hang on to your entry ticket as this will secure you a free packet of Tayto as you leave the park!
Put the big rides top of your to-do list to avoid queues, which close at 5.30pm. This allows plenty of time for all other attractions, including the zoo, face-painting, the Tayto Park steam train, Dinosaurs Alive and much, much more!