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Tayto Park Near Dublin, Ireland

By on 10/27/2015

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to make my first business trip to Dublin, Ireland. Prior to the trip, I did a little research to see where the nearest roller coaster was. To my surprise, I found that the first real roller coaster in Ireland was currently being built at a small family theme park just outside of Dublin called Tayto Park, which I had never heard of. Not only did I quickly pencil in a visit to the park on my schedule, but I also reached out to the park and arranged for a chat with the General Manager while I was there to learn more about the history of the park. This is an overview of Tayto Park and how it came to be.

Tayto Park is located about 30 minutes northwest of Dublin, Ireland near Ashbourne in the middle of the prettiest countryside that you could possibly imagine. After winding through tiny country roads, lined with lush green vegetation, you’ll know you’ve finally arrived when you reach the main entry arch:

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The admissions building is where you enter the park, and it’s unlike any park entrance I’ve ever seen. Exposed natural wood beams and rugged stonework are just a few of the details that really make this building standout and let you know that you are not entering a typical theme park:

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The attention to detail continues as you enter the front door. Tile floors, antler chandeliers, and walls that emulate a log cabin give this entry a definite Northwest feel. The eight ticket booths, if you can even call them that, are where you pay for your park entry:

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Admission to the park is a very reasonable €14, however that does not include the rides. You can either buy individual tokens for €1 each, with each ride requiring a few Euros, or you can buy an unlimited ride wristband for only €15. What a steal…unlimited access to everything in the park for only €29!! I bought the unlimited wristband because I knew I’d be riding lots of rides over and over again:

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Check out this mosaic floor just on the other side of the ticket booths:

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On the far side of the admissions building is the main gift shop. There is no shortage of Mr. Tayto (more on him later) merchandise in here:

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The beauty of the admissions building isn’t limited to just the front. This is the side that you exit out of to enter the park:

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And this is the back of the admissions building, as seen from a distance:

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I arrived early, before the park opened, to meet with Charles Coyle, Tayto Park’s General Manager, about the history of the park and their brand new roller coaster:

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The family business is snack foods, particularly crisps, or what us Americans call potato chips. The history on that alone is fascinating, and could fill a book, but I won’t go into detail on that here. The history of the park itself really started in 1986, when they built a potato crisp factory on some land here on the outskirts of Dublin. In the late 1990’s, on a whim, they bought some American Bison and stuck them in the field next to the factory. When people started flocking out their way to see this strange creature, they decided to add a visitor’s center onto the factory. The idea to build a small zoo with kid’s rides crossed their minds, but would take years to think about and come to fruition.

In 2006, they bought both King Crisps and Tayto Crisps, with the latter being the largest crisp brand in all of Ireland. Now the thought of building a small zoo and/or theme park was starting to progress. In 2007 they started to do some planting around the property. In 2008 they dug out the lake, and continued minor improvements on the land through 2009. In 2010, according to Charles, “Ray (founder) said if we don’t focus all our time and energy on doing this now, it’ll just be a pipe dream forever. We went hell for leather at it and we built the restaurant, shops, admissions area, car park and the beginnings of a good zoo.

After talking to some theme park planning companies, and getting a serious case of sticker shock, they decided to do it all on their own. They already had seasoned civil engineers, carpenters, and electricians on staff from their factory, and they became very involved with the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). Additionally, they became good friends with owners of other theme parks across Europe, who were more than happy to lend guidance.

As we were talking, Ray Coyle, the founder and managing Director of Tayto Park, and also Charles’ father, walked in. What a nice guy, I really enjoyed chatting with him! You could tell that he was incredibly proud of the park they had built, as he should be:

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The park officially opened on November 21, 2010. Charles said it was a gloriously sunny day, but it proceeded to snow nonstop for the next several days. Many thought it was an omen. They were open every Wed-Sun until Easter. These were some very bleak times, but that all changed once summer arrived. Once the crowds started to flock to the park, they knew they were going to be just fine. When looking back at the lessons learned, Charles said “We sure as hell wouldn’t have opened in November. We would’ve opened around Easter!

They ended up with a very respectful 240,000 visitors that first year, growing to around 393,00 in 2012 and 430,000 in 2013. When attendance growth started to slow to just 450,000 in 2014, they knew it was time to start expanding. For the 2015 season, they invested a whopping €23M across the entire park. In addition to several new attractions, they also added a new entrance, a new admissions building, a new car park, and they expanded the restaurant.

For 2016, Ray said they would like to add a flume ride. However, Charles quickly pointed out that it’s just one idea, as is a new dark ride. There are many ideas under consideration. They plan on adding something new every year, with a major addition every other year. A small ride will go in during the summer of 2016, at which time they will also break ground on their big 2017 addition. They do not want to become the next Six Flags. It’s important to them to remain a family-friendly park. They are expected to hit 600,000 visitors in 2015, with a goal of breaking 1,000,000 annual guests by 2018.

After taking up a good chunk of his morning, I thanked Charles for his time and proceeded out to explore the park on my own, which was now open.

