Sitting fairly comfortably as the UK’s best Halloween attraction in terms of scares, invention, production design and general popularity, Alton Towers’ Scarefest has, in recent years, taken to replacing one of its adult scare mazes with a suitably terrifying new outing to give return visitors something original and fresh to scream about (literally!).

This year, however, has seen the resort opt for something even more exciting and original.

Whilst 2016’s three staple offerings - ‘Terror of the Towers’, ‘Sub Species’ and ‘Altonville Mine Tours’ - all make very welcome returns, the honchos at Alton Towers HQ have decided to add a whole new fourth maze, ‘The Welcoming: Be Chosen’ instead of replacing one of their former successes.

It’s an inspired move - ‘Species’ and ‘Altonville’ remain two of the best and most intense scare mazes out there, and whilst ‘Species’ is perhaps the most thrilling, as you fumble around in the pitch black, are forced to crawl on your hands and knees through industrial piping, or get pulled and grabbed by the live actors (who are permitted to touch you), ‘Altonville’, taking place as it does down a fictional mine shaft, is one of the most stunningly realised and beautifully (if such a word can be applied to the dwellings of skin snatching cannibals) designed mazes out there. ‘Terror’ is the least heart-poundingly terrifying of the returning trio, but its locale, being set genuinely inside the Towers themselves, lends it tremendous authenticity and ambience.

All eyes, however, are on ‘The Welcoming’, and rightly so. 

One of the reasons behind it not replacing its predecessors seems owing to how it is acting as a ‘prequel event’ for the resort’s upcoming ‘SW8’ project - the next in their lineup of ‘Secret Weapon’ coasters that includes the likes of the park’s Nemesis, Oblivion, Rita and Galactica attractions - and as such is located very near by to the eventual home of ‘SW8’.

Housed in what is usually (outside of Scarefest season) the Mutiny Bay Courtyard, ‘The Welcoming’ is a mere stone’s throw away from the construction site for ‘8’, which is due to open in 2018, but can already been seen in its infancy as a vast wooden coaster now dominating the area of the park that once housed its flume ride. Mysterious carvings and iconography now adorn the wooden posts that block off access to the construction site, and this primal, pagan-esque vision spans through to the theming of ‘Welcoming’, which essentially invites you into a special annual festival that a group of regressive, modernity-hating villagers are holding.

Think a combination of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village and the climax of the original The Wickerman, with a dash of Guillermo Del Toro-esque creature design thrown in, and you won’t be far wrong.

Following on from the aforementioned ‘Altonville Mine Tours’ last year, which remains a triumph of visual maze design, Alton Towers have once again gone all out on the visual realisation of their ‘Welcoming’ theming. Take a trip on one of the cable cars from the Forbidden Valley to Main Street during the day, and you will pass directly over the mostly-outdoors ‘Welcoming’ from above, and it initially makes for a fairly underwhelming sight.

However, back on ground level and under the blanket of darkness, and the full excellence of ‘The Welcoming’ becomes far more immediate and apparent. The production design here is once again superlative - not only does ‘Welcoming’ use its space inventively, but the overall design of this ritualistic, primal village is brilliantly executed - flames erupt from a tribal efigy, a bizarre creature burns on a spitroast, corpses lay strewn across a table in primitive tents and other dwellings. The sense of place is fantastic and the attention to detail faultless; you completely forget where you are and are wholly transported to the dark, disturbing, twisted pastoral world of the villagers.

But how scary and effective a maze is it?

In many ways, ‘Welcoming’ falls somewhere between the park’s other three offerings - it is as superbly realised and executed as ‘Altonville’ and is one of the resort’s most visually arresting scare maze experiences. It’s also by some measure one of the most characterful - again, like ‘Altonville’, the costume design and distinctive performances by the live actors are of such a high standard that it makes for a very defined and distinctive maze that manages to confidently steer clear of any blandness or generic approach.

That being said, it isn’t as flat-out terrifying or intense an experience as, say, ‘Sub Species’, and, depending on your opinions and experience with a mid-maze surprise, some may find it a tamer experience than ‘Altonville’, too. Let’s just say, a gimmick which, depending upon the visitor can vary from utterly terrifying to slightly frustrating, makes a return from previous maze ‘The Haunting of Molly Crowe’ and will likely continue to prove divisive - some will love it, others less so. Thankfully, being not so much of a fan of the idea personally, it only forms around a quarter of the maze, so even those who aren’t won over by it will still have plenty to enjoy either side.

Despite this, ‘The Welcoming’ is arguably the park’s best maze ‘experience’ alongside ‘Altonville’. It isn’t as intense as ‘Species’, but there is such a plethora of visual ideas and artistry on display, and such a transportive sense of atmosphere and place evoked, that it is easily a must-visit for ardent scare maze enthusiasts.


Elsewhere, Scarefest 2017 brings back the rest of its Halloween-themed offerings. The ‘Alton Ancestors’ characters pop up around Main Street and the Gloomy Wood throughout the day, offering fun interactions with guests, as a well as flash mob dance or two. For families and children, there are a handful of fun stage shows by the ‘Freaky Four’ throughout the day at the foot of Main Street, including fancy dress competitions and musical shows.

