London Dungeons

The London Dungeons was our last point of call on our recent trip to London and number 15 on our Merlin Challenge List. The London Eye, and Sealife Aquarium are all at the Embankment so it was easy to get from one to the other.

I have no pictures from this attraction as “Picture Boxes, and Talky things!” are not allowed. As the name suggests this attraction is not for the faint hearted, it is full of smells and sights that smaller children would not enjoy. The boy however has been relishing the fact that he survived both York and Warwick Castle Dungeons and this was going to be his 3rd.

The London Dungeons is the largest of the attraction of its kind in the UK, and has only recently been moved to its current home. You can tell that it has been more purpose-built than the York one as the groups that go through are much bigger. We joined a tour with about 30 other unsuspecting guests, who are treated to torture. Yes it was Dad M’s turn again to have his bits chopped off again. With tales of the Plague, and Gung farmers as well as Jack the Ripper and Sweeny Todd. The London Dungeons is a very unpleasant place. There are also two rides within the attraction, a boat ride, beware its backwards! and a drop ride. The boy didn’t want to do the drop ride as was feeling a bit delicate, but both me and Dad took our turns.

I have enjoyed the dungeons more than I thought I would, it’s not too scary as I have a good idea what is coming, I haven’t been picked on, and its funny when Dad M keeps getting chosen for torture!

London Sea Life Aquarium

London Sea Life Aquarium is park number 14 on Our Merlin Challenge list, and I will confess at this point that the Sea Life Centres are all starting t merge into one! While the fish are obviously different the layouts and exhibits are all very similar.

Having said that we do seem to find a different of new creature each time, this time we found sand worms! These strange-looking and striped things were popping their heads out of the sand like little watery Meer cats! I still love all the rays and sharks as well as the seahorses. My favourite seahorses though are still the seaweed seahorses from Weymouth Sealife.

The London Sea Life does have a huge shark tank, with the usual tunnel but also has the added fun of as you go into the building you walk over the top of the tank on a glass floor. I think we all enjoyed our time, and as usual the boy stopped to answer the questions and get his badge. The London Sea Life Aquarium is a great place to visit, and you can get a combination ticket with the Eye, Dungeons and other attractions which makes it better value.

The London Eye

A couple of weeks back we went to London for the Chad Valley Imagination Day, while we were there we thought we would visit a few of London’s Landmarks including the London Eye. This was going to be number 13 from Our Merlin Challenge Park List.

I think the London Eye has now become as much part of London as Big Ben, and there is certainly always a queue whenever we come past. It didn’t take us long before we were boarding though, and the 25 minutes it takes for one full revolution goes very quickly. The sun was setting as we went round and was casting some amazing colours and shadows across the capital city. As always the buildings are a mixture of old and new, some looking more out-of-place than others. The boy enjoyed his flight in the capsule, and was fascinated by the man with the steel drum on the bank. We could even hear him playing all that way up!

I think this is my 3rd or 4th time on the London Eye, and I am always surprised that I find something new to look at each time. It will always remind me of my 40th Birthday treat. Dad M and the boy treated me to tea at the Ritz and a trip at night on the eye, it brings back some special memories.

Considering the Eye was only supposed to stay for 5 years it is certainly as popular now as it was back when it was built, and I think a landmark tourist attraction for years to come.

York Dungeons

Over the half term we took a quick trip up to Yorkshire. I have never stayed in this part of the country and it was very beautify helped along by a nice dose of sunshine!

We had decided on our way home to break up the trip with a stop off and visit York Dungeons. This was to be number 10 in our Merlin Park Challenge List

Now I will warn any of you that are thinking of going that it doesn’t recommend this attraction for under 10’s. The boy is 7 nearly 8 and I thought it was worth the risk, as we have our pass, and they said we could get out if we spoke to a member of staff.

