Uncovering the tragic secrets of Ayrshire's abandoned theme park

Loudoun Castle Theme Park was one of Ayrshire's biggest attractions in the 1990s, and families from nearby Glasgow often enjoyed a day out there.

Picture: The Plough ride (left) was the largest Chair-O-Planes ride in the world, Gary McNair / Flickr
Picture: The Plough ride (left) was the largest Chair-O-Planes ride in the world, Gary McNair / Flickr

But since it closed in 2010, the theme park has been left to decay, with many of the rides and attractions remaining as a spooky reminder of the park’s former life.

Built around a ruin

Loudoun Castle Theme Park first opened in 1995. Built on the site of a ruin, it is strangely fitting that the park eventually became a derelict plot itself. The theme park’s namesake, Loudoun Castle, was a 19th century country house. The structure was known as ‘the Windsor of Scotland’ when it was built, due to the expense, scale and grandeur of the project.

Picture: Loudoun Castle Theme Parks Gold Rush ride, Gary McNair / Flickr

Tragedy struck in 1941, however, just days before the castle was due to be leased to the War Office as military headquarters. A massive fire gutted the entire castle. Beyond repair, it was left as a ruin. Built in the shadow of the derelict castle, theme park visitors could see the eerie ruins from the rides.

Constantly changing hands

Originally opened by a London-based company, Loudoun Castle Theme Park attracted around 170,000 visitors each year in the beginning. Shortly after opening, however, the park was temporarily closed due to mounting debts. It was taken over by Raymond Codona (whose family had been in the fairground entertainment business for generations) in 1998.

When Codona retired in 2002, the theme park was put on the market once again, this time with a price tag of £1.25 million. The troubled theme park got a new lease of life when it was taken over by Henk Bembom of Parkware Ltd. In his first year as owner of Loudoun Castle Theme Park, Bembom invested over £5 million, bringing exciting new rides and attractions to the park.

Picture: Loudoun Castle Theme Parks Gold Rush ride, Gary McNair / Flickr

Famous connections

In a strange claim to fame, many of the rides at Loudoun Castle Theme Park can be seen in a classic episode of Only Fools and Horses. Bembom previously owned Kent-based theme park Dreamland Margate, and some of the old rides were transported to Loudoun Castle when Parkware took over.

Del Boy and co can be seen with some of the rides in the 1989 Only Fools and Horses Christmas special, The Jolly Boys’ Outing, in which the characters visit Dreamland Margate.

A never ending ride

At the time of its closure, Loudoun Castle Theme Park had 11 thrill rides, including three rollercoasters, as well as several smaller fairground attractions.

The Plough (a swing ride rotating around a giant moon) was thought to be the largest chair-o-plane ride in the world. Since the park was closed, some of the rides have been sold to other theme parks, but several (including The Plough) still remain standing.

The beginning of the end

In 2007, disaster struck when a member of staff was fatally injured at Loudoun Castle. A rollercoaster got stuck, and 18 year old ride operator, Mark Blackwood, fell 80 feet while attempting to fix it.

He was taken to hospital, but died the following day. The park owners were found not guilty of any negligence, but the tragic incident marked the beginning of the end for Loudoun Castle Theme Park. In 2010, Bembom declared the park “no longer economically viable” and it closed to visitors at the end of the summer season that year.

Urban exploration

Since then, Loudoun Castle has lain empty and abandoned, with several rusting rollercoasters and decaying rides still standing.

Many of the original rides can still be seen, but they are best viewed from a distance. The park is now private property which should not be entered, and the owners have warned that the site is dangerous due to the dilapidated state of the rides.

Although several plans have been put forward to redevelop the site, so far none have been successful. Empty for close to a decade, the abandoned theme park – complete with chilling atmosphere and eerie relics – lives on.