Before the start of the new school year, STEPHEN DAVY-OSBORNE decides his inner child deserves a bit of a treat

WITH the end of the school summer holidays in sight, and the novelty of being at home all day every day starting to wear thin, now is the perfect time to take your little ones on a journey into their imagination.

Just over an hour along the M4 from Swindon lies the Legoland Windsor resort, where the humble Lego brick has transformed a hill in the Berkshire countryside into the ultimate playground.

Last year the resort passed its 20th year milestone, and its creators have invested heavily in the park to bring its appeal bang up to date for today’s younger guests, with everything from blockbuster favourites Star Wars to the country’s first 4D hand gesture-controlled ride. Which isn’t nearly as complicated as it sounds, but is a huge amount of fun, and gives you an upper body work-out along the way too.

As with any theme park, the trick is to get there as early as you can – not only to maximise your time in the park, which closes at 6pm, but by being among the first through the gates you will manage to fit far more in during those first hours from rope drop as the park gets steadily busier as the day goes on.

The excitement was building in our car as soon as we turned off the main road and into the driveway to the car parks when my big kid for the day (he’s actually 30…) caught sight of the larger than life Lego figures welcoming us to the resort.

Once through the gates we took advantage of the park’s Q-Bot, which is a clever little device that allows you to reserve a spot in the queue of a ride while enjoying the rest of the park. When it’s your time to ride, it lets you know, and you skip to the front of the queue. At £20 per person it was definitely a wise investment, as with a bit of planning we avoided all of the heavy queues.

The park is laid out into several distinct lands, each with expert theming to let your imagination run wild. You can go a-plundering in Land of the Vikings – as you’re tossed around in a Viking, um, roundboat, as you speed down a winding river rapid; or take to the high seas in Pirate Shores where a galleon will swing you almost 20 metres above the ground (hang on to your loose change!). Here you can also set sail in hunt of buried treasure on Pirate Falls Treasure Quest – though be prepared for the drop at the end – you will get wet! Knights and dragons will appeal to other guests in Nexo Knights Kingdom, home to The Dragon rollercoaster built into an impressive medieval castle.

Kingdom of the Pharohs transports thrill-seekers back to ancient Egypt while Adventureland offers up the chance to go beneath the waves aboard the Atlantis Submarine Voyage where Lego models meets beautiful marine wildlife. For younger guests who aren’t afraid of getting (soaking!) wet there is Duplo Valley, home to Drench Towers and Brickville.

Don’t be fooled by the cutesy appearance of the sugar-sweet sounding Heartlake City though, as this land is home to the loudest screams in the park. The somewhat tame sounding Mia’s Riding Adventure is actually a disc-o-coaster with a difference that makes the Grand National look like a gentle canter through spring meadows on a sunny day. We rode it twice - it was that much fun.

The headline event – and newly opened for 2017 – is the multi-dimensional Ninjago which is a totally immersive experience quite unlike anything else on site. The ride is the first attraction in the UK to use 4D effects of heat, smoke and wind, while riders virtually throw fire balls, shock waves, ice and lightning using nothing but their hands as they as they score points battling against snake tribes, skeleton ghosts and King of the Skulkuns. The adventure ultimately culminates by facing The Great Devourer – a giant serpent who can only be defeated by you and your family working together and demonstrating the best Spinjitzu moves. The technology is impressive, and the attraction is already proving to be one of the most – if not the most – popular rides on site.

One of the joys of Legoland though is that it is not all about the stealer line-up of rides – although they are definitely one of its biggest draws. At the very heart of the park is Miniland which to this day remains one of the most popular areas of the whole park. And it’s not hard to see why. Here you will find famous cityscapes from around the globe faithfully recreated in miniature to painstakingly detailed specs – right down to the Eurostar that makes its way from the stunning London scene under the Channel to the French quarter. Such is their attention to detail that just this week Legoland builders even removed Big Ben from their three-metre high Elizabeth Tower for ‘maintenance’. But visitors only had to endure four days without its hourly chimes. Lego maintenance happily only takes a fraction of the time!

Legoland certainly knows its target audience (those aged 3-12) but the beauty of the resort is that it appeals to anyone who has ever spent a rainy afternoon building their own kingdom out of the universally-loved colourful plastic bricks. There’s something about seeing imagination transformed into something real in front of you that reawakens your inner child.

Though thankfully, I don’t have to go back to school next week.