The boy was very clingy and worried, he gets like this, but once we were through the first of the rooms this soon changed to nervous excitement!! The attraction is not like the other Merlin attractions. You are traveling as a small group through rooms and historical stories. We started with he Pague, moved through Viking York then Rome and into Victorian times with beheading, torture, witches, explosions and blood along the way.
Boys will especially like this and the boy came out very excited that he had learnt all about the Plague. So much so that we spent 2 hours of the journey home talking about the effects and googling various questions!
If you are of a nervous disposition, or don’t like being in front of strangers, then this is not the tour for you. But we really enjoyed it. If you imagine horrible histories but a bit darker. Its a bit like traveling back in time! I wont tell you exactly what they do as this would spoil it for those of you that might like to give it a try. But I can tell you that the characters are brilliant, and we laughed a lot too!

We give this 4/5 and are looking forward to the London Dungeons some time in the summer…

sorry there are no pictures for this one, but you are not allowed to take video or photos while inside.

Sea Life Centre Scarborough

The Scarborough Sealife Centre is the ninth park in our Merlin Park Challenge List. None of the family had been to Scarborough before, so we were all looking forward to this visit.

The sea life center is tucked quite away up the North end of the town so we chose to drive and park right up the end and walk back into the town later.
We are getting quite used to the set up of the Sea Life centres as they all follow a similar pattern. First you book in, collect your quiz card, have your photo taken (we skip this bit) and straight into the first room. Like all the other centres they have a great mix of different fish and animals to look at. This centre was a little different as outside it did had a seal hospital as well as penguins and otters.

The exhibit that we enjoyed the most was the Claws!
We had seen these horrid huge crabs in the Brighton Sealife back in January, but this centre has a room full of facts about crabs. We all enjoyed the information boards and the crab shaped tanks. You could even test your strength against a crabs claw, which the boy loved.

Like the other centres you can touch some of the animals, which the boy always enjoys. But this time he got to feed the sting rays. We were given (for a £1 donation) a pot of very smelly fish bits, and these we could dangle in the big tank. The boy loved this, and as something new was good fun.

We went outside briefly and looked at the seals but they only had one in the hospital, and this area was a little more tatty than the inside buildings.
Overall, I think this centre is worth a visit, and they had some good offers including 50% off with your car park ticket. We seem to spend about 2 hours and I think this is just the right amount of time.

We gave this Sealife 4/5 and I think our favourite so far would have to be the Weymouth one, just because of the behind the scenes tour. We still have a few to go so will have to see which one comes out the best at the end of the year!

Weymouth Tower and number seven on our Merlin park list

Weymouth Tower and number seven on our Merlin park list, and a nice stroll along the seafront around Weymouth bay. Well I would imaging it would be beautiful if you pick a nice warm sunny day. The day we visited was cold and windy, but I have to say that didn’t put us off. We had parked at the Sealife Adventure Park and the notices said it was a 20 min walk. I think as someone who walks fast, this is a little bit on the lean side, as it took at least 30 mins, and we ran part of the way! But it is a beautiful view along the prom with a sandy beach and you could see the tower clearly in the distance. If you want there is a land train that goes along the prom about every hour, but as we had missed it and the next one wasn’t for 45 mins we thought we would walk.

When you arrive at the tower you have a boarding card, I think flights leave about every 20 minutes throughout the day, and it is much bigger close up.
You have to wait outside in a fenced off area, so in the winter bring your woollies and in the summer a hat and water. We were loaded into the tower bubble, which was not what I expected, its like a large doughnut with a continuous bench seat and thankfully is heated. There are no bad seats so you all file in and then when everyone is on board, the doors close and you head upwards at quite a speed! You have glass in front of you and just under your feet so you have a clear view in all directions and the tower turns (2 complete rotations) so you see from the bay and arcades right out to sea. The views were amazing, and once you are at full height I felt completely safe. We had a man who gave us a commentary of all the landmarks and took questions, which was interesting. Then all to quickly it was time to go back down. I thought it would move at a similar speed to the London Eye, but it is actually quite quick. We loved our flight, and the only shame is that there is no other part to the tower, no information room or boards to read. It is just a get on get off.