If the roller coaster hadn’t still been under construction, that would have been my first stop. However, since it wasn’t open yet, I went on to other things. I’ll go into more detail about the coaster later. My first stop was the brand new Air Race flat ride, by Zamperla. I had read about these, and always wanted to try one, so I was excited. Each arm has two seats at one end. As the ride starts spinning, the arms start rotating in complete circles as well. After only two consecutive rides, I was already getting dizzy and had to stop:

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Next up was the Maxi Dance Party 360, a 24 seat, 108′ tall spinning and rotating flat ride called the Rotator. This ride is not for the faint of heart:

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I loved this ride!! Only a few kids were brave enough to get on it while I was there, and even then they held on for dear life. When the old guy (me) got on it by himself, people gathered around to watch to see how I’d fare. I had my hands up and feet out the entire time, even when held upside down at the top and spinning! This was an extremely fun ride. I heard there are only a few of them in the world and I’d love to see one come to Southern California:

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Another new attraction for 2015 is a 300-seat multi-dimensional theater. I watched a pretty funny animated movie with a runaway train car, which felt very similar to riding a 3D roller coaster. With a 3D movie, moving seats, and wind/water in your face, this provides a very fun break from reality:

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Eagle Sky is a very tall tower near the front of the park that you can’t miss. Stairs take you up to the top, where you can either slide down the 20M high Tayto Twister tubular slide, or take off down the longest and fastest zip lines in Ireland:

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On the other side of the tower is the 21M tall Extreme Climbing Wall:

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The zip line launches out over a well manicured grassy area. Don’t hop the fence, otherwise you may get eaten by a sea serpent:

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When you get to the opposing zip line tower, attendants are there to help you slow down and come to a safe stop. If you paid for a return trip, you get to climb the second tower and do it all over again. Otherwise you can just walk back from there.

Close to the far zip line tower is a Dinosaurs Alive exhibit. There are lots of cool animatronic dinosaurs, like this docile looking Stegosaurus:

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Some of them aren’t so nice:

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This guy will spit poison on you if you’re not careful:

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Fair warning…not everyone on the zip line makes it all the way across safely:

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The Sky Walk is a three level ropes course:

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I thought this little spiral hill looked cute, so I decided to walk up it. Holy cow! It seemed to take me forever to get up to the top, and when I did I was slightly winded:

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However, when I did get to the top I had a nice view of the front of the park, including the brand new, attention grabbing roller coaster:

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Named Cú Chulainn (pronounced: coo cullen), after a famous Irish mythological hero, it stands 32M (105′) tall and you can’t miss it as you are approaching the park through the treelined country side:

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Custom designed and built by The Gravity Group, it’s 1,082M (3,550′) long and can reach speeds up to 60MPH. The first drop leads into the first of two tunnels:

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At the base of the first drop, just before the tunnel, is the on-ride cameras:

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The coaster was still under construction while I was there, so I did not get a chance to ride it, but I only missed it by a few days:

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I was visiting the park on a Sunday, and the trains were expected to be installed on the track the next day, with testing to commence with water dummies. Human test riders would start riding it on Tuesday, with media day scheduled for Thursday and the public opening on Friday. I thought that was a very aggressive schedule. Since this is the first real roller coaster in Ireland, there isn’t as much framework in place for coaster testing, unlike the US or even the UK. All they needed to do was have 600 successful test cycles and they were good to go.

I was scheduled to fly home on Wednesday morning. They told me if I could make it back out to the park on Tuesday, they’d let me ride it. Unfortunately I had all day meetings on Monday and Tuesday, and there was no getting out of them. It’d have to wait until my next visit to the park.

This next photo shows the station with the exit stairs. The small building to the right is the photo booth for the on-ride photos:

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This next photo shows the maintenance shed, along with the transfer track. Cú Chulainn will have two Gravity Group Timberliner trains, capable of handling up to 900 people/hour:

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The Coyle’s said they wanted an iconic ride for the park, so they went with a wooden coaster. First and foremost, wood is a natural material and they didn’t want to spoil the beauty of the lush vegetation in the valley around them. They also liked the fact that there are so few wooden coasters in the world, compared to the number of steel coasters. They also wanted a custom layout that was unique to them and nobody else. That’s hard to do, not to mention expensive, with a steel coaster:

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The hills on this coaster should provide quite a bit of airtime:

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Cú Chulainn is the very first wooden coaster in all of Europe with an inversion, but don’t get too excited. The track barely leans over enough to classify as an inversion, but you never really go fully upside down. They said they wanted the distinction of having an inversion, but decided against the full barrel roll because they didn’t want to make the country’s first coaster too scary:

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This coaster was in the works for 2 1/2 years, and looks like it was worth the wait:

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The entrance to the queue wasn’t quite finished when I was there. It’s going to be a 5M high stone statue of Cú Chulainn, with his queen and his hound at his side:

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When I arrived that morning, there were no flags on the lift hill yet, as you can see in some of the photos above. Throughout the day, they started adding them. By the time I left, they were all installed and looking good. Each flag represents a county in Ireland:

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The Coyle’s did say they’d like to add a steel coaster at some point in the future, preferably a wing or launch coaster, but no specifics at this time. However, they do know they would like to paint it copper so that it looks more natural and doesn’t stick out as much as a brightly colored coaster would.

