By Parkdean Resorts on 14/08/2020
If you or a family member have a disability, finding the right accessible day out to suit your needs can be frustrating and often requires extensive research and planning before you go.
At Parkdean Resorts, we understand that disabled access holidays come with a number of unique challenges, so we’ve compiled a useful guide with just a few of what we think are some of the top accessible tourist attractions around the UK. Our list of days out below covers the best places to visit in a wheelchair, but also ensures other disabilities are catered for, such as autism and visual or hearing impairments. Additionally, many of these attractions come highly recommended on Euan’s Guide by disabled visitors who have experienced them first hand.
Even better, they can all be reached in an hour or less by car from one of our 64 holiday parks providing accessible accommodation.
Eureka Children's Museum, Halifax
An exciting learn and play experience, Eureka houses a number of fantastic activities and exhibits for children of all abilities to get stuck into, making it one of the best accessible days out to enjoy during your holiday in Yorkshire. In addition to all you would expect in terms of accessibility, the museum has gone above and beyond to guarantee access for all.
Some unique facilities available include an offering of free events and activities specifically for disabled children and their families, plus a bookable ‘Extra Pair of Hands’ service, providing further assistance from a trained team member for 2 hours during your visit. The museum is also part of the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme, supporting their inclusion of those with “hidden” disabilities such as autism or dementia.
Other highlights include a fully accessible Changing Places toilet facility, a chill-out room for those with sensory conditions and a BlueAssist system for anyone who may struggle with communication. You can view a full online sensory guide here, or simply watch the video below to get a taste of what you can expect during your visit.
The Deep, Hull
You can learn all about the history of the ocean from 4 billion years ago to the present day in this giant aquarium, home to 30 species of shark and over 3500 other tropical fish. The Deep has several facilities and schemes in place to make sure access is as inclusive as possible, supporting vulnerable people to feel safe while they’re out and about. Every first Tuesday of the month is known as Tranquil Tuesday, where lights are brightened and sound turned down to create a comfortable environment for disabled visitors.
Accessible tools available to borrow from reception include a sensory pack complete with ear defenders and colouring sheets, in addition to mobility aids like wheelchairs and walkers. The Changing Places toilet facility comes with adjustable sinks, benches and a hoist, and plenty of room to manoeuvre. There is a specific accessible entrance with shorter queues and display information is available in audio, large print and braille, making sure all disabilities are taken care of.
Eden Project, Bodelva
One of Cornwall’s most recognisable attractions, the Eden Project is made up of biomes which recreate some of the earth’s most dramatic environments, with rainforests, sculptures and gardens to explore. An educational and interactive family day out, it has won awards for its accessibility and strives to provide an experience for all to enjoy.
The Project works closely with the Sensory Trust to find the best approaches to physical access and has incorporated a number of measures across the site which reflect this. From relaxed versions of activities to support autistic visitors to recommended routes for wheelchairs with the gentlest gradients, all bases are covered.
In addition to a Changing Places facility, there are also ADI toilets available for those with visual impairments, accessible park and ride, volunteers on hand to assist throughout the site and free hire of both manual and powered wheelchairs.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewan
Hidden away since the start of the First World War and rediscovered in 1990, the Lost Gardens of Heligan have seen a full restoration to their former glory over the last three decades. Boasting 13 acres of beautiful gardens and historic plants and pathways, the majority of the estate is disabled-friendly, making it a must-see attraction during your accessible holiday.
The Productive and Pleasure Gardens, Home Farm and the Steward’s House are all set on a gentle downhill slope, making these areas manoeuvrable for wheelchair users. The wider estate should be approached with caution as you may encounter steeper gradients and steps throughout.
There is a Changing Places facility available plus disabled toilets with RoomMate installed to assist blind and visually impaired visitors. Disabled parking is on flat ground and approximately 50m from the entrance where you can also pick up an accessibility map. For more information, you can download a full access guide here.
Sandcastle Waterpark, Blackpool
If you thought a waterpark couldn’t possibly have disabled access, think again! Sandcastle Waterpark on Blackpool’s promenade is the largest indoor waterpark in the UK, with over 18 slides ranging from high speed thrills to child friendly attractions. The venue has been adapted to be as inclusive as possible to all disabilities, from hosting relaxed accessibility evenings throughout the year to having Water Ambassadors on hand to support throughout the park.
