Oh My Goodness! What an experience!
An experience that sent chills running through the spines of the spines of me (Ali) and my kids (Sam & Heather). We were delighted to be invited to visit The London Dungeon with a view to writing a review for Entertain the Kids. I even managed to bag myself a bargain and grabbed myself a “rat mat” souvenir as I go about my business with our sister-Company ETK Lettings.
Travel is easy; The London Dungeons are inside the County Hall building on the South Bank, (just by the London Eye), which is a very short walk from Waterloo East main-line station & is well sign-posted. Or if weather permits, it’s quite a nice walk across Waterloo Bridge from either Charing Cross main-line, or the Embankment tube.
The Dungeons are open daily from 10am through to last entry at 5pm, (these hours are extended during peak season), and I have to say, we arrived just before 10am & the exceedingly polite booking office staff were already dealing with ticket purchases.
The queues seemed lengthy at first glance, but were constantly moving and it really didn’t take any time at all to reach the tour allocation point. The queuing system is very well organised, (in the dark! – be aware that from the moment you enter the building, the experience “begins!”)
There are 2 queuing systems which works well: one to the right of the main entrance steps to buy tickets on the day & one to the left if you have already booked on-line – which gets you to the actual tour entrance. Once you have purchased your tickets, you then join the tour queue to the left-hand side. This keeps the 2 queues successfully moving at all times & it literally took us a very minimal 10 minutes to collect our tickets from the booking desk to actually starting the tour. There are also performers at the entrance; not once did I hear the cry of “I’m bored” – which is the norm for children with a queue of any kind!
Pricing seems a little hefty at first glance, at £25.95 per adult, £20.95 per child on the day or £20.50 per adult, £16.50 per child in advance on-line – which = £93.80 or £74.00 on-line for a family of 4, but tickets can be bought in conjunction with other London attractions, which may work out a better option for a “full” day out. To be fair, this is the sort of pricing to expect to pay for one of the top London attractions & I certainly felt you “got your money’s worth!”
I would strongly recommend when visiting with the Kiddi-Winks, (regardless of age!), to make sure they take full advantage of the bathroom facilities provided just as you enter for the actual tour (once you have gone through the queue system) – as once you start:- there is no turning back!
The tour itself is very well managed, with no “tour-guide” as such: small groups (roughly 30 people at a time) are guided from one room/scene to the next by the performers & is very well timed, so nothing feels either rushed or “dragging.”
You are more or less “on your feet” for the entire tour, although there are scenes where seats are available, but just be careful – as nothing is what it seems! (Including at times, the floor!) The tour is for the most in very dim lighting & at times pitch black, but designed in such a way that there is no safety risk! Just watch out for what my kids called “The-Jump-Moments!”
You are taken through various times in history, from Guy Fawkes, Sweeny Todd, Jack the Ripper, the Plague, (beware of the doctor!), Torture Chambers, Body Snatchers, The Pie Shop (don’t ask what goes in the pies…) etc etc, ending in the Court, (the court room staff are hilarious), where you are all sentenced to death via the new ride at the end of the tour, on the “Drop-Dead” Vertical Drop (there is the option of exiting without partaking: & I will admit this is the option we took, as we are complete wimps!) Not forgetting the “Whitechapel Labyrinth” which I’ll confess our group had to be rescued from – as it seemed an impossible task to escape!
If you can get around what is going on around you & the effects involved, the historical facts are over-flowing…. it’s a very, very clever way of getting the history of London’s gruesome past across, especially for the youngsters. All the kids on our particular tour were just enthralled (apart from my daughter who was hiding for the majority of it! Having said that, she still came away with facts that she hadn’t known previously, so it must have “gone in” despite her trying to camouflage into my coat for most of the tour!)
There are signs regarding the vertical drop ride, advising that any wheelchair users have to be able to move from their wheelchairs to the ride unaided + have to be able to sit unaided in an upright position – but I’m not entirely sure this would be a suitable attraction for anyone with any major mobility issues. To be honest, at times it’s daunting to be moving around on foot in complete darkness, let alone to be navigating a wheelchair or crutches. In general, everything seems so well organised, I’m sure there are arrangements in place for any wheelchair users – but personally I wouldn’t like to have attempted it either in one, or pushing one!
The performers are just superb! Considering each actor is allocated “their” scene, so must be performing it over & over for each tour that passes through – their enthusiasm is infectious, (bit like the Plague!) & a fair amount of “ad-libbing” goes on. Along with “audience participation” :- all I can advise there, is try not to get picked to “carry the letter” at the very beginning of the tour!
The standard is set exceedingly high & I can honestly say there was not one performer that did not live up to that.
That extends out to the “front of house” team – it’s very rare that you can visit an attraction of this size & not come across one member of staff who is a little unhelpful or surly in their duties – but this is the exception! 120% effort by all involved.
Unfortunately on the day of our visit, the new “Tyrant Boat Ride” was unavailable due to “technical difficulties” – but this was well publicised on their website, so we were aware of this before arrival & signs were clearly displayed to this effect in the booking hall area.
Our tour still lasted the full “estimated” 90 minutes, so I’m unsure if anything was “added” to compensate for the loss of the ride. Unfortunate timing for the Dungeons for this to occur during the half term week, but obviously couldn’t be helped.
Despite having a totally petrified daughter, I’ve been made to promise a return visit so the boat ride can be included next time!
At the very end of the tour, you have to exit through the gift shop & the “photo-shop” (as most attractions seem to do nowadays!) There’s no obligation to buy the photos – we paid £15.00 for one – but that was well presented in a souvenir booklet with lots of other information in it, rather than “just” the photo, which is all you usually get.
The shop has the usual range of souvenirs, but this does include smaller items that won’t break the bank too much! I only paid £2.00 for my new ETK mouse, sorry rat mat!
The shop-staff are also in costume & also exceedingly polite & attentive. The theme continues until you exit completely (through a door with singing heads above it!)
Overall – I would thoroughly recommend a visit, don’t think I’ve visited ANYWHERE in a very long time where I can honestly say hand-on-heart: ALL the staff are literally falling over their feet to make sure you have a good time. Makes SUCH a pleasant change.
But it really isn’t for the feint-hearted & although it’s stated that “under-4s go free” I personally wouldn’t contemplate taking a child under the age of about 8 or 9! My 11 year old daughter is generally far “braver” than either my son (12) or I – & she was terrified for the entire time! (& loved it!) It’s the first time in years I have been required to “hold hands” with my children by invitation!
WE’LL BE BACK!
Information provided by :
Alison Hedley, Sales & Marketing Manager, ETK Lettings