Now it was time to check out the back half of the park, and I needed to pass through this cool looking tunnel to get there:

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I mentioned earlier that the Tayto Crisp brand dominated the crisp market in Ireland. Their mascot is Mr. Tayto, as seen here, and he’s everywhere. After all, it is his park:

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Words and photos cannot convey how pretty this park is. From the trees and bushes, to the buildings, to statues, to water features like this, the beauty is everywhere:

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This is just one of the kid’s play areas:

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Since the park was originally conceived for the younger kids, there’s lots for them to see and do just about everywhere:

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There is a trackless train that will loop you around the park:

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On the far side of the park is another awesome building, simply known as The Lodge. It was one of the first big buildings built in 2010 during the push to get the park open. It’s main purpose was to serve as the park’s restaurant:

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The interior is spacious and almost identical to the admissions building, including the antler chandelier and a bison head hanging on the wall:

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As part of the 2015 expansion, they are adding a new wing onto the lodge, drastically increasing the restaurant capacity:

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Close to the lodge is another food location, called The Pizza Place, and it sits right alongside the lake:

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This is where I ate my lunch and it was very relaxing:

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Alternatively, there are plenty of places to sit and eat outside on a picnic table, amongst the totem poles, whimsical statues, and wind chimes found scattered around the property:

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Every now and then you’ll come across a nice fountain or water feature to just sit and relax:

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Tayto Park isn’t just about the rides and attractions. It’s also educational with many animals to be seen in Critter Country:

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Tayto Park has a couple of critically endangered Amur Leopards onsite. There are believed to be less than 70 of these animals left in the wild, very close to extinction. Zoos such as Tayto Park are doing everything they can to repopulate the species:

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Here kitty, kitty, kitty! The Eurasian Lynx is the third largest predator in Europe, behind only the bear and the wolf:

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Some of the animals, like this Mountain Lion, were in their enclosures, sleeping in the warmth:

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This Highland Cattle is in serious need of a haircut:

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This turkey is very lucky they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Ireland:

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If it weren’t for the local’s curiosity of the American Bison, Tayto Park may never have been built:

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For an afternoon snack, I stopped by the Sweet Station. There was some Irish Cream Fudge I was going to grab before leaving that day, but I forgot. If anyone happens to be in the area, please grab me some:

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As somewhat of a predecessor to the park itself, the tour of the crisp factory is still accessible from the back of the park:

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After following the sign and crossing the street, you wind up at the factory:

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I must admit, I felt a bit like I won a golden ticket and was about to enter Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory before I passed through these doors:

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The self-guided tour is basically a long corridor with the company’s history all along it. There are also videos playing on monitors and windows that peeked onto the factory floor where you can watch the crisps being made. There were no cameras or video recording allowed through the factory windows, so you’ll just have to go experience it yourself:

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That wraps up my very first trip to Tayto Park. It’s really a fun place to visit and if you ever find yourself near Dublin, you should definitely check it out! I’d like to thank both Ray and Charles Coyle for their incredible hospitatlity, as well as the ever so friendly staff of Tayto Park. I had a blast and cannot wait to go back!

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6 Comments

  1. Scott C.

    10/28/2015 at 8:20 am

    Great article. Take me with next time you go 🙂

    • tina

      10/28/2015 at 12:06 pm

      Me too!!! I want to ride that coaster!

  2. Pingback: Tayto Park After Dark 2015 - The Coaster Guy

  3. Charlie

    10/30/2015 at 7:29 pm

    Awesome. Place looks beautiful. Glad you had a chance to experience that.

  4. Justin

    11/05/2015 at 7:21 am

    Whoa! That park beams beauty and craftsmanship! Thank you for the extensive write-up, felt like I was there with you (almost).

  5. Eric Frazer

    08/01/2017 at 12:36 pm

    Great article, nice work, tayto park is amazing and the potential there is astounding. I live just twenty minutes away from tayto park and visit frequently.

    My wife, son and I visit Orlando at least every 2 years, and it is still by far the best place in the world.

    The massive downside to a theme park in ireland is that the weather is never predictable – your pretty much guaranteed that it’ll rain all the time, which is why us Irish people end up living in Spain!

    Ray coyle and his team are doing an amazing job and with planning permission underway in Meath county council (region of ireland were the park is located) the introduction of a hotel will be amazing, and will bring in many many theme park lovers from all over the world and even dublin too, as i would love to stay on site – like the floridians do, with one massive exception – no disney transportation to the park – as you’ll be right above it.

    If i could wish for one thing in tayto park it would be the introduction of some 3D simulators (universal love – i know some don’t like them) but in door attractions like these would be amazing in tayto park as the weather conditions would drive people away from the park earlier and therefore money walks out the gate.

    Please come visit tayto park as it’ll mean that ireland will have an attraction close to me, and i wont have to spend $6000 to visit a theme park!

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