England’s Accessible Travel Experiences
October 2022: This winter marks two important disability awareness days – Purple Tuesday (1 November), a global social movement to improve the customer experience for disabled people and their families, and the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December).
To mark these disability awareness days, here are some of England’s best accessible travel experiences including outdoor adventures, award-winning attractions and adapted accommodation options.
Countryside and Coast
Accessible short breaks in the North York Moors, Yorkshire
Launched in September 2022, the North York Moors Accessibility Project inspires people with accessibility requirements to take short breaks in the region, known for its spectacular scenery and centuries of history and heritage. Eight North York Moors attractions and four accommodation providers have worked with VisitEngland to develop their access and provide disability awareness training for key staff. The region’s attraction highlights include taking a historic train journey on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, visiting the Whitby Abbey ruins (see pre-visit video) and enjoying the magnificent Helmsley Walled Garden. Visitors can explore the area by car, wheelchair-friendly trails, adapted bikes and trampers. Accessible accommodation options include the Inn on the Moor Hotel and a range of self-catering cottages which have all been audited by a professional access advisor.
Mylor Sailing & Powerboat School, Cornwall
The Mylor Sailing and Powerboat School in Cornwall aims to offer fully inclusive sessions for budding sailors, ‘from absolute beginners to salty seadogs’ aged six and above. The sailing school was named the Accessible & Inclusive Tourism Award Gold winner at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence in June 2022. Running year-round accessible sessions out of Mylor Yacht Harbour in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, all staff have received disability training for boats and equipment. The team pride themselves on making sailing and powerboating as inclusive as possible with adapted facilities, boats and equipment to allow everyone to get on the water.
Beach Wheelchairs, across England
Whether it's a lazy day on the sand, or a brisk outing along the shore, locals and visitors alike can hire beach wheelchairs at locations across England to explore the coastline. Fleetwood Beach Wheelchairs, VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2022’s Accessible & Inclusive Tourism Award Bronze winner, offers specialised beach wheelchairs which cater for all needs, including harnesses, a hoist, a Rotunda and specialised cushions. Elsewhere in England, Great Yarmouth introduced specially designed beach wheelchairs in 2014 with large pneumatic wheels which slide over sand to make the beach more accessible, and in Cornwall there are 17 locations offering beach wheelchair hire including Fistral Beach in Newquay and Porthminster in St Ives. Meanwhile in Bournemouth, along with beach wheelchair hire available at five locations, Boscombe beach offers three dedicated wheelchair accessible beach huts available for hire.
Calvert Trust outdoor adventure holidays in Exmoor, Kielder and the Lake District
With over 40 years’ experience in delivering challenging outdoor adventure holidays for disabled adults and children, Calvert Trust’s three centres in England allow their visitors to discover ‘it’s what you can do that counts’. Calvert Trust’s adventure holiday centres in Exmoor, Kielder and the Lakes offer accessible education and adrenaline experiences such as high rope courses, archery and bushcraft sessions as well as water-based activities like kayaking, motor boating and sailing. The centres are also home to accessible accommodation, facilities and grounds, with Calvert Trust Kielder offering 10 accessible self-catering log chalets including the special Sky Den, created by George Clark's Amazing Spaces Channel 4 TV programme.
Attractions and Experiences
Roman Baths, Somerset
The Roman Baths is one of the finest historic sites in northern Europe and its many accolades include being named the Accessible & Inclusive Tourism Award Gold winner at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2018. The site was once a religious spa where the people of Roman Britain came to worship the goddess Sulis Minerva and bathe in the waters of the natural thermal springs. Today, visitors can explore the Roman Baths complex and see the ruins of the Temple of Sulis Minerva. The site is 90% accessible to wheelchair users and visitors with hearing or visual impairments can enjoy the site using the British Sign Language or fully descriptive audio tour and tactile models. The Roman Baths also provides information for visitors with autism and potential claustrophobia.
LEGOLAND Windsor Resort, Berkshire
At the LEGOLAND Windsor Resort there are over 55 rides and attractions where guests can fly through the treetops to escape fearsome dragons, ride the thrilling rapids with a Viking fleet and join LEGO® divers on a magical underwater adventure. The Resort offers a Ride Access Pass, which is a virtual queuing system designed to help guests who require extra assistance or are unable to queue due to a condition or disability. LEGOLAND Windsor Resort also has a Total Sensory Space, the first dedicated sensory facility of its kind in a theme park. The calming environment was created with guests’ needs in mind, proving a relaxing space away from the excitement of the Resort’s rides, live shows, and attractions.