For visitors with limited mobility, the park has level access throughout, plus a Changing Places wet room facility and hireable water wheelchairs, free of charge to use. Autism and other sensory conditions have been carefully considered, with a sensory story visitors can read prior to arriving, which can be downloaded here. In addition to having a quiet room, the first hour of each day is also known as Quiet Hour, where you can expect minimal tannoy announcements and background music.
For those visitors with vision or hearing deficiencies, there are hearing loops in all cafes and shops, subtitles and audio commentary of key videos and signage in braille. To see more of their fantastic accessible facilities, watch the video below.
Video courtesy of Sandcastle Waterpark
Northumberland & County Durham
Life Science Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne
Set in the heart of Newcastle’s city centre, the Centre for Life inspires all generations to learn about science through a creative, hands-on experience. From topics such as the human brain to outer space, it’s an unmissable attraction if you’re holidaying in the North East - and it’s fully accessible!
The museum provides a great accessible day out for wheelchair users, with level access and lifts and ramps to all floors, plus hireable wheelchairs and spaces for wheelchairs within the planetarium and theatre. There are also disabled toilets on every floor, including a Changing Places facility at reception level.
For visitors with sensory conditions, you can hire a bag containing ear defenders and sunglasses and download a sensory map. They even host a Sensory Sunday once a month, with dedicated quiet hours for experiencing the exhibitions and performances in a more relaxed environment with lighting and sound levels altered. Those with visual or hearing difficulties have not been forgotten either, as the attraction offers induction loops, large print leaflets and also welcomes guide dogs.
The Alnwick Garden, Alnwick
Located in the lively market town of the same name and boasting 12 acres of stunning greenery, the Alnwick Garden has been designed to be as accessible as possible with its smooth, flat surfaces and dedicated wheelchair routes. From the beautiful, blossoming Cherry Orchard to the Grand Cascade water fountain, there is so much to be explored. Even the rope bridges of the Treehouse are accessible via wheelchair, which as well as mobility scooters, can be hired in advance, free of charge.
The disabled carpark is conveniently positioned next to the main entrance and carers can visit for free. You will find plenty of resting places and disabled toilets throughout the gardens, including one in the Treehouse. Guide dogs are permitted and maps of wheelchair-friendly routes can be found at reception.
East Anglia & Lincolnshire
Pensthorpe Natural Park
A fun-filled accessible day out for the whole family to enjoy, Pensthorpe Natural Park in Norfolk is comprised of a nature reserve brimming with wildlife, four spectacular gardens and a sculpture trail to name but a few. The best part is, a large percentage of the park is accessible and all staff have received disability awareness training. On arrival, you will find a free carpark with designated disabled bays approximately 100m from the entrance, followed by step-free level access and hireable wheelchairs should you wish to use them.
Wheelchair routes are marked on the park map, but all gardens have level pathways or gradual inclines and there is substantial seating available throughout the walk. There are 7 wheelchair accessible toilets in total and all cafes and shops are accessible also. Guide dogs are permitted within the park and all information is available in large print for those with visual impairments.
Folly Farm, Kilgetty
If you’re heading on a disabled friendly holiday to Wales, there is no family attraction quite like Folly Farm. A zoo, farm and fairground all rolled into one, it’s a haven for kids. And as current holders of the Welsh Venue of the Year award from disabled access charity, Euan’s Guide, your expectations will be completely exceeded when it comes to accessibility.
Brand new accessible toilets have been recently installed, including a Changing Places facility within the fairground. Disabled visitors can enjoy a discounted entry fee and free admission for their carer, in addition to disabled parking at the entrance.
The park consists of landscaped paths and ramps and a free land train if required. There is even a wheelchair-friendly carriage on the big wheel! If you wish to catch a performance at the theatre, the two front rows are reserved for those visitors with mobility, hearing or visual difficulties. Visit their website for more information and a full access statement..
National Museum, Cardiff
Hosting one of Europe’s finest collections of art, geology and natural history, the National Museum of Cardiff explores the evolution of Wales through several fascinating exhibits, and has put numerous measures in place to ensure the museum is easily accessible to all.
Wheelchair users can enjoy entry to all galleries, as well as free disabled parking with level access to the entrance. Hireable wheelchairs and mobile seating sticks are also provided, subject to availability. Shops and cafes all offer disabled access and accessible toilets can be found within the Oriel Restaurant.
