Tayto Park Review
This review was written in 2011, not long after the park opened to the public.
DayOut.ie visited again in Summer 2012. Many new features have been added since the review and the park continues to expand and evolve. For more updated information, visit their web site at http://www.taytocrisps.ie/park/
So after being asked by hundreds of our users about the low down on Tayto Park, we decided to dig out the company clip board & head off on our ‘day out’ to visit Mr Tayto at his new attraction in Ashbourne Co Meath.
Arrived: 1pm, Saturday 06 August, Mam + Dad & 2 children. 5yrs & 2 yrs.
Situated off the main N2 road, heading in the Rathoath direction, you get the distinct feeling of moving away from the hustle and bustle and off into the countryside, this alone had a soothing effect on mammy and daddy and just added to the excitement as the kids felt like they were off on an adventure.
Arriving at the park, you’re immediately impressed and you enter under giant wooden arches. It actually reminded me of ‘Jurassic Park’ for a second but not quite that big!. Large car parks are available, the ahem, ‘Cheese & Onion’ and then the overflow ‘Salt & Vinegar’. Judging by the amount of cars, we said this place is going to be busy!
Entry is through one of the many attractive wooden chalets on site, it costs €12 per person or €40 for 2 + 2 / €50 for 2 + 3 / €60 for 2 +4. There’s been much talk about the cost of entry fees to Tayto Park and we’ve included a comment at the end of this article.
So what about the Park?
Beautifully landscaped like something you would see on the grounds of a holiday complex in the Med, bark lined flower beds, shrubs, dune grasses and clean walk ways. The Mr Tayto statue is just inside on arrival, his size and bright colours are an instant hit with the kids and of course the cameras come out for the pics with their new best friend. There’s no lingering ‘park photographer’ waiting to snap you and stick you on a billboard as you leave, which was I have to say ‘refreshing’ and a change from the norm at other parks.
Next it was just a bee line for the large ‘Pow Wow’ playground tower which our 5yr old just took off for, followed quickly by Dad who thought he might be able to ‘show him the ropes’. No instruction required however, as our little man proved himself to be a skilful climber, negotiating his way around the tower and slides via several alternate routes. It was just magic to watch – slides, bridges, swings, climbing frames causing excitement and confusion all at the same time as himself and other kids couldn’t decide what to go on next.
You wouldn’t need to go anywhere else in the park, you could just make your ‘day out’ right there!
A small younger playground is available for the little ones, our 2yr old thoroughly enjoyed this. Little steps and slides, brightly coloured which they just love. All equipment is sourced from Hags in Sweden, who are a global leader in the supply of play equipment. Given that the park is operating over 1 year, it’s all immaculate – only the best for My Tayto.
Exploring the Park
So we eventually got them away and off we went on our stroll through the park. We’d heard reports about sections being unfinished, however on seeing it for ourselves it’s simply that some places have small works going on like maintenance and general house keeping. It should be remembered also that the park is in a constant state of flux, like anything this size, it will always be evolving. It’s relatively new, so it’s going to take time for the landscaping to reach it’s desired effect, with some shrubs and trees needing time to mature, as well as the effect of the flow of people through the park and their impact on walkways etc. being fully realised.
There is a large selection of animals, some visible through glass windows in little huts, others in the many large outdoor penned enclosures. Some include exotic animals like emus, monkeys, wallabies and also cats – not the large ones but not domestic ones either, although we did spot a mountain lion!, also foxes, turkeys, otters and a couple of racoons which were a big hit with our two as they came close up to their window to say hello. Farmyard animals are also there, dexter cows, goats and horses as well as many pens with faryard birds like hens, geese and other birds. At one end of the park, a large open field holds Ireland’s only herd of bison, which can be viewed via telescope from the aptly named ‘Buffalo Ridge’.
This ties in nicely with the ‘Potato hontas’ Native American Village, an outdoor area with 6 large tipi wigwams and themed dressed Indians. It’s all connected of course to the ‘Buffalo’ flavoured Hunky Dorys, which incidentally are also owned by Largo Foods, the owners of Tayto and made in the same factory as Tayto just next door to the park. The Native American Village is a nice touch and you can go inside the wigwams where there’s seating to have your lunch or picnic. There’s also story telling in one and fun balloon makers in another. Check out the totem poles on the way out!