Bear Grylls Adventure, Birmingham
Championing ‘adventure for everyone’, Bear Grylls Adventure at the NEC Birmingham is home to Europe's tallest high ropes, an indoor skydiving tunnel and a tropical dive tank. The attraction uses a variety of sensory effects including audio, visual, touch and smell designed to enhance the overall experience of each area. In the last 12 months, Bear Grylls Adventure has been recognised twice for its accessibility facilities; as a Silver Award winner for the Accessible & Inclusive Tourism Award at the West Midlands Tourism Awards, and winner of the Above and Beyond Award at the Blue Badge Access Awards. The attraction’s event days (supported by Bear and his team) with Make A Wish and The Scouts have welcomed guests of a variety of ability levels, many achieving things they may not have thought possible.
Eden Project, Cornwall
The world-famous Eden Project in Cornwall aims to provide a great experience for all ages, abilities and backgrounds. The Eden Project is an educational charity with a mission to create a movement that builds relationships between people and the natural world. The team works hard to make the site as accessible as possible for everyone and have won multiple awards for accessibility and inclusivity. Eden has a dedicated Access Team and visitors are able to pre-book an Access Guide to support their visit. The site offers a range of complimentary mobility aids including wheelchairs, powered chairs and an all- terrain Tramper mobility scooter as well as electric golf buggies driven by volunteer stewards. For people with visual impairment, Eden has a Braille guide book available on site and a text reader that can be borrowed to read and interpret signs.
Alton Towers Resort, Staffordshire
Alton Towers Resort, Accessible & Inclusive Tourism Award Silver winner at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence in June 2022, has invested in providing a fun-filled and inclusive escape for guests of all abilities. This year, working with AccessAble and the Business Disability Forum, the team has overhauled and improved services in many areas. Alton Towers Resort has further expanded current services such as changing space facilities, Ride Access Passes, wheelchair hire, hearing loops and ear defender hire, mobility scooters, accessibility maps and installation of quiet spaces to support those with sensory issues. Through the new online Accessibility Guide, which is available to review before visiting, guests are able to plan their Alton Towers trip in advance to get the most out of their experience.
The Blackpool Tower and Sandcastle Waterpark, Lancashire
The Blackpool Tower has stood tall over the Fylde Coast for over 125 years. It is home to a number of attractions including The Blackpool Tower Eye viewing platform, a circus with adventurous acts from all around the world and a dungeon which brings together an amazing cast of theatrical actors, special effects and stages. The Blackpool Tower offers accessibility for visitors with reduced mobility, guide / assistance dog access and free-of-charge carer passes. Also located in Blackpool, Sandcastle Waterpark is the UK’s largest indoor waterpark with over 18 slides and attractions set in a tropical climate. Having won multiple VisitEngland access awards, Sandcastle Waterpark welcomes guests with a wide variety of access needs with all staff having received accessibility and autism awareness training. Sandcastle Waterpark offers a range of facilities including Water Ambassadors, pool accessible wheelchairs, wide access gangways, four poolside wet rooms, poolside lockers, private treatment room and accommodation for assistance dogs. Each of the Merlin Blackpool Cluster attractions – Madame Tussauds, Blackpool Tower Dungeons, Blackpool Tower Circus – offer accessible options for guests.
The Deep in Hull, East Yorkshire
The Deep in Hull is one of the most spectacular aquariums in the world, home to magnificent sharks, turtles, penguins and the UK's only Green sawfish. The Deep is committed to accessibility for all visitors, continually updating and adding to its wide range of tools and information to ensure an accessible family day out. The aquarium offers complimentary use of mobility aids, including electric scooters, wheelchairs and walking aids, and sensory packs available to borrow containing ear defenders, crayons, a picture to colour in, a small sensory toy and a printed social story. Each week (during term time) The Deep holds Tranquil Tuesdays, where sounds are turned down and lights are brighter from 3pm until closing time. The aquarium also runs Quiet Day events twice per year during which they provide presentations with BSL interpretation.
London's first fully accessible holiday home, AbleStay House opened in South West London in September 2022. AbleStay House is a contemporary single storey home, situated in a quiet residential tree lined road. The newly renovated house is fully adapted for wheelchair access with level access and high-quality adaptations including ceiling track hoist, profiling beds and an accessible bathroom. The house also has a bright open plan kitchen, dining and living area. The owners launched the property to offer physically disabled people and their families the opportunity to explore the capital city. The house is five minutes’ walk to local shops and neighbourhood restaurants, and from the nearby Worcester Park accessible train station there are regular trains into London Waterloo.
