Despite the recent snow suggesting otherwise, we are rapidly approaching spring. The clocks go forward this weekend and will officially signify British summer time and the spring equinox, which means many of us will be looking forward to getting out of the house.
Unfortunately, not everyone will be as excited. For the millions in the UK living with a disability, the prospect of planning a short break or weekend trip can be more daunting than exciting. Whether it’s mobility and wheelchair complications or visual and audio related disabilities, even everyday attractions can present obstacles. Deciding to take a trip for a couple days or even just a couple hours usually entails careful research, planning and preparation. Many tourist attractions may be ruled out immediately for lack of accessibility, while some will still come unstuck on the day.
Because we believe everyone should be able to make the most of our short summer and see all that the UK has to offer, we’ve found the top accessible UK tourist attractions from major cities all over the country. From wild animals in the city to wild natural wonders on the coast, anyone with a disability can enjoy the best that the UK has to offer.
London – London Zoo
Easily one of London’s most popular attractions, London Zoo offers fantastic fun for the whole family and there’s accessibility for everyone as well. There is both pay and display parking close to the Zoo and six disabled bays near the Zoo entrance with one immediately in front, something of a novelty in busy London.
Despite being over 170 years old with 12 listed buildings, most of the Zoo is accessible for wheelchair users and anyone with mobility concerns thanks to ramps and lifts, including Land of the Lions, Tiger Territory and The Aquarium. Additionally, there are various accessible toilets spread out over the Zoo and in key areas, plus a changing hoist and accessibility facility at the First Aid point. There is also wheelchair hire available, but as always this is limited and should be booked in advance when possible.
The biggest negative is that guide dogs aren’t currently permitted as some of the animals don’t react well to them. To try and overcome this understandable problem, volunteer-escorted tours can be arranged but these should be scheduled up to three weeks in advance.
Cardiff – St Fagans National Museum of History
Image Source: St Fagans Nationals Museum of History
In Wales, St Fagans is undoubtedly one of the most accessible museums in the UK. They cover everything from physical mobility to dogs and visual aids. This includes dedicated disabled parking by the main entrance, wheelchair hire and wheelchair access around most of the museum. Because there are historic buildings and some accessibility obstacles, they even offer an accessible map that identifies steep gradients and suggests a wheelchair friendly route.
Taking standard accessibility a step further, the museum offers a Changing Places Unit with an electronic bed and hoist as well as toilet, and a motorised Disabled Tour Vehicle is also available to transport visitors around the site. This a free service but should be booked two weeks in advance.
For other disabilities, St Fagans welcomes visually impaired visitors to experience the sounds and smells of the immensely varied site. Staff are always around to explain any demonstrations and there are large print guidebooks available for free on a loan basis. Visual and hearing assisted dogs are allowed on site and in all buildings.
Edinburgh – Royal Yacht Britannia
Image Source: The Royal Yacht Britannia
Previously The Queen’s floating royal residence, the Royal Yacht Britannia isn’t the first attraction that comes to mind when you think accessibility. Despite its history, multiple levels and compact areas, this is one of the most accessible attractions in the UK.
With full wheelchair accessibility throughout it’s no surprise that VisitScotland has given the Royal Yacht Britannia Category 1 accessibility, the highest level of wheelchair access without assistance. They do recommend wheelchairs are no wider than 670mm to enjoy the whole tour and it isn’t suitable for Shopmobility electric wheelchair users. You can also borrow a wheelchair and there are plenty of lifts and lots of seating around for resting if you have limited mobility.
For anyone with visual impairments, there are audio handsets with additional explanations that describe the layout of the Royal Yacht and a tour script available in English Braille. For hearing impairments, there are tablets available with the tour in British Sign Language and a printed version of the English tour. All types of assisted dogs are welcome.
Belfast – Giant’s Causeway
Image Source: The National Trust
A National Trust heritage site, the Giant’s Causeway in Belfast has made our list despite having some accessibility issues. As one of the foremost natural wonders in the UK mother nature has undoubtedly imposed some accessibility concerns in this area that even technology has struggled to overcome. Despite these challenges, however, the Giant’s causeway makes our list for its spectacular views and even more spectacular efforts to make them accessible to all where possible.
There is mobility parking and a wheelchair friendly shuttle bus to the site, plus a fully accessible visitor centre with ramp and toilet. As well as standard accessible toilets, you’ll also find a state of the art Changing Places facility that offers a hoist. There is an accessible trail but this is undoubtedly an attraction that will require wheelchair users and others with mobility concerns to have some assistance thanks to some uneven and steep terrain.
The interactive exhibition itself offers an outdoor audio guide that is designed specifically for visually impaired visitors as well as ‘interpretation areas’. For anyone with hearing loss, the revamped visitor centre includes various aids such as an induction loop at the reception desk.
Enjoy the UK this summer
Image Source: The National Trust
All of our attractions have a dedicated section on their website with accessibility information and contact details to find out more or book any of their advanced services, plus there are plenty of resources such as Age UK and Open Britain that can help you find and plan accessible trips.
If you are planning to get out and about this summer, why not take our ultra-light carbon fibre ramp with you. With a horizontal fold design and weights starting from just over 2kg, this is the world’s lightest wheelchair ramp and easy to transport or store to make every trip more accessible.