We loved out visit to Weymouth, and I think we will have to come back in the summer, as I love the beach and fancy a nice stroll along the prom and an ice-cream!
you can book tickets here for both the tower and the Sealife centre and they are good value if booked in advance.

we give the tower a 4/5 as it is something a little different

Weymouth Sealife Adventure Park, and park number six on our list

Park number six on our list of Merlin parks to visit was going to be Weymouth Sealife Adventure Park. After a quick skip down the motorway we arrived. The park is located just on the outskirts of the town, with a large car park. After a quick car picnic we headed inside. I have never been to this Sealife park before and was pleasantly surprised that it was quite different to the others that we have visited.
The first thing is that each different environment is in an individual building, so you follow footsteps around the park. You need to go outside, so wrap up warm! This I can imagine would not be so much fun on a wet day, but it was dry but very cold for our visit. There are also some fun splash areas and a mini pool, which I am sure is popular in the summer.

We followed our map through the usual fish, seahorse, shark stingray, and jellyfish tanks. As with the Birmingham Sealife we also had a quiz to follow.
The seahorses at this park are amazing and something a little special. They were defiantly my favorite, and something I would be keen to see again.
The park also has the added extra of a small ride area, Daddy and the boy braved the crocodile splash, but I didn’t want to get wet! The boys favorite ride the jumping jellybean was good and along with a couple of other rides made a nice addition.

The park is celebrating its 30th birthday this year, so there was a nice added FREE tour of behind the scenes. The tour is every 20 minutes and you queued up at a point just past the penguins. They give the first 15 people a quick briefing then whisk you off into the back of the buildings.
For me this was the best part of the park. The guy who showed us round told us a little about the history of the park. Along with details of breeding programmes, release schemes. Animal health and even the naughty octopus!
This tour is short 10-15mins but is so worth while. It was great to learn that all the fish and animals come through Weymouth before going out to Sealife centres all over the world. They health check all the animals before they go anywhere. We were told about how they try to breed all their stock. So less fish are taken from their natural habitats.

This is a great place to visit, and I can imagine is very popular on a sunny day. we gave this park 5/5 as it was so interesting and a bit different to the others we have visited. This park would have cost £22.50 adult and child. The website has some good offers including combined tower and centre tickets

A lovely day out and park number one of our challenge

Sunday was a lovely day out…
The first day of our Merlin pass and one that has been in the planning for a while now. Thanks to Sterimar baby for their brilliant name the dolphin competition and for choosing us as the winners.

So we started our year with a visit to the Sealife Centre Brighton
It normally costs £16.20 for adults and £11.40 for children, visit the website for discounts and offers.
Its one of the more expensive of the sea life centres so we were looking forward to a good afternoon.

The entrance is opposite the pier so easy to find and you get a feel of the 140 year history as you enter the gate guarded by stone fish. Dropping down to the entrance, you enter the usual sea life styled entrance. Once we had been photographed and checked in we proceeded through the double doors into the most amazing vaulted corridor. The lighting makes the atmosphere amazing and changes colour, dad was surprised at the size, and the boys amazed at all the tanks lining the walls.

Lots of fish as you would expect, but huge spider crabs! Something I have never seen before. The boys ran from tank to tank shouting out their finds and calling us over. At this point I will say this building is old, so lots of levels and lots of steps. The boy was the first to trip, and has a huge bruise to prove it!
Next the tank of things you can hold, the boy held crabs and touched sea anemones, his friend was reluctant but did join in. Then more tanks of stingrays, fish, turtles mixed exhibits and question and answer boards with interesting facts.

We had booked a glass bottom boat ride (additional £1.50 per person) and made our way to the shark tank. We left our bags and popped on shoe covers to get on the boat. There was only one other family so plenty of time to ask lots of questions and the man on the boat certainly knew his sharks from his fish! Its thrilling to see all the sharks turtles and fish under your feet, and we even know their names.

We stayed to watch them feed the shark’s and then made our way through to see the rest of the tanks.
Just seahorses, octopus and even guppies… time speed by and before we knew it was closing time. There seemed lots we didn’t do with quizzes, and colouring in and hats. There is a behind the scenes area (additional £3.00 per person) and a pottery painting area, cafe and coffee shop.

This is a hidden gem in Brighton and I know we will be back, if only to see the new octopus exhibits. I would recommend this as a great place to visit with any age kids, as dad loved it too. The boys both said it was brilliant so I think they had fun…now which venue next…

Thanks to sealife,sterimar.