All the fun of the fair at Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre in Lifton

Located on the Devon-Cornwall border near Lifton, the Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre is a fabulous working museum, ideal for kids & parents alike.

Many of us have fond childhood memories of when the funfair came to town. Just the sweet smell of candy floss can take me back to spinning waltzers, rope-pulled swing boats, crazy dodgem cars with their sparking overhead lines and bright carousel rides.

The Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre holds the National Fairground Collection

Now travelling fairs have largely gone out of business, but have you ever wondered what happened to all those antique rides, sideshows and stalls? The answer is that the lucky ones found their way to the Fairground Heritage Centre in Lifton. This is a unique attraction, home to the National Fairground Collection, in a massive 45,000 square foot indoor museum.

Stepping inside, it is hard to know what to look at first. Just like the original fairgrounds, the centre is dazzlingly lit up with rows of overhead old-fashioned light bulbs on each attraction. Step up and admire the Super Chariot Racer Noah's Ark ride with its pairs of wonderfully carved and painted animals. I'd forgotten about the steps up to the undulating boardwalks, allowing you to board your chosen mode of transport, and the central booth in which the operator stood.

Younger visitors may prefer the more sedate rides on buses, cars and spaceships or train engine rides complete with rope to ring the bell throughout the ride.

Fairground rides galore

There are huge chariot rides which climb up and down and gliding dodgems milling around the area with front and rear lights ablaze. I loved the atmosphere as I watched swinging waltzers on their unpredictable rolling bases and the rowdy music pierced by the occasional short scream of a terrified rider disappearing into the darkness on the scary Ghost Train.

Boys sat astride realistic motorbikes, dreaming of the roar of the engine and illusions of speed, while girls preferred the rise and fall of the carousel horses suspended on their individual twisted poles.

You can throw wooden hoops to secure a prize or hook a yellow plastic duck and look for the number beneath (everyone's a winner – remember?). The only thing missing seemed to be the plastic bags with goldfish, and the rifle range, a sign of the changing attitudes in our more enlightened times.

Victorian fairground history

What really appealed to me, visiting this wonderful hall of nostalgia, was the workmanship that each ride displayed. The scenes and artworks above each circulating ride is well worth a closer look. Often very Victorian in style, the artistic talents and classic lettering advertised each ride long before the days of flashing neon and futuristic video screens of our modern-day amusements.

Gold paint picks out the ornate moldings on each historic piece, which has been bought, carefully rebuilt and restored by the owners of these pieces of history.

Ideal for a rainy day activity, the fabulous Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre is one of those rare attractions that satisfies all ages – the youngsters can ride to their heart's content while the older generation can enjoy the memories while exploring the displays of slot machines, games, fortune telling gimmicks and rides that make up “all the fun of the fair”. Most rides at the centre take tokens which can be purchased on arrival, along with the entrance fee.

Located near Lifton, the Fairground Heritage Centre is right on the Devon-Cornwall border, just off the A30 about 7 miles east of Launceston.

Have you visited the Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre in Lifton or a similar fairground museum? What memories do you have of your favourite fairground rides as a child – we'd love to hear your reminiscences, so feel free to share them below.

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Holiday Cottages in Devon & Cornwall is brought to you by the Jetset Boyz