It’s an ideal day out for picnic lovers and there are many benches and locations dotted about to take five and break out the refreshments. We saw many families enjoying this, great to see the kids happy and recharging with a snack before they go off again for round 2. There is a large restaurant area inside the main lodge building if you fancy something more like a meal, as well as 2 gift shops if you fancy having a browse. The shops have a large range of toys and books and many educational games and gifts. Given the Largo Foods connection, the shop is not stocked like a newsagent, it’s more of a duty free experience with select toys and gifts.
Restaurant has a bit of everything from hot foods, snack, juices & coffee bar. Hot food will set you back €10.95, however it’s not a bad portion size, or kids meals like a plate of chips & sausage variety at €4.95
Cappuccino at €2.95 was very nice and hit the spot! It’s actually worth the look inside, a beautiful centre piece chimney stack made from individual slate stones rises to the ceiling and overhead, large wooden roof beams give a very distinct ‘lodge’ feel. It’s also bright and immaculate which just ads to the experience.
We went on then to the Tayto Factory Tour. It’s more of a walk by than a walk thru, with a gantry tunnel overhead that you walk along & small slit windows overlooking the warehouse production lines. The reason is obviously the huge hygiene factor, as well as the time factor – it’s just not feasible to allow visitors & children to be wandering about a working factory . There is some good history here however with the entire Tayto story outlined on large illuminated posters and some interesting facts too which will no doubt come up in conversation in the weeks ahead. Who’d have thought it – all from the humble spud!
Down the stairs and it’s over and off you go again back into the park.
Nearly there now and next we headed for the Eagle Sky Adventure Zone. The main attraction here is a large multi tiered climbing frame. It’s a big & tall outdoor assault course with tight ropes, bridges, obstacles etc. and it’s obviously one for the older kids but mams and dads are also welcome. Instructors are in place to harness you up and they’re also dotted over the frame to ensure everyone moves along nicely. This and other features in the Adventure Zone, the harness bouncers and climbing wall have an additional fee of €2. There’s been a lot of communication to DayOut.ie from parents about this so it was one of the items we were interested in checking out. You pay a family admission on entering the park, then to be charged again to participate in these activities? The reason for this we assume, is essentially ‘queue management’ and it’s something that’s done at the majority of theme parks across Europe, including Disney. A small fee means not everyone will do it, so queue times are ‘optimised’. Would you get anywhere near it if it was free?
The Teahouse in the Treehouse is a beautifully constructed wooden coffee shop built into and around a couple of tress. It’s elevated, sort of Tarzan & Jane style, with intricate rope bridges connecting the buildings and it gives a great view out over the park. Really nice feature. Overall, there’s lots going on in this section and it can appear quite busy at times.
Nice wooden chalets house the toilets and are dotted here and there throughout the park. All are very clean and checked regularly. First Aid and baby changing also available. We also spotted litter patrols which were very thorough and in fairness, the place was spotless. A quick note on the staff who were all wonderfully polite, courteous and professional and thank you also to the marshals, guy & girl, who were manning the road intersections as you cross from the park to the Tayto factory.
Entry fee €12 per person? It was €20 per person into ‘Bloom’ this year just to walk around and which didn’t have half of what was here. Also, remember, it’s like the Zoo, you pay in and can stay there all day so get your monies worth. There was lots of talk on the way home, helped by the large ‘share’ bag of Taytos you get on the way out – keep your entry ticket to get these.
Overall, very impressive. A lot of work has gone into this park. It’s also important to remember that this park is uniquely Irish, Tayto is Irish and the money you spend stays here and supports the Irish industry & jobs behind the park. It was certainly worth the visit and we thoroughly enjoyed this day out. Our children loved it, which is what it’s all about really. Our lot certainly got their 12 hours sleep that night.!
Go visit and enjoy your day out