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Fun Park not Theme Park
M and D's Scotland's Theme Park (Strathclyde)
Member Name: rosebud2001
M and D's Scotland's Theme Park (Strathclyde)
Date: 13/04/09, updated on 13/04/09 (1585 review reads)
Advantages: No entrance fee, indoor and outdoor activities, lots of choice
Disadvantages: Expensive. Expensive. And did I say expensive?
Spring is in the air and Easter brought a request from my daughter for a trip to M&D's - a so-called "theme park" located in South Lanarkshire, not far from my sister's home in East Kilbride.
She went a couple of times last year and having learned that it was open again for the 2009 season she couldn't resist a return trip, so yesterday afternoon found us heading there for an afternoon out.
M&D's bills itself as "Scotland's Theme Park", but having been to Chessington World of Adventures and Alton Towers, this place is far smaller.
The park is located just off the M74 motorway at junction 5 and off the A725 main East Kilbride to Coatbridge road. Buses run to the park from Glasgow at weekends and school holidays (the FirstBus X7 from Buchanan Bus Station) but this is a place best reached by car. Parking is reasonably plentiful but you have to walk a little to reach the entrance.
The main attractions at this small park are the Tsunami and Tornado rollercoasters and the Bomber 2 - a device that looks like a huge crane with seating for thrill seekers at either end which spins round at breakneck speeds turning you upside down. Now I have to admit here and now that thrill seeking is not my bag anymore - I lost my appetite for rollercoasters and funfair rides around the time I turned 21 - but the queues of people waiting to go onboard these rides proves I am not the norm - not least my daughter!
There is also a huge big wheel which offers lovely views over the artificial loch in adjacent Strathclyde Park, a couple of water rides, a chair swinger, a huge pirate ship ride called Captain's Curse, trampolines, dodgems, a magic carpet ride, a mini rollercoaster and the usual sideshow stalls you expect to find at fairgrounds. All in all there are 40 rides to choose from - but the staff are very strict about height restrictions - many rides are only permissible for those over 1.35 metres in height for instance.
There's also a really good outdoor crazy golf course called Devil's Island, a soft play area for small children and an attraction called Amazonia which enables you to see animals from the rainforest indoors.
There are also two arcade areas with machines that eat cash and give out "prize tickets" which enable you to claim a poorly made pen once you have spent about £10 on throwing balls into holes or trying to score a goal playing mock football, and lots of machines with huge claws you move around in the unlikely hope of winning a soft toy for 30p. I call these machines for those who no know better - unsurprisingly my daughter loves them.
These arcades are mercifully undercover - which gives you some place to go should the typical Scottish weather (of rain) assert itself. There is also a carousel there along with a food court which has a Wimpy, a jacket potato stall and a pancake stall.
There's also the Bizarre Bar which sells food and both soft and alcoholic drinks. This is the place to be on Sunday afternoons after around 3.00 pm when the kids' karaoke starts, which is very popular and can also be very entertaining or painful to listen to depending upon the child taking part.
There's also a bowling alley, a pool bar (for adults only), a sports bar and a coffee shop where you can chill out and escape any bad weather.
Entrance to M&D's is free, something I really appreciate given I don't like funfair rides. Unlimited ride wristbands are available and cost £14 for those over 1.35 metres tall, and £10 for those under. However you can pay per ride using tokens which are easily available from the ticket desk or machines dotted around the park, which might be more cost effective if you are only planning a short visit to the park. Each token costs 50p and some rides require 3 tokens, others 5 tokens and up.
The wristbands do not include entrance to Amazonia or use of Devil's Island Mini Golf - Amazonia costs £4.75 for an adult and £3.50 for children and OAPs. Devils Island Mini Golf costs £3.95 for adults and £2.95 for children. Child rates are for under 16s. Family tickets are available for the park and for additional attractions - if you are a family of 4 these are worth checking out.
In addition you can get season tickets for M&D's which are valid for the entire season which usually runs from April to October. These cost £50 for one person or £144 for a family of four and are worth considering if you live nearby.
The park is open at differing times throughout the season. Core opening times are from 12.00 pm to 4.00 pm but when schools are out its open from 11.00 am to 8.00 pm. The website gives clear opening hours and is worth checking out before you visit. The indoor attractions are open all year round and there are adult entertainment evenings held here too.
So would I recommend it? Yes, I would - but don't be expecting the thrills you get at a major theme park. However I like how I can just turn up and either get my daughter a wristband or pay per ride for her and don't have to get annoyed at paying an entrance fee for rides I won't be going on.
Queues tend to be fairly reasonable - my suggestion would be to turn up early to avoid the really big crowds however. My daughter had to wait no longer than 10 minutes to get on the rides she was interested in which was fine. Obviously, the more popular the ride, the longer the queue.
The food here is pretty awful however - both the Bizarre Bar and the food court offer very average food at pretty expensive prices - a meal deal at the Wimpy will set you back £5 per person for very average food for example.
I would actually advise if you are visiting during the week or on a Saturday to dine at the nearby Toby Carvery which offers a fantastic value carvery dinner at £5 per head before 6.00 pm.
The staff are very vigilant about adhering to height rules so if you have very small children it might be worth waiting until they are a little bigger before bringing them here - there are a few rides aimed at very young children but I have seen a lot of tears from little daredevils who just aren't tall enough for something a little more thrilling. The staff are also very good at checking everyone is strapped in correctly which I find reassuring.
My biggest gripe with this place however is the fact not all rides clearly show how many tokens you need to ride on them. This necessitates either a wait in line hoping you have enough or having to get the attention of the ride operator to ask. Some of the attractions clearly display this information so someone clearly thought it was something that needed doing, if not finishing.
Ride times seem quite short too - my daughter went on a ride that lasted less than a minute for example - and while I appreciate a lot of customers have unlimited ride wristbands if you have waited in line for 5 or 10 minutes and the thrill is over in 90 seconds, it's a little bit galling.
The place is also designed to completely extract as much cash as possible from those who flock here - particularly children - and I do find it quite cynical how they do this. This is the main reason why I like to keep this as an occasional treat for my daughter rather than somewhere to go to regularly as I just cannot justify the cost and hate having arguments with her over what she can and cannot have money for.
I also think it's a bit cheeky to call this place a theme park when its really too small to warrant the name - its more of a small amusement park as far as I am concerned. However it's a fun place to visit with your kids occasionally and if you tire of the crowds you are just a short stroll to the peaceful loch in Strathclyde Park and you can also make use of the free playground there if you are out of cash with a child still seeking thrills and spills!
Summary: Scotland is still awaiting a full size theme park!
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