The Bull Hotel, Buckinghamshire
Located in Buckinghamshire, The Bull Hotel is a 17th Century four-star hotel with beautiful, landscaped grounds and award-winning restaurant and bar. The property combines warm British hospitality with modern comforts. Accessible facilities include two adapted bedrooms with roll-in showers and folding seats, hoist rail, hearing loop system, pillow alarm, flashing fire alarm, Braille controls and assistance dog access. Buckinghamshire’s Stoke Mandeville Hospital is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of the Paralympic movement, and since 2019 the county has been home to the National Paralympic Heritage Centre, a free museum celebrating Britain's extraordinary Paralympic heritage. Buckinghamshire is continuing to work with local businesses to further expand the range of attractions, experiences and accommodation on offer to those with accessibility needs and disabilities.
Hotel Brooklyn, Manchester and Leicester
Hotel Brooklyn prides itself on setting a new industry standard for accessibility with accessible ‘Liberty’ suites at its Manchester and Leicester hotels. Working with accessible design specialists, Motionspot, Hotel Brooklyn has built accessibility into every aspect of the hotel experience. The team’s priority is to ensure everyone feels welcomed, respected, and valued and that their needs are fully catered for. Staff have received training to support the needs of guests who may be disabled, living with hearing or sight loss, or a well-being or mental health issue. The Manchester hotel has 18 accessible bedrooms with a cool design to make life easier and the ambience more appealing. In summer 2022 a second Hotel Brooklyn pitched up in Leicester. Just like its sister property in Manchester, the hotel offers accessibility enhancements including 10 accessible bedrooms thoughtful design and layout throughout the property.
Rudding Park, Yorkshire
Set in 300 acres of landscaped gardens and woodland, Rudding Park is one of the most beautiful hotels in Harrogate. The luxury hotel has 90 bedrooms and suites, including a number of accessible rooms, a destination spa, two restaurants, a kitchen garden, private cinema and two golf courses. Rudding Park was named the AA Hospitality Awards Accessibility Award 2022 winner and is committed to ensuring its facilities are accessible for all, including the indoor swimming pool and hydrotherapy pool.
The Londoner, London
The Londoner opened in autumn 2021 to offer an urban resort on the south west corner of Leicester Square. The Londoner is home to 350 bedrooms and suites, six concept restaurants and bars, including a rooftop lounge and tavern, a private guest residence and an urban wellness retreat. The hotel has 18 accessible rooms, two of which have hoist tracks, and public areas have wheelchair-accessible bathrooms.
Mellwaters Barn Cottages, County Durham
Mellwaters Barn Cottages is centrally located in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty within easy reach of the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Durham and York. The cottages were designed by a wheelchair user meaning that access is exceptionally good, and the purpose-built footpaths make the farm accessible too so that everyone can enjoy the views. The owners’ personal experience with dealing with disability means that everyone, including those who use a wheelchair or are less able to walk without help, can enjoy a stay at the cottages.
Cottage in the Dales, Yorkshire
This 18th Century collection of three luxury holiday cottages in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park has won a number of accessibility and inclusive building awards for The Dairy. As well as accessible and inclusive facilities, the cottages offers warmly lit fires, premium toiletries, access to local produce and complimentary electric car charging.
Marsham Court Hotel, Bournemouth
The recently renovated Marsham Court Hotel is a relaxing four-star hotel offering high-quality accommodation in a wonderful location on the beautiful Dorset coastline with views across Bournemouth Bay. The property won the 2022 Catey's Accessibility Award. It is the first hotel in the UK to have installed a Changing Places toilet and shower, meaning everyone can have their needs met in a dignified and hygienic way. The hotel has also added a sensory room, a specially designed environment for guests, young and old, who have a wide variety of different needs. It can be used for relaxation and de-escalation for those with processing difficulties.
Hoe Grange Holidays, Peak District
Hoe Grange Holidays offers eco-friendly self-catering holiday accommodation on a working farm in the stunning Peak District. The team is passionate about providing high-quality wheelchair-accessible holidays offering a wide range of specialist equipment and outstanding accessible facilities including an accessible hot tub. Hoe Grange Holidays also have two Boma 7 off-road wheelchairs for hire. Both can be used on the High Peak Trail, around the farm or on local tracks and trails. Hoe Grange also welcomes guests with autism and learning difficulties, providing a peaceful haven away from crowds. Hoe Grange Holidays is a two-time winner of the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence "Access for All" award.
Missy’s House, Northamptonshire
Located in the Northamptonshire countryside, Missy’s House is a five-bedroom former wood-mill complete with three beautiful accessible bathrooms designed and supplied by inclusive design specialists Motionspot. The focal point of the accessible holiday home is its double-height, open-plan, wheelchair accessible kitchen and sitting room, providing the perfect rural retreat.
For more information on England’s accessible travel options head to: www.visitengland.com/accessforall
To request images and to receive further information on tourism experiences in England please contact the VisitEngland PR team:
Louise Ferrall / Josie Self