Take the kids to … Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre, Devon | Travel
In a nutshell
This quirky museum-attraction is filled with working vintage fairground rides, fairground art, try-your-luck stalls and a penny arcade. Board the 1940s ghost train, ride the speedy Edwards’ Golden Gallopers carousel (much faster than modern versions and with original carved wooden horses), spin until you’re queasy in a teacup or bump to your heart’s content on the 80-year-old Super Dodgems.
This is the home of the National Fairground Collection, and all the rides here have history, from the hand-turned Overboats ride (built in the 1870s) to the beautifully painted 1930s Edwards’ Chariot Racer, one of the first white-knuckle rides. The Rodeo Switchback, Supersonic Skid and Chariot Racer are all fast enough to keep older kids and adults amused, and for little ones there’s a Happy Caterpillar and a very sweet 100-year-old roundabout. Classic stalls include darts and cans, hook-a-duck and the popular Plate Smasher. At themed events throughout the summer, kids can learn circus skills or meet characters from the Wizard of Oz.
The Moon Rocket ride, made in 1938, is the only surviving example of such a ride in the world. The centre spins anti-clockwise and the cars clockwise, creating an illusion of greater speed.
Best thing about it
There’s a charm to these vintage rides that you no longer find in modern fairgrounds. I particularly enjoyed peeking inside the sumptuous living wagon, or Palace on Wheels, of showman Charles Heal, but the Golden Gallopers and Dodgems were my daughter’s favourite by far.
What about lunch?
The Carousel Cafe serves standard fare: burgers, sausages and chips, nachos. The healthiest options were jacket potatoes (£3.50 child, £4.45 adult) or soup (£4.95). The children’s lunch box (£4.95) included half a white bread sandwich, Pom-Bear crisps, a tube of yoghurt, raisins, fruit juice and an apple. There are picnic benches outside for those who bring their own food. A nice selection of homemade scones and cakes starts at £1.95.
Exit through the gift shop?
The small shop is beside the exit, selling vintage-style toys and fairground gifts starting from 99p. There’s a good collection of new and secondhand fairground art books on sale, too.
Dingles Heritage Fairground is a mile from the A30 in west Devon, 35 miles west of Exeter, and seven miles east of Launceston. It’s well-signposted and makes an unusual stop en route to Cornwall.
Value for money?
Not bad: tickets are valid for a year with Gift Aid. Saver tickets, including 10 ride tokens, cost £12.60 adult, £10.80 child. A family ticket (two adults and up to four kids) without tokens is £28. Tokens are 50p each if bought separately (most rides require two tokens).
Open daily 10am-5pm, 17 March-29 October, though check the website before visiting.
7/10. It’s fun but still a work in progress. More could be made of the transport and living wagons collection, which are tightly packed and cordoned-off in a separate building. It would benefit from a good outdoor play area too.