Individuals with visual impairments can request guided assistance and free audio description tours are on offer for groups. There is also a touch trail within the Natural History galleries and guide dogs are permitted. For those with hearing impairments, induction loops are supplied throughout and there is a good standard of written material available to support the collections.
Bournemouth Beach, Bournemouth
Famed for its award-winning, 7 mile stretch of golden sand and scenic views, Bournemouth Beach has been recognised as one of the most accessible beaches in the UK, so is well worth a visit if you’re on holiday in Dorset. Moreover, with a number of disabled-friendly attractions nearby such as adventure golf, pier amusements and an activity centre, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Parking can be located on the promenade between the piers and fully accessible toilets are available across the seafront, requiring RADAR keys which can be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre. Beach wheelchairs are also hireable for easier access onto the sand.
What makes this well-loved beach the frontrunner in accessibility are the dedicated beach huts - the first purpose designed, fully disabled access huts to arrive in the UK. These huts can accommodate up to 4 wheelchairs at once and come equipped with private parking spaces, an electric scooter charging point and a Changing Places facility. A partition wall can even be removed to make a pair of huts into one unit, perfect for larger gatherings.
The Tank Museum, Bovington
One of Dorset’s most popular attractions, The Tank Museum showcases 300 tanks from around the world from as early as the First World War up to the present day. Offering a number of exhibitions, free talks and events, plus kids’ activities and play areas, it’s a great way to spend an accessible day out with the whole family.
With most of the building on one level and ramps and lifts available to access the other floors, it’s a great wheelchair friendly day out too! The museum is kept under regular review to ensure they are in-keeping with accessibility issues and all staff undertake training in disability awareness.
Disabled parking is located at the front entrance and the museum offers free admission for carers and hireable wheelchairs at no extra charge. There are several accessible toilets around the vicinity and there are wheelchair access points and viewing areas within the arena. Guide dogs are permitted for the visually impaired and there are hearing induction loops throughout and subtitles on video content for those with hearing difficulties. Head to their website to view a full access guide.
Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
With 70 acres of gardens, over 13,000 species of plant and not to mention views of the stunning city skyline, the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh is one of the world’s best. It is also one of the highest rated attractions on Euan’s Guide for disabled access in Scotland, and it’s easy to see why.
Largely accessible to wheelchair users, the garden has marked routes for easy navigation, level or ramped access, low level signage and mostly tarmac paths. There are also 140 benches in total placed within the gardens, meaning there is seating available at regular intervals.
The garden has everything you would expect, including accessible parking, restaurants and shops, wheelchair friendly doors and disabled toilets. Guide dogs are welcome throughout and wheelchairs can be hired at no extra cost. Hearing impaired visitors will also find induction loops at welcome points.
Cairngorms National Park, Scottish Highlands
Set in the heart of the spectacular scenery of the Scottish Highlands, Cairngorms National Park has been voted one of the top 20 places to visit in the world. There is something to suit everyone’s tastes, from exploring the wildlife to relaxing on the beach. Several trails are marked on the map with easy access paths outlined, or for something more action-packed, there are accessible activities available, ranging from water sports to quad-biking.
For a more peaceful experience on the park, head to Blair Castle on Atholl Estate, where you’ll find the whole of the ground floor is accessible, plus mobility scooters can be hired for discovering the gardens. Or why not take in the breathtaking views and woodlands of Craigellachie National Nature Reserve? Offering accessible trails with audio guides, as well as hireable scooters and a wheelchair-friendly steam train, you’re bound to have a fantastic accessible day out.
Leeds Castle, Broomfield
Steeped in medieval history, Leeds Castle is well worth a visit if you’re holidaying in Kent. Take a tour of the castle, wander the gardens or enjoy one of the falconry displays, as well as keeping the children entertained on the playground or adventure golf course.
Plenty of the castle and gardens are accessible to wheelchair users. Visitors will be escorted via an accessible route through the castle and the gardens have several resting points. Along with disabled parking, the castle provides a fully accessible mobility bus which runs regularly throughout the day, free of charge. You will also find multiple disabled toilets in the grounds and the restaurant and shop are both accessible.
Guide dogs are welcome for those visitors with visual impairments, in addition to audio tours being available on request. The castle supports the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme and for any autistic visitors, you can read a full guide on what to expect from your day out here.
Leeds Castle, Kent