Opened in March of 2018, Wicker Man is the first wooden coaster to be built in the UK in 21 years and the first ever wooden coaster to be built at Alton Towers. When SW8 (projects at Alton Towers are given codenames, SW standing for Secret Weapon) was announced, it ignited considerable curiosity, especially when it became known that this coaster would incorporate the element of fire. The result of a £16,000,000 investment, it was designed by Merlin Entertainments and manufactured by GCI (Great Coasters International).
Layout and Theming
Wicker Man is themed after fire and a mythical wood-dwelling pagan community called the Beornen led by the spirit of the Wicker Man. The Wicker Man effigy, featuring a ram’s head on one side, forms the centerpiece of the ride. Before reaching the loading platform those in the ride queue enter a small area in which a pre-ride presentation takes place. Without any warning the lights go out and you find yourself looking up at a video screen, watching and listening to a rather ominous preamble to the ride. It begins with the Beornen intoning “Welcome, the chosen few” and goes on to say that the Wicker Man will rise and give them freedom but in order to begin this ritual they must first give him a gift and “That gift is you.” Final words to the sacrificial offerings are “Let the ceremony commence.”
This coaster features a twisting layout with roughly parallel sections of track and operates with trains seating two across in twelve rows for a total capacity of 24 riders. The restraint is a lap bar.
From the dimly lit loading station the train makes two 180-degree turns, one right and one left, before reaching the lift hill. The turns are sharp enough and quick enough to give the ride early momentum. After ascending the lift hill the train picks up additional momentum, careening left into a smoke-filled tunnel before dropping 72 feet. It continues on a sinuous course with two additional tunnels and a couple of good airtime hills, passing through the flaming Wicker Man effigy a total of three times. The fire and smoke effects are impressive. Riders are sprayed with mist while flying through Wicker Man’s center and also while coming off a curve, going uphill. I would imagine that Wicker Man at night is quite a spectacle, which I didn’t have an opportunity to observe because in late May, when I rode it, Alton Towers is not open at night. Even in daylight, however, it’s visually striking. And sooo smooth! I couldn’t help comparing it with another GCI woodie of recent vintage, Mystic Timbers, which I found to be a bit rough in spots. This is not the case with Wicker Man. It’s easily re-rideable, so much so that I could have ridden it all day. The ride concludes with a return to the station in darkness, with flames shooting out on both sides of the train.
Final Thoughts and Rating
While Wicker Man reaches a maximum speed of only 44 mph, it feels faster because of all the twists and turns. And while they’re banked at only 68 degrees, they nevertheless manage to pack a punch. The ride is an exhilarating one of non-stop action. The theming is brilliant and the pacing is spot on. This coaster is truly unique. Final rating: 9 out of 10.
What’s your take? Have you ridden Wicker Man and if so, how would you rate it?