History, heritage and handrails in Leicestershire

by Katie Rowe

Category: Expert insights
March 12 2014

Wheelchair user, tourism advisor and travel blogger Carrie-Ann Lightley tells us about her accessible trip to Leicestershire in the Midlands, where she makes friends with knights in shining armour, immerses herself in bloody battles and gets up close and personal with deadly weapons (and cute owls) before making full use of her four-star hotel. After all, civil war can be hard work…

Leicestershire is one of the four destinations VisitEngland has worked with to develop exciting itineraries with top class accommodation and attractions that provide a warm welcome for all visitors, including those with access needs - such as hearing loss, visual impairment, wheelchair users, older and less mobile people and people with pushchairs. 

There is so much to do in Leicestershire so it’s a great place for a weekend away - our itinerary included historical sites, an interactive museum and beer tasting!

After a speedy check in at the four-star Hinckley Island Hotel and a quick coffee in the luxurious lobby, we headed to Bosworth Battlefield, the country’s first battlefield interpretation centre. On arrival we had lunch in the Tithe Barn restaurant, a beautiful barn building where we enjoyed delicious fresh sandwiches. After lunch we visited the exhibition, which was very interesting and had lots of tactile pieces - armour, weapons and dressing up materials which visitors are encouraged to touch and feel.  At the end of the exhibition, there was a film room with large high screens and lower small monitors with subtitles and seating, depicting the bloody events of the Battle of Bosworth. The staff members, dressed in traditional clothing, were very passionate and offered tours in character and falconry displays which can be tailored to different audiences and access needs. We were also treated to a walk around the Bosworth Trail with a knowledgeable guide, who taught us more about the area whilst we took in the beautiful scenery.

Back at the hotel, we collected the keys to our accessible room, which was spacious with a wet room shower and echoed the luxury and comfort of the lobby. To relax before dinner we took a dip in the swimming pool, which had a calming atmosphere and step-free access. Revived and hungry, we dined in the Brasserie restaurant, where the food on offer was a generous self-service selection - salads and cold meats, a traditional carvery and plentiful puddings. The waiting staff were happy to assist, and the hotel’s cafΓ© and bar also offer some dining alternatives, including simple favourites like pasta, steak and fish and chips.

Our first stop the next morning was the Snibston Discovery Museum - great for family activities, high quality exhibitions, interactive fun and a few surprises along the way. We took in hugely informative exhibitions with strong connections to the local area. The whole centre is very interactive, and has low sign boards and exhibits which benefit children and wheelchair users. 

There really is something for everyone - science, games, history, fashion and art. My particular favourite was the toy box, a nostalgic display of toys, many made by Palitoy, a local firm founded in 1909.  Every staff member we met couldn’t wait to tell us more about the exhibits, the history and the connections to the local mining area. 

To finish our weekend, we drove along Leicestershire’s winding country roads out of Snibston to neighbouring Staffordshire and the National Brewery Centre in Burton upon Trent. We joined the daily tour, with a knowledgeable guide who had a real passion for beer! The tour starts with a holographic-style presentation of the history of brewing, then through each step of the brewing process and the fascinating roles that the steam engines and vintage vehicles on show played in the development of the industry.

The talk was interactive with a few jokes thrown in - questions to the group, hops to smell and touch and even horses to stroke – they used to transport the beer back in the days of the old Bass Brewery.  The museum was easy to navigate with a lift serving all floors, though some of the outside areas are cobbled which can make for a bumpy ride!  Afterwards, we were invited to join the annual beer festival and National Barrel Rolling Championships. What a fun way to end the trip!

For more accessible holiday ideas, see VisitEngland.com/access-for-all

Katie Rowe

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