When we bought our Merlin passes at the beginning of the year, we knew which attractions would be most likely to interest our little ones, and to be honest the London Dungeon wasn't one that we'd really considered. We thought that at just 7 and 4 they were a bit too young and it's really recommended for ages 12 plus. But we had to collect our passes from the main desk there, which involved me and the children hanging around in the entrance for a little while. To my surprise Harry in particular was really interested and was desperate to visit straight away. We couldn't fit it in on that trip, so when we had a day out in London a couple of weeks ago we decided to see what they thought of it.
Ram and I visited together a few years ago when it was in a different location. The format is still the same - you go around as a group through a series of different rooms which are hosted by actors, mostly playing historical characters, that give you some information about particularly gruesome parts of London's history. There are also plenty of special effects to bring it to life, and make you jump! I must admit that it's not a format that particularly appeals to me - I do spend the whole time hiding at the back hoping that I'm not going to be picked on!
We were in the first group of the day and although the visits are timed we were straight in. It was quite a large group and so sometimes it was a bit difficult to get near the front so that the children could see. I think because it was quite dark the other visitors couldn't necessarily see that there were small children there to let them through, and they were too nervous to head for the front without us. They were easily the youngest in the group, the only other children were older teenagers.
There are a couple of rides on the tour. The first is The Tyrant - a boat ride which is a journey along the Thames to the Tower of London. Harry was a bit scared during this as it is very dark, and I think because the entrance is like a theme park ride he was expecting it to drop down a waterfall at any minute! But it's actually very tame, just a bit noisy. There is a height restriction on the ride, and guests smaller than 1 metre can't ride.
The second ride comes at the very end - Drop Dead: Drop Ride to Doom is a freefall drop ride. Unfortunately the minimum height restriction is 1.4 metres so the children weren't able to go on it (although to be honest I think we would have struggled as Harry in particular was looking pretty fearful as we approached).
My favourite room was the Ten Bells Pub, where the landlady told us all about Jack the Ripper with a few surprises along the way! Harry was particularly interested in the Guy Fawkes story and Mrs Lovett's pie shop, and Mia was just happy tagging along and taking it all in. There was lots to keep them interested, with the scary bits broken up by comedy. Although the children were a bit nervous at first, once they realised that it was only funny scary rather than dark scary they were fine.
The tour finishes in a recreation of an old pub, where you are given a token that you can exchange for a drink. We were first through as we'd skipped the drop ride so it was nice and empty, and a good opportunity to sit down for a rest while a piano played to itself next to us.
In general, as long as they were close to us, the children enjoyed the visit. They were a little scared of the dark and unexpected things jumping out at them, but nothing that will traumatise them for life. If we had been buying separate tickets then I would probably have waited until they were older so that they could get a little bit more out of the attraction, but as an extra Merlin pass activity I'm glad that we took them.
Photographs courtesy of London Dungeon. We visited using our Merlin passes. Entry prices start at £19.95 but if you are interested in visiting it's worth checking the website as there are lots of different ticket options available, including advance purchase tickets and combination tickets with other Merlin attractions.