Blackgang Chine – Isle of Wight, England - Atlas Obscura

Blackgang Chine

The UK's oldest theme park slowly slips away. 


Nestled on a cliff top along the Jurassic coast of the Isle of Wight, the weird and wonderful Blackgang Chine boasts more than twenty attractions, but the most interesting feature is its slow demise. Since first opening in the Victorian era, the park has been slowly slipping into the sea.

Erosion of the cliff top on which Blackgang Chine rests has forced the park to continually move its attractions further inland to avoid landslides. The chine originally consisted of a steep ravine overlooking Chale bay, a notorious smuggling hotspot. As tourism became popular in Victorian England, the Isle of Wight became a desirable holiday destination.The parks founder Alexander Dabbell saw the surge in visitors as a prime business opportunity.

His intention was to open a park that was both scenic and themed to feed local curiosity – mainly to do with the smuggling which took place in the nearby bay. The gates were opened to the public in 1843 making it the oldest theme park in England. To this day the park still houses its original attraction - a large whale skeleton found a short distance from the chine.

Blackgang Chine has now become a park popular with families. The sites origins showcasing the unique qualities of the surrounding landscape has continued and the park is famed for its fibreglass dinosaur replicas, erected in homage to the many dinosaur remains found along the island’s coastline. Other attractions include fairytale creatures, cowboy and Indian themed frontier land, a mansion containing goblins and other fantasy creatures, a crooked house and of course, smugglerland. The park continues to take pride in its original theme as you are welcomed by a giant fibreglass smuggler and encouraged to pass through his legs upon entry.

Famed for its eccentricity and oddly whimsical creepiness Blackgang Chine has been featured in the book ‘Bollocks to Alton Towers’, a guide to the country’s ‘uncommonly British’ days out.

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April 9, 2012

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