People like a good view and, as the London Eye proved, and the Eiffel Tower before that, they’re willing to pay for the pleasure.
Weymouth’s Jurassic Skyline was erected in time for the 2012 Olympics and was originally billed as a sailing observation tower, although builders Merlin Entertainments (who run most of the UK’s big theme parks) did say they hoped it would keep bringing people to Weymouth for years to come.
Three years later, the tower has become an established feature of the Weymouth sea front. So what does it have to offer?
Taking a trip in a giant doughnut
I’ve taken several rides up the Jurassic Skyline tower, although it was called the Sealife Tower at the time. This summer (2015) has seen the attraction rebranded and marketed more heavily.
My simple description of the tower is it’s a doughnut on a stick. The ride involves the doughnut going up the tower, turning around a couple of times, and coming down again. It’s very simple, but is it sweet?
Your experience starts with your group being photographed against a blue screen by one of the friendly Merlin team. They’ll superimpose the picture over an image of the tower and you’ll be invited to buy it as a souvenir after the ride. It’s all part of the ‘experience’.
Jurassic Skyline’s great glass elevator
After the photo comes the queue. I’ve never experienced a wait of more than a few minutes, but then I’ve never been at peak times. The queuing area is outdoors but I don’t suppose there’s huge interest in the tower on rainy days.
Then it’s time to enter the giant doughnut, or capsule, as Merlin likes to call it. There’s seating for around 70 on the bench that runs around the inside and on some days it looks quite busy. The huge windows mean that everyone gets a great view, particularly once the capsule begins rising.
The Jurassic Skyline is not a white-knuckle ride. If you’re really afraid of heights you may want to give it a miss, but the tower does not rise, fall or spin at fast speeds. It’s all very comfortable.
On the rides I took, a member of staff gave a commentary, explaining what can be seen. I understand this has now been replaced with a recorded commentary.
Enjoy the Jurassic view
The view is what the tower ride is all about. On a clear day you can see for miles and even when the air is a little hazy, there’s plenty to look at in Weymouth and nearby Portland Harbour.
This part of the country is blessed with fabulous views and there is no shortage of accessible viewpoints. The Jurassic Skyline allows people visiting Weymouth to enjoy stunning views without having to travel anywhere.
The view can also open their eyes to the truly varied nature of our local coastline. In one sweep they can take in towering chalk cliffs, our curved golden beach, the stern Nothe Fort, the long ridge of Chesil Beach and the solid crags of Portland. Not to mention the vast haven of Portland Harbour.
Is Jurassic Skyline good value for money?
According to TripAdvisor, the Weymouth Tower (as they call it) has well over 700 reviews and is rated as 4 out of 5 circles. Over 500 reviewers give it a 4 or 5 circles. (If you’re not familiar with TripAdvisor, circles are their equivalent of stars).
But over 50 give only one or two circles, indicating the attraction is poor or terrible. In their comments, many say it’s poor value for money.
To be honest, I felt it was a little expensive for what you got. The ‘on the day’ price for a tower ride is £7.50, although it’s also included in the cost of a ticket for the Weymouth Sealife Adventure Park.
Then I took a look at the London Eye, which costs £23 for ‘on the day’ tickets (£17 for under 16s). The Eye ride is 30 minutes and it’s three times the price of the Skyline ride, which takes around 10 minutes. The cost per minute is about the same.
It’s also not that different to a funfair ride, which might cost £3 for just two or three minutes of exhilaration.
If you’re a local, it’s worth looking out for the special Sealife annual ticket that you can buy early in the year, in conjunction with the Dorset Echo. It’s incredibly good value, giving you twelve months of both the Sealife Centre and the Jurassic Skyline.
Take a trip on Jurassic Skyline while you can
I recommend taking a trip on the Jurassic Skyline and I suggest you do it soon. I suspect the tower is on a short lease and it may soon be up for renewal.
There is no guarantee the attraction will remain for years to come, so if you’re thinking of taking the ride, do it soon. The views really are outstanding.