The brilliant ‘House of Monsters’ family scare maze makes a return, too - a 20-minute adventure where you attempt to escape a haunted house after a Vlogger accidentally awakens the monsters within. As per last year, it’s a funny, spooky experience for families (recommended for ages 8+, though the 6 year old in attendance with us enjoyed it immensely again) that has plenty of interactivity and fun, whilst some of the weaker areas of last year’s experience - such as a Mummy-hosted visit to a greenhouse - have been markedly improved upon this time round. 

For the thrill-seekers, the always-welcome ability to ride the park’s coasters and attractions in the dark, thanks to an extended 9pm opening time, returns, and makes particularly rides such as ‘Thirteen’, ‘Nemesis’ and even ‘Galactica’ (sans-VR headset), which go out into the woods and areas beyond the public walkways of the park, incredibly atmospheric and thrilling.

On the subject of rides, it is encouraging to see the resort’s attendance levels spiking once again, following the unfortunate circumstances of 2015. As noted last year, strictness on height restrictions are being meticulously enforced (at 196cm, I was checked and told I was unable to ride ‘Spinball Whizzer’ which operates a 195cm maximum height) and generally the standards of ride security and checks are palpably thorough. 

Important, then, is the planning of your Scarefest visit. With Scarefest celebrations taking place mostly at weekends, the larger number of park attendees means trying to fit all of the mazes and Scarefest attractions in addition to the park’s other rides etc. is a very ambitious task for a single day’s visit, even with the extended opening hours. 

‘Sub Species’, ‘Altonville’ and ‘Terror of the Towers’ all come on a combination ticket for £20 (though you can buy them individually at £8), and each open at 1pm compared to ‘The Welcoming’s’ 5:30pm opening time (understandable, given that it is mostly set outdoors). Given that all three of ‘Species’, ‘Altonville’ and ‘Terror’ are indoors, though, and that the maze queues only get longer into the afternoon and evening, what you might sacrifice on atmosphere going into and out of the mazes in the afternoon is more than made up for by what you will save in queue time. The resort does mitigate queue times by offering tickets to the scare mazes in set time slots, but even then, the earlier periods are considerably quieter. 

With so much to see and do on a Scarefest visit, there’s a strong argument to be made for staying over at one of the resort’s themed hotels - be it the main Alton Towers Hotel, the waterpark-themed ‘Splash Landings’ or the brand new for 2017 CBeebies Hotel. All three are beautifully designed and offer fantastic stays, whilst also offering the added bonus of giving you your next day at the park for free, to finish those attractions you may have missed out on day one, or just to double down on rides/mazes.

Alternatively, the park’s Fast-track passes are once again becoming increasingly more valuable, particularly around key peak times such as during the Scarefest season. Whilst the scare mazes themselves are not accommodated, when it comes to the bigger attractions such as ‘Nemesis’, ‘Oblivion’ etc., a fast track can prove invaluable on Scarefest weekends, particularly if you’re trying to fit everything in to a single day’s visit when a 30+ minute queue can really throw a dent in how much you can get to experience and enjoy.

For our Scarefest experience, we were in possession of the highest possible ‘Platinum’ fasttrack, which offers unlimited access to pretty much every ride which offers the service (minus CBeebies land), and whilst that particular band comes in at a hefty £95 per person, on the Saturday of our visit it proved its weight in gold, being able to walk straight on to pretty much every major attraction without any queuing at all. It’s an indulgence, for sure, but with fast track options starting from as little as £5, they will be for some a must-have addition to your Scarefest experience.

Ultimately, Scarefest 2017 is another terrifying triumph for everyone - there’s plenty of Halloween-themed fun here for families and youngsters to enjoy (the adult scare mazes have a strict 15+ minimum age), and by taking the proven success of previous years and building upon it even further, with a characterful, beautifully designed new maze that also serves as a real curio for the upcoming ‘SW8’ project, adult thrill seekers are left spoilt for choice. ‘The Welcoming’ is one of the most characterful and distinctive scare maze experiences out there, and packs a lot of jumps, scares and frights into its deceptively lengthy run. And by bringing back last year’s unbeatable triad of mazes on top, as well as the fantastic ‘House of Monsters’ family maze, as well as all the other frights and fun on offer, Scarefest cements itself as not just a must-visit for fans of a thrilling, spooky and at-times utterly terrifying good times, but also as quite confidently one of the countries’ best overall Halloween destinations.

Scarefest 2017 will take place on 7th, 8th, 14th, 15th, and every day from 20th to 31st October at Alton Towers Resort. Visit for more information and to book tickets.

More details about Alton Towers Resort’s mysterious new development, coming 2018, can be found at

Prices & Information

- Scare Maze tickets start from £8, and can be prebooked at

- 'The Welcoming: Be Chosen', 'Sub Species: The End Games', 'Altonville Mine Tours' and 'Terror Of The Towers' all have a strict 15+ age limit

- Theme Park tickets available from £32 for an adult and £27.50 for a child when booked online at 5+ days prior to visit

- Hotel stays start from just £130 per person per night based on 4 sharing on a B&B